Sovereign Hill and Ballarat

Despite a morning of car problems,

we made it to Sovereign Hill.

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This place is AMAZING.

You have to visit if you get a chance.

I’ve wanted to visit Sovereign Hill for years.

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Sovereign Hill is called an ‘open air museum’

as it’s set up to represent life in the 1850s during the Ballarat gold rush.

And it does an EXCELLENT job of it.

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There is so much to see and do

so thank goodness for their two days tickets!

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Oh and make sure you sit down with the daily schedule

and plan out what you want to see and do BEFORE you arrive.

There is so much on offer that it takes some thinking

to make sure you can make it fit comfortably into your two days.

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And save some extra pennies for all the paid extras on offer at Sovereign Hill.

You won’t regret it.

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So what’s there to do at Sovereign Hill?


there are buildings GALORE to visit

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and in most of them there are costumed staff to engage with.

These dear ladies were baking

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biscuits to hand out to the visitors.

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The school wasn’t functioning the day we visited

(it only functions on holidays and weekends)

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but we could look inside.

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We, of course, stepped into the library

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and browsed the books on offer.

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They weren’t to my tastes,

except for these few.

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There were also stores to browse and shop in.

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The grocer’s store was fascinating.

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(Is that hideous creature in the window a lamb?

I may never eat lambie again if it is.)

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And, yes, you could purchase some of the items in the stores.

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Aren’t these little drawers are gorgeous?

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My favourite items were the books

but, surprisingly, I didn’t purchase any.

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At the drapery,

there were all manner of women’s

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and men’s garments.

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There stovepipe hats caught my eye

and reminded me of Abraham Lincoln.

(Just think, Abraham Lincoln was coming to prominence in the US

at the same time that Australia was having its gold rush period.

I love making these kinds of connections with history pieces.)

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Our favourite shop, and everyone else’s favourite shop too,

was the confectionery store.

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Aren’t the lollies in their jars pretty?!

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Yes, they tasted as good as they looked.

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We bought a mixed bag to nibble on.

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There were other places to visit as well,

such as the funeral director’s ‘business’ establishment,

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the bowling saloon

(which was full of school kids

so we gave it a wide berth),

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and the post office

(which is a functioning Australia Post store).

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When you are sick of shopping

(as if that would ever happen when you have two teen sons and a hubby),

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you can go and see some demonstrations.

Try to see them all.

Even the ones that you wouldn’t think would be interesting,

were fascinating.

Like this wheelwright demonstration.

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These videos show the hub of the wheel being made.

First, they have to turn the log segment into the right shape.

Then they have to drill the holes for the spokes.

Then the hub has to dry for years

before they can add the spokes!

I had no idea how much work went into making a wagon wheel.

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We also enjoyed the candle making demonstration.

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Here’s part of the process…

Candles in the past were made of tallow, which is animal fat,

and smelled awful and burned with a very smokey flame.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it.

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Our favourite demonstration was the candy-making demonstration.

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The smell in this room was divine.

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So imagine the sweet smells as you watch this video.

Apparently, this candy press would have been made of lead in the past!!

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Yes, Sovereign Hills makes all of their own lollies.

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To break these sheets of candy into individual pieces,

they simply drop them into a container.

Yep, high tech techniques used in the making of these lollies.

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Oh and make sure you taste one of the warm raspberry drops from this demonstration

and then go and buy a whole bottle!

Trust me.

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The red coats passed us in the street as well.

Probably after our bottle of raspberry drops!

The musket demonstration was also good.

(the firing was MUCH louder in real life!)

Make sure to stop and chat with the policeman.

He’s a real larrikan.

Apparently the police weren’t totally committed to upholding the law,

if ‘not upholding the law’ was more profitable to them.

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Make sure to stop and talk to the staff and volunteers.

They have a lot of valuable, interesting information

to share with those who stop and ask

and show an interest in their passion.

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Also, make time in your day to watch the various little performances

that pop up around the town.

