Monday, 26 January 2015

The town that gold built

Hubby and I had been planning a road trip to a historical gold mining town situated at the base of a deep valley in Victoria’s beautiful Gippsland region, for quite some time.
As we were coming up to a long weekend, we decided to make the trip on Saturday.

First, I had to make sure our son would be home to look after Jack. A long drive on a warm day in a stuffy car to unfamiliar places, where a lot of walking would be required, is too much for his dear old self these days. He spends much of his time sleeping on our bed - in between cuddles, treats and toilet breaks outside to bark at unseen strangers.
He much prefers to stick to a daily routine walk in his favourite park, where he can sniff his way around his usual route safely.
Just like on market days, he is comfortable at home as he awaits our return.

We set out early for the two hour drive to Walhalla - named from Norse mythology, “The Valley of the Gods”.

The deeply forested road twisted and turned back on itself for miles.
A short distance from the town, we stopped at the Thomson River Bridge.

As I stared down into the beautiful, wild river, I realised that the little telltale rippling wake of water I watched in the distance was not a fish, nor a duck, but a platypus. I could just make out the occasional sideways action and its rudder like paddle tail as it made a bee-line for a little burrow among a tangle of tree roots on the riverbank, returning home for the day after an early morning forage for breakfast.
This is indeed the perfect environment for these most elusive, secretive creatures.
Sadly, my small camera lacks any decent zoom, and there would be nothing distinguishable in the walnut brown water anyway. One day, I’ll be in the right place at the right time for a good photo.
But, it was exciting nonetheless.

A little farther on, we drove into Walhalla.

When gold was discovered in the small, remote valley in 1862, a town quickly grew, flourished and became home to over 4000 residents in the boom of 1863 - 1900.
During that period, over 70 tonnes of gold was mined, making it one of the most prolific gold producing towns in Australia.
Amid the hardships of living, the community thrived, for a time.

Transport was by horse only. There was the need for a railway.  But, by the time the train finally arrived in 1910, it was too late.
Gold yields had dropped dramatically. Major mines were closed, and by 1914, Walhalla was all but abandoned - until the 1980's.
Today, there are just twelve permanent residents who live in, and care for, this peaceful, pretty place.

Interestingly, Walhalla became the last mainland town in Australia to be connected to a reticulated electricity supply in December 1998.

Here, Down Under, it is the middle of summer, so I was pleasantly surprised at the still grey sky and definite cool, crisp nip in the clean mountain air.

Just 40 kms (24 miles) away, is one of Australia’s (few) winter snow fields - Mt Baw Baw, which is on the southern edge of Australia’s Alps and the High Country beyond.

Heritage stories abound about the struggle of settlers determined to carve out a life for themselves and their families in these rugged, inhospitable, densely treed mountains.


Where sure footed brumbies (wild horses) roamed the area for nearly two centuries.

Tales of bushrangers, hiding out in remote caves and canyons in their attempts to evade the law, are told around campfires.

Cattlemens' tin huts sit rusting in small clearings - many are preserved living history, and today, they are essential shelter for alpine adventurers.

Novels and movies weave narratives around this historical bygone era.

We arrived to a town still asleep.

None of the quaint little shops were open.

Coffee was yet to be brewed.

There's always time to stop and smell the roses.

No residents were about and, as yet, there were very few other tourists - just as we like it :)
So peaceful was it, that I felt anything above a whisper would intrude on the almost eerie, muffled silence. And, in a valley such as this, any noise travels far.

As we walked the deserted street, I caught a glimpse of a man standing by the old fire station. His green shirt and dark blue pants discernible, yet somehow blurred.
I turned to face and greet him with a “good morning”, but, he was gone.
A trick of the morning light? A fanciful optical illusion? Or, something else…
The feeling that someone was watching me remained in the chilled air.

I can imagine what it must be like here in the dark of night.

The dead far outnumber the living in this historic village.
There is indeed a sense of spirit about the place - it is undeniable.
Ghosts of a ghost town.
Over one hundred and thirty years of human emotions held and absorbed by the forested mountain walls and deep within the very soil that contained the veins of gold they sought – and died for.

