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Two Days in
Country Victoria

Brian Wood in Australia

A couple of weeks ago, between the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays my partner and I went to a small town in the countryside of Victoria (commonly referred to as "Country Victoria" by Melbournians) called Daylesford. This old gold mining town turned artsy/gay enclave – but we did not see many rainbow flags waving on the main street like we were told - is about an hour and a half drive north of Melbourne through quiet farmland and rolling hills. The drive up the Daylesford was quite different than normal because of the severe drought Australia is experiencing currently. The scenery was very brown and brittle. I would imagine it would normally be a little greener. I was not sure if most of the brown was wheat or very thirsty grass and pasture.

Upon arriving in Daylesford, we noticed it was much greener than the