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They are quite funny.

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This one played out on the gold fields.

A lady’s dress was stolen and the police were on the hunt for the stolen goods.

(Sorry about the ‘crack’;

I know, now you aren’t going to be able to ‘not’ see it.

Sorry again.)

Oh and there are also tours you can take while at Sovereign Hill.

I know.  The list of things to do is HUGE.

We took as many tours as we could.

This photo was taken while we were on the Goldfields tour.

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How many people do you think would have lived in this humble abode?

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Apparently, mum, dad and something between 12 and 15 kids!

Don’t ask me where they all slept.

I can’t imagine more than six or eight people sleeping in here.

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You also HAVE to visit the underground mines

(unless you are claustrophobic or afraid of the dark!).

Pay the extra for the paid tours.

They are well worth it.

(We did two of the paid tours

and wish we did the third as well).

But, get there early to book your spot

or you might miss out.

And make sure to do the free Red Hill self-guided tour as well

(and don’t be put off by the signs about lots of stairs;

there’s hardly any and they are easily managed, even in my long skirt).

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To get to the underground mines,

you travel down in this stylish tram.

(If my memory serves me well,

you go down about 20 metres underground).

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Brayden LOVED these mine tours,

especially the mine tram.

I can imagine a lot of people wouldn’t enjoy these trams.

For 90 seconds as you descend,

you are plunged into pitch black

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to help your eyes adjust to the dark environment in the mines.

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But, considering how the early miners

would have traveled up and down

(in the lifts, pictured below, with SEVEN other men!)

the mine tram was the deluxe way to travel.

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Once in the mine,

your guide takes you through the tunnels,

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stopping at key locations to tell you stories

and share information.

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I was interested to discover that these wooden struts

aren’t really for supporting the ceiling,

like they might appear.

They were used as an early warning system.

When the ceiling moved, perhaps threatening to fall,

the struts were designed to temporarily support the ceiling

while the poles flexed and bowed,

giving the miners warning and time to escape.

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Now, for the highlight of any Sovereign Hill visit…

the goldfields and panning.

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When you arrive,

make sure you ask for a demonstration on how to pan for gold.

There’s a knack to it.

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Then grab a shovel

and fill your pan with dirt,

preferably from the centre of the creek.

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Every morning,

they sprinkle this water with gold

so you are searching for real gold

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and you will find some,

if you put in the effort.

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This was our first piece of gold

on our very first pan.

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Brayden had a real knack for gold panning

and he experienced a little ‘gold fever’

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and had us returning to the goldfields repeatedly

over the two days we were there.

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Here’s some more gold he found.

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Hubby was living in hope of striking it rich

to recoup the money we’d sunk into our sick car.

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Suffice it to say,

based on what we found,

he wasn’t able to quit his day job

OR pay off his car.

Look very very carefully and you can see our couple of teeny tiny gold specks.

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Now, if you do want to see a LOT of gold,

make sure you go and see the gold pour demonstration.

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How cool is this…

This gold ingot is worth $160 000AU

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Even after all of that,

there is MORE to do.

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You can explore and walk around the Chinese camp.

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Make sure you visit the Chinese temple

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and the Chinese camp store.

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There were all sorts of interesting things sold there.

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And peek inside each of the tents.

Each is different and unique.

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My boys weren’t all that keen on the Chinese way of carrying things.

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Think of the muscles you would build, boys.

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We had a blast at Sovereign Hill

and we’d happily return

and enjoy everything all over again,

especially if we lived closer.

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But, we squeezed in as much as we could in two days

and enjoyed absolutely everything.

There’s nothing negative at all to say about the place,

except perhaps that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it quite so much

if we’d visited during the peak season.

(I highly recommend visiting OUTSIDE of holiday and weekend times.)

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So, we said our farewells to Sovereign Hill and Ballarat

and prepared to hit the road again

the next morning.