I felt enveloped by an ethereal veil as I stood staring into the road.

We walked on, quietly remarking on the buildings, pretty cottages and the crystal clear creek that bubbled alongside the main street as it wound its way out to the deep river.

Some of the cottage entrances had wooden bridges over the creek.

Stringer's Creek, where summery golden shadows reflect echoes of the past.

The old fire station.

Photo courtesy of hubby

Due to the lack of suitable flat ground, the building was built in 1901 straddling Stringer’s Creek, and is considered to be the most unusual fire station in the state.

Bank of Victoria Vault.  The bank was demolished after the mines closed, but the vault still remains, as a reminder of the vast cache of gold once stored therein.

The post and telegraph office.

Before the train arrived in 1910, all mail was delivered by horse drawn coach. Miss Doreen Hannan purchased, and continued to operate the post office until 1963. She lived there until her death in 1988.

Post office side garden.

 Where we each bought a delicious scoop of liquorice ice cream in a waffle cone.

 The dramatic, textural shale and slate which define the town.
Photo courtesy of hubby

 The quintessential outdoor dunny.

 A classic red telephone box. Rarely seen these days.

Pretty church in the bush.
Photo courtesy of hubby

 Extra, extra, read all about it at the Chronicle.

Nods to the mining days still remain...

 Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Mines from another time.


The old smithy looks just as it would have a century ago.

Texture and light - outside the smithy.

 From the town lookout.

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Images of long ago show a once bustling mini metropolis.



 Geological Survey party leaving Walhalla for Mount Baw Baw, January 1904

Many of the buildings were torn down after the bust. Some were relocated. Others that burned in bush fires were rebuilt in keeping with the originals.
Luckily, some survived the fires unscathed and have been lovingly restored.

There is so much more to tell about this old town, but I couldn’t do it justice in a few words. To find out more about its history, you can read further here.

The dreamlike silence was soon broken as the town filled with more and more - what felt to me like irreverently loud - day trippers in a continual procession of four wheel drives. 

We sought out what we hoped would be the last refuge of peace in the now busy township - the Walhalla Cemetery.

 Photo courtesy of hubby

High up and hidden from the road, the cemetery is recognised as one of the most unique in Australia.
Legend has it that people were, “buried standing up”, as the ground was too steep for flat plots.
However, this is of course untrue.

Even in the crisp morning light, the permanent solitude lent a haunting, melancholy air on the wild unkempt hillside.

The terrain makes it difficult to maintain, and nature will have her way.

 A pine grows from the grave of a mother and child buried together.

It somehow seems right to let the dead sleep undisturbed by petrol driven mowers and grass trimmers - so jarring to the ear.

 Photo courtesy of hubby

 Photo courtesy of hubby

Individual stories of hardship, heartbreak, triumph and defeat are carved onto every monument.

Photo courtesy of hubby

An unusual wooden marker weathering gracefully.

In the peaceful morning between the graves, this young early bird got her worm.

Photo courtesy of hubby

Walhalla is truly a fascinating place, and we feel that not enough time was spent investigating it further. So, we have decided that sometime in the autumn, we will return - for an overnight stay in one of the old cottages.
My curiosity to find out what it would be like at night will be satisfied, I hope.

But then, you know what they say about curiosity...


  1. This was such a treat, Vicki! So glad to take this step back in time with you. It seems so quiet there, and yet really ALIVE! Beautiful images...Thank you for taking us along. ;o) Happy Days ((HUGS))

    1. Yes, the town seems so much more alive when the streets are empty - if you get where I'm coming from :)
      It has such a vibrant personality of its own, that is subdued when too many people arrive.
      Thanks for coming along, Tracy. xx

  2. ahhh, thanks to your photos I just took a lovely trip with my morning tea. Enjoyed the visit very much :)

    1. Glad you enjoyed the trip, Tracey :)
      Old towns have such a wonderful atmosphere and always worth a virtual visit.
      Take care xx

  3. THis is a great collection of photos that show your trip so well. I also love checking into the history of a town, and you've got a great start on this one. I am in awe that you saw a platypus in the wild.

