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Reports

Sunday, 25 August 2002
Ballarat --> Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

I am on my way back to Sydney and today my visa tells me I only have 11 days to go. No worries, I might have enough invites to stay for a day between here and Sydney.

Today I moved on to my next destination and I didn’t have to do much for it again. This morning, after a toast sandwich breakfast I joined the Hemphill family in their ride to Daylesford (we drove in their normal car, not the limo).

Ballarat is promoted as the town of the Mars candy bar, which originates from the US. But it is in Ballarat where all the chocolate bars of Mars (and Maltesers, Bounty, Twix, Skittles, M&M's, Starburst and Snickers) are made for Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and Asia. And what a bummer! As it was Sunday the factory plant next door Hempco Industries was closed. I couldn’t do more than hang on the entrance fence and wave at the security cameras. The dream soon ended when I found absolutely no candy bars around – you know, like fallen of a truck or something – haha.

The areas around Ballarat aren’t only known for its history with gold, but are well known wine areas nowadays. Daylesford is also renowned for its mineral water, which flow continually from the seventy-two springs throughout the area.

It is a beautiful day today. The sun shines bright is actually very warm. Very strange – in contrast with the cold nights.

I am taken along to a so-called Sunday trash and treasure market in Daylesford. Visiting those second hand markets is one of Karl’s greatest hobbies, and one of Vivian’s greatest concerns. Everytime Karl buys something, like a 50 cents paperback book, Vivian shakes her head to me. “It is unexplainable,” she said. “One day we can open our own bookstore!”

We had fries and cold drinks for lunch I was taken up to the outstanding Botanical Gardens on Wombat Hill, an extinct volcano high above town, where Karl and I climbed the tall lookout tower to overlook the surrounding green forests, wineries and hills around Daylesford.

And of course I had to visit the famous springs in Daylesford. We drove to the Central Springs Spa Reserve, where a short walk took us along four different water springs. The water ran freely from cranes or had to be pumped out by hand and as we walked down the track I tasted similarities to soda water (not that bad) and pure iron water, and it sure was the most disgusting taste when I almost swallowed that alleged healthy sulphur water. Horrible! ]And the locals had a laugh when I spit it all out again.

As it was no problem to the Hemphill’s, they drove me all the way to my next destination, Bendigo. Bendigo is some 50km up the road from their hometown Ballarat, and located in the geographic heart of the southern Australian State of Victoria.

In the car we had some chats and one involved the future job of one of the kids, Kurt. “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked with interest.
And the kid gave me an answer I wouldn’t easily forget: “Secretary-General of the United Nations.”
What?
“Hehe,” giggled Karl, “I have practiced that with him, for kindergarten!” Still, I was amazed by that most unexpected answer.

The Bendigo region owes its very existence to the discovery of gold in the Bendigo Creek in 1851. Margaret Kennedy, a young station-hand’s wife from the nearby Ravenswood sheep run, reputedly made that momentous finding. Margaret's discovery sparked a rush to Central Victoria that's never really stopped.
Today, the old diggers have been replaced by visitors (read: tourists) in search of riches to delight the senses, tempt the palette and revive a flagging spirit! I have heard that they are never disappointed, as the locals often drop little meaningless flakes of gold up the creek. Aussie humour!


I thanked Karl and Vivian for helping me out for a day and for their generosity. Within half an hour my host in Bendigo, Craig Keller, picked me up on the main street.

Craig is an electrical wholesaler and store man, but he calls his job ‘paying bills’. He is spellbound with my idea of travelling and once had seen a report about me on TV. He drive me to his home where I meet up with his fiancé Lauren and his son. I also have a short encounter with Craig’s dad John, who surprisingly is Dutch. He has been in Australia from his twenty’s and quickly checked if I knew enough of the Aussie slang that made his first months in Australia very difficult. Of course, after almost six months of travelling I might be able to understand most Aussie colloquial speeches.

John had to leave just after I met him and after a coffee with the rest of the family in the house.

There is an interesting story behind Craig’s father John. John’s parents dragged him on a boat, to exchange The Netherlands for Australia when he was just 20-years-old. Meanwhile young John left behind a pregnant girlfriend and they totally lost contact with her after the move. It was only three years ago when the now-older John received a phone call from a man in Holland, saying, “Hi dad, I am your son”. It is the Dutch Ruud (who actually works in my own hometown of Zwolle!) whose father immigrated to Australia over thirty years ago.

This is the story that Lauren told me about their recent-new family member, the half-brother of Craig. “There was always a little rumour in the family of a known possibility of a sibling in The Netherlands, but nobody knew exactly all about it. It was a few years ago when Ruud came to Australia and visited his father and met up with him for the first time. It was like they had known each other their whole life. Of course they had to catch up a lot in life, but it was such a weird experience for the family to eventually get to know the person that is now half-related to us here.”

"Now it's about time that we go to the Netherlands and visit Ruud," Lauren said.

In this house, Craig is the person in the kitchen. He loves the cooking. “It’s more that I like to eat, so I like to prepare food.”

Meanwhile I am introduced to their computer room, where to pc’s are connected to a network so they cam all be online. “Craig is the internet addict,” Lauren said, “he can chat with people all over the world for hours. I just won’t see him.”

After dinner in the living room, while watching a current affair programme on TV announcing another scandalous fact to the Australian history, I connected my laptop to their network.

Craig tells me about his favourite hobby at the moment: LANarchy, where people gather together, get connected to eachother through a LAN-line and start playing games. You know, those real-life shooting and fighting games.

Lauren chatted through the Internet with Ruud in the Netherlands, who said hi to me in Australia, Craig chatted with some online friends about my stay and I wrote on my own laptop.

The work got a bit interrupted by the movie The Blair Witch Project on TV, where both Lauren and I got pulled in. I have seen the movie before, but still it is a masterpiece in its originality and suspense.

It did not get late tonight. Tomorrow I was on the road again.

Good night Bendigo!

Ramon.