Categories: Australian Opal
No this is not a new opal field. It is, in fact an old gold mining area in north east Victoria.
Years ago Barbara and I visited the area to see the Eranundra Forest. This is an old growth area which has been heavily logged in the past but is still very beautiful with huge trees and marvellous tree ferns. Gold was discovered in 1855 in the Bendoc River with most alluvial gold being found in Chinaman's Creek, about 8km from Bendoc, and in the Delegate River. In 1857 the Morning Star mine was founded with ashaft sunk to 70 metres. Gold was mined from quartz at the rate of 2 oz per ton.
When we visited the area originally we met up with Johno Wilkshire. Johno was a local with a passion for gold. He showed us around and told us a lot about the history of Bendoc. He showed us where to pan for gold and we found a small amount. He also showed us how to catch trout in the small streams in the area. There is quite a knack to this and it involves quietly creeping up to the edge of the stream and letting a line with a grasshopper or worm on the hook drift downstream to the nearest bend in the stream. We landed three reasonable trout but had to be very quiet because if the trout gets even a glimpse of a shadow on the water they will not bite.We had a very enjoyable day with Johno and at a later meeting went with him to the Delegate Show. Johno, at that time , had a couple of high- jumping dogs. If you have never seen high- jumping dogs it is quite a spectacle. A vertical wooden wall is erected with a tray truck set up behind the wall. The wall height can be varied by adding extra planks. The dog runs up to the wall and tries to clamber over. The owner runs up behind the dog to catch it if it fails to get over the wall. If it gets over it lands safely on hay bales on the back of the truck. The dogs clear amazing heights. I believe the record is over 4 metres. The dogs seem to love it with all sorts of breeds involved. Johno's best dog was a whippet.
In December 2012, I visited the area with my son Paul who was visiting in Australia for a few weeks. We spent a few days at Marlo doing a bit of fishing and camping and catching up. Paul had never been gold panning or detecting before so we decided to visit Bendoc which was about an hour and a half away from Marlo. The road is very scenic and sealed most of the way but you do have to look out for log trucks.
We arrived about lunchtime and I telephoned Johno Wilkshire, the local resident who Barbara and I met several years ago. Johno, him not me, is a gold prospector, local historian, fisherman and in fact runs a local tour company with his son and knows a lot about the area. I couldn't miss an opportunity to meet up with him again as we were in the area. Johno answered the phone and said he would meet us outside the Pub as he was not allowed in after some fallout with the publican. It wasn't over drinking as Johno doesn't touch the stuff as he says he is mad enough without the drink. Anyway Paul and I went in for a light ale while we were waiting for him. The Publican met us at the bar and said "You must be lost -You're in Bendoc"Probably says that to all the tourists although it didn't appear that there would be too many.
When Johno arrived we had a chat and he said he would take us out to an area where we could get some fine gold and maybe detect a nugget or two. We followed him and he stopped a few times to point out points of historical interest. The most interesting was the Delegate tunnel which gold miners dug through 80 metres of solid rock to divert the Delegate River . This was so they could alluvial mine the bed of a section of the river. Unfortunately there are no records of how much gold they found there.
After that we headed off to a small creek which was a trbutary of the Delegate River. Here Paul was to get a chance at discovering his fortune. At this stage I should have been alert to the fact that Johno had a long sleeved shirt, long trousers and rubber boots. Of couse we had shorts and tee shirts and ordinary boots. The site Johno selected was heavily treed and abounded in mosquitoes and leeches. He, of couse was oblivious to them but we weren't. Paul persevered for about half an hour during which time he found one speck of gold about the size of pin head and killed about one thousand mosquitoes. We never found much gold with Johno picking up about 12 larger specks which he donated to Paul. He did tell me later that he went back there at Christmas and dug a lot deeper and did find some nice gold so maybe next time for us when we are better prepared.
We then headed back along the track to do a bit of detecting. Bendoc is not known for its detecting but Johno knew an area where four nuggets had been found. We detected for about an hour amongst the old shallow workings but didn't get anything. It was quite relaxing with no mosquitoes or flies and it was easy to imagine a time when there would be hundreds of miners working the area with picks and shovels. I am not sure why I am fascinated by these early mining areas as I would not have enjoyed being ther in the dreadful and primitive conditions they worked in. I can't even imagine how they would have got there as Bendoc is a long way inland and the area is very hot in summer and freezing in winter. These miners did not have 4 wheel drives but had to leg it in with all of there possessions.
A good web site to read a bit more about the history of Bendoc is Victorias Community Website
If you are in Bendoc you can arrange a tour with Johno. He is a lot of fun and you will enjoy his company and knowledge. You can contact him on Platypus Tours.
We loved the area and will go back to look for gold and to walk in the Eranundra Forest.