    1. Thanks Barb. I'm so glad that history is preserved in such wonderful old towns.
      It would be a shame to have them lose their identity.
      I was very excited to see the platypus - wish I could've been closer. But, I vow to myself that one day, I'll be rewarded and will capture an image of these unique little creatures.

  4. How beautiful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    LOVED that you started your day with a platypus.
    This looks like exactly the sort of place I like best. Many happy hours musing in that gorgeous grave yard too.
    A brilliant (and very beautiful) post.

    1. Thank you, EC. You're very kind.
      Must be a very good sign, to start the day - any day - with a platypus :)

      Yes, I think you'd like Walhalla very much.
      The cemetery is the perfect place to visit, be still and at peace in the world. I could have spent many hours there. Maybe next time...
      On a breezy day, when the wind breathes mournful tunes through the pines, the atmosphere would be even more wonderfully eerie, yet somehow comforting.
      But then, I've always like graveyards - especially old ones.
      I think it would take very, very little coercion to get me to live in this delightful mountain town full of mystery and magic.
      So glad you loved it too.

  5. Such a pretty area with so much history. Nice that your guardian angel was watching over you, (the green and blue clothed man).
    I have to get out my map now and see just where this is.

    1. It is a beautiful, forested area and a very pretty, peaceful town.
      Not sure who "the man" was, but I'm glad I had the experience - which isn't the first time I've seen something "unusual".

      If you look on your map for Mt Baw Baw National Park, then trace down and to the right a little, Walhalla is in that area.
      Try Google Maps for it.
      Here is a link to copy and paste into your browser -,146.4945206,12z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x6b28e69f88c453a5:0x40579a430a06a40

  6. Rats! It isn't on my map. Not in my atlas either.

  7. oh my goodness!
    it's like i was walking right with you ... i could feel the quiet. my favorite thing too. and the disappearing man. love that. just goes with the feeling of the history of it all.
    and yet it's absolutely picturesque! so well kept and beautiful. i loved seeing the old black and white original town photos and then the picture from above that the two of you took. it's so tiny now compared to its bustling gold filled dream days.
    and the cemetery. what you wrote about that vicki ... almost poetic. i love old cemeteries.
    i just spent the day in tulsa with the marine.
    not a platypus in sight!!!! you had me at that first line. first for beloved jack and his wonderful quiet love~filled days ... safe with his boy at home.
    and then ... a platypus! OH YES! i had to imagine him ... but i did! you lucky girl!
    this was a wonderful post dear heart. can't wait for the night time trip. XOXO♥ and brumbies! oh i love that name for wild horses! xoxo

    1. These sense of calm is so evident, and I glad I could capture some of the peace. I'm looking forward to an overnight stay in Walhalla too.
      Old cemeteries have a grace about them that I find captivating - I could have spent the rest of the day there.

      One day, I'll have a clear photo of a platypus, I'm determined :)
      Brumbies is a great name for wild horses isn't it?

      Jack was VERY excited to see us when we returned home. But, the boys had a lovely quiet day keeping each other company, safe and sound :)

      Glad you too, are home safe after your day out with your wonderful marine.
      Hugs xxx

  8. Vicki,
    I left you a comment while I was at work today but I think it disappeared when I went to "publish" it.
    If you see a duplicate, that's what happened.
    In my comment I thanked you for taking me on this Beautiful virtual trip while I'm stuck in the middle of the Midwest, freezing cold in the snow.
    I think both you and your hubby are AMAZING photographers and
    then I told you how I've been taking out books on DVD's from the library so that I have something to listen to in the car.
    So many times the books were dull and disappointing and I would only make it through one disc before returning it.
    I want to find a book with words like these:
    "I can imagine what it must be like here in the dark of night.
    The dead far outnumber the living in this historic village.
    There is indeed a sense of spirit about the place - it is undeniable.
    Ghosts of a ghost town.
    Over one hundred and thirty years of human emotions held and absorbed by the forested mountain walls and deep within the very soil that contained the veins of gold they sought – and died for.
    I felt enveloped by an ethereal veil as I stood staring into the road."
    YES! I want to read that book (books). I wish you would start writing them! xoxoxoxo
    Thanks again. ;)

    1. Oh Cindi, you are too kind! I would love to write, but, there are far, far better writers out there. Publishers wouldn't be interested in my "work".
      Oh well, glad I have my blog, where I can write to my heart's content...
      But, I do appreciate your lovely words. They are very encouraging, thank you :)

      Stay warm in the cold. I read on Tam's post that there's a fierce storm in the US. Not sure if it's headed your way, but keep safe.