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Posted by on December 9, 2018 in Australian Holiday, Field Trips, History


Our Ballarat ‘Surprise’

On our first morning in Ballarat,

we excitedly got ready to head off to Sovereign Hill.

We’d been really looking forward to these two days in Ballarat.

We all climbed into the car

and started to reverse out…

when the car made a horrific noise.

This was not part of the holiday schedule!



An emergency call was made to roadside assistance

(known as RACV in Victoria)

and they diagnosed the car as needing a new power steering pump

and a tow.


This is NOT the scene you want to see on any day of the week

and especially not on a holiday when you are thousands of kilometres from home.

The mechanic had our car for two full days,

our entire time in Ballarat,

and charged us almost a $1000.

As well as a new power steering pump,

we had to get two new tyres

and a wheel alignment.

(Yes, the car had been to Ford and Jax Tyres the fortnight BEFORE we left home

to check that it was in good condition for a very long drive!!

I will say no more, aside from… Grrrrrrr!!)

Thankfully, we have excellent roadside assistance

so were able to get our taxis paid for

and a hire car for the two days.

So, thanks to RACQ

(the Queensland equivalent of RACV)

our Ballarat holiday was not ruined.

We still made it to Sovereign Hill that day and the next,

and our car was ready when we were ready to leave town.

I just thank God that our car didn’t decide to die

somewhere out on our Google ‘shortcut’.


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Posted by on December 4, 2018 in Australian Holiday


To Ballarat via Google’s Shortcut

When we left Glenrowan,

we enlisted Google’s help

to direct us to Ballarat.

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The scenery was gorgeous.

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Come take a little drive with us and see how pretty it was….

(please excuse the bumpy footage; it was not the best of roads).

I loved how the trees seemed to reach over us.

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The trees thinned out after a while

and were replaced by these intriguing rocky outcrops.

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Wouldn’t they be interesting to wander around.

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I just loved the Victorian scenery.

It’s very different from Queensland.

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Now, this is where things got interesting.

We were driving along,

enjoying the scenery

when we noticed the road getting significantly skinnier.

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We wondered out loud where Google was taking us

and whether we should continue to trust Google.


And then the road turned to dirt!!!

We definitely had words with Google at that point!!

Where was Google taking us?!!

We decided that the best course of action was to continue onwards,

since we’d already committed so many hours to this journey already.

But there were many times when we seriously wondered if Google knew what it was doing

and if we’d ever arrive in Ballarat.

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After passing a couple of dead wombats on the road,

seeing a live echidna cross the road

and sharing the road with a whole herd of cows,

the dirt road turned back to bitumen…thankfully.


And we did eventually make it to Ballarat and our hotel.

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It was a nice big room

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and it had a washing machine too


…although some people like to call it a spa.



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Posted by on December 4, 2018 in Australian Holiday, Geography


Glenrowan and Ned Kelly

We left Wangaratta bright and early to drive to Ballarat,

but, first, we made a stop at Glenrowan.

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Glenrowan is the town where Ned Kelly made his ‘last stand’.

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Ned is EVERYWHERE you turn

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in Glenrowan.

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But the best place to visit in Glenrowan

is Kate’s Cottage,

the Ned Kelly memorial museum.

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It’s not a very big or flash museum

(it’s really just a room behind the souvenir store)

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but what it lacks in size,

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it gains in passion and respect for Ned’s story.

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No, you won’t see an original suit of Ned Kelly’s armour

(Ned’s armour is housed at the Victorian State Library)

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or Ned’s real death mask

(It’s held at the Old Melbourne Gaol),

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but there is a lot of information about the Ned Kelly story

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a few original artifacts

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and lots of interesting artifacts related to Ned

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and the time period he lived in.

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My favourite artifact was a book,

of course!

Apparently Ned Kelly’s favourite book was Lorna Doone.

(I wonder whether I’d enjoy it too.)

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Now, I’m going to assume that you know very little about Ned

and give you a very basic summary.

To start with,

Ned’s family were often in trouble with the law

and Ned followed in their footsteps.

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Did you know that Ned was ‘apprenticed’

under the gentleman bushranger, Harry Power?

(He’s an interesting bloke too)

Ned was 14 at the time.

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At 16, Ned received a stolen horse and was sent to prison for three years.

(The bloke who stole the horse only received 18 months)

On being released from prison, he spent three years working hard

and staying out of trouble.

But, old habits die hard and, before long, Ned was back stealing horses.

Then Fitzpatrick, a police office, turned up at the Kelly homestead,

supposedly to arrest one of Ned’s brother for being involved.

Things went badly and the officer was shot and Ned’s mother was arrested.

(She, and her small baby, spent three years in prison.)

The Kelly gang fled to the bush and became outlaws,

(although they offered to surrender if Mrs Kelly was released).

At Stringbark Creek, police officers attempted to capture the Kelly gang

but three of the four officers were shot and killed.

For the murders, a 4000 pound reward was placed on the heads of the Kelly Gang.

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Later, the Kelly gang staged a grand bank robbery.

The gang were described as ‘polite, stylishly dressed outlaws’

so they weren’t your ordinary outlaws.

With the robbery added to the murder charges,

the reward for the Kelly gang was raised to 8000 pounds,

the highest reward ever offered in Australia.

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The police tried to pressure the Kelly gang to turn themselves in

by arresting their family and friends for various trumped up charges

but it just made matters worse.

The Kelly gang dreamed of a Republic in North-Eastern Victoria

so a plan was drawn up to lure the police into a trap at Glenrowan.

The gang made their armour,

took the town of Glenrowan hostage in Anne Jones’ Inn,

and broke up the railway track,

hoping to derail the police train that was headed their way.

However, the police train was saved and a gun battle began at the Inn.

(This is a photo of people who gathered at the railway station to watch the gun battle!)

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The Kelly Gang came out of the Inn with their armour on

and opened fire on the police.

The police fired back.

(This is a policeman posing in one of the Kelly suits of armour after the siege.)

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At dawn, Ned was injured and shot down after a drawn out gun battle

and at 3pm that afternoon the Inn was set on fire to draw out the remaining gang members.

But Ned was the only survivor.

(This is a photo of the Inn as it burns.)

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Ned was taken to Old Melbourne Gaol.

and given medical attention for his injuries.

Then he was put on trial and sentenced to death.

(The day before his execution, Ned requested to have this portrait taken for his family and friends.)

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On the 11th November 1880, Ned Kelly was hung at Old Melbourne Gaol.

His final words were NOT “Such is life”

but rather, “Ah well, I suppose it has come to this.”

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I know.

It’s a tragic story.

Here in Australia, people swing between calling Ned a hero and calling him a villain.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

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He wasn’t a hero,

but I do think his life of crime was encouraged by his family and situation

and quite probably provoked by corrupt authorities as well.

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Anyway, there’s lots to learn about Ned at Kate’s Cottage

(and, if the kids muck up, you can just lock them up in the holding cell out the back.)

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Out the back, you’ll also find a replica of the Ned Kelly homestead

(apparently Ned built the homestead for his mum).

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You are welcome to walk through the replica homestead

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to see how the Kelly’s might have lived.

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Yes, that must be Ned sleeping in the bed.

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Don’t you just love the wallpaper.

Very stylish.

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Out the back of the homestead,

you’ll also meet two absolutely delightful creatures:

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Howard and Dorothy, the resident sulphur-crested cockatoos.

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Here’s Cockie saying hello…

and here’s Cockie throwing a wobbly when we had to say goodbye.

After leaving Kate’s Cottage, we went for a little walk around town

to check out the historic sites.

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This is the site of the Last Stand at Anne Jones’ Inn

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and this is the old police station.

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We enjoyed our time in Glenrowan,

learning about Ned Kelly,

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but we couldn’t stay all day

as we had to get to Ballarat before dark.

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Posted by on December 4, 2018 in Australian Holiday, History