  9. The storm really hit the East Coast. I have blogger friends in the Boston and surrounding areas that were really hit hard but thankfully they are fine and haven't lost power although they are still digging out. I'm fine, here in Illinois. Just cold and a light layer of snow on the ground but this weekend is suppose to bring sleet, which I hate more than any other kind of weather. So hopefully the forecast will be wrong.
    Thanks again for the Etsy article link!
    and REALLY, you are a wonderful writer.

    1. So sorry to read that the storms have been bad for some. It must be really frightening.
      And, I always worry for the animals - wild and domestic. The elements are hard on those dear souls.
      Take care in the sleet - that sounds scary!

      I hope you get some quiet time to really dig into those Etsy links - there's so many of them! But, I've seen that quite a few look very helpful, so I'm biting off a few chunks at a time to digest :)

      Take care Cindi, and big hugs to your gorgeous furry crew.

  10. What an enchanting place, so green and beautiful. It is so strange to see Eucalypts in the snow! They grow here in Southern California, but only down in the lowlands. I was struck by how much the 4th photo looks like it was taken from the mountains I live in! If only it were as lushly green and beautiful here as it is there...

    I agree with Cynthia should write a book! If publishers aren't interested in it, then they're really stupid publishers. Your writing style is wonderful, it draws me in and makes me feel so much.

    I hope this made sense; it's almost midnight here and I'm up because I have such a bad sore throat I can't sleep. Off to get more honey and lemon tea and some elderberry syrup.



    1. Thank you, Victoria. You are also very, very kind. I honestly wouldn't know what to write about, even if I did want to write a book. My head tumbles with thoughts :)

      Eucalypts in the snow are indeed a rare sight for most Australians too - and a stunning image it is. There is only a small pocket of the mainland's eastern seaboard where the terrain is high enough and cold enough for snow.
      It's so nice to know that we now live just a couple of hours drive from Mt Baw Baw.
      Sometimes, I think of your beautiful, majestic mountain when I look at images of our own mountainous high country.
      We are indeed lucky to be having a wet summer, otherwise it would look a lot drier - and frightening, when thinking of the bushfire threat.

      I hope your throat feels better soon. Have you tried sage tea? I also gargle a lukewarm strong brew of sage, it's very effective.

  11. The whole of Gippsland is uncharted territory for me so thanx for the introduction to this fascinating area - one day, one day ... I hope you didn't get a black tongue from the licorice ice cream - and I'd like to think you put that awesome dunny there especially for me! Have a great weekend (well ... it's nearly there, right?!?!)

    1. There is a wealth of scenery here just waiting to have breathtaking photos taken by you, Red!
      The ice cream was delicious - hubby and I poked our black tongues out at each other :D

      And yes... I DID think of you when I saw the outside dunny. How could I not? Imagine adding a "haunted loo" to your repertoire ;)

      Yep, countdown to the weekend. Have a good one!

  12. Wow. What a great introduction to this place. I knew of its past as a ghost town of sorts but not much more. Fascinating ... And a really good morning ghost story to boot :-)

    Glad to hear you're returning once more and we can have part two.

    Could you live there? I think I could.

    1. I'm looking forward to returning there too. Perhaps I'll meet "the man" again, who knows...

      Yes, I could live there. Remote. Wild. Beautiful. Quiet.

  13. what a marvelous post!

    thank you for sharing this amazing and haunting place, with us.

    oh please do, go back again, and stay over night! I can't wait!!!!!


    1. I'm very happy to share images, and experiences, of such wonderful places. We need to keep little towns like this alive.
      It will certainly be an experience being there, after dark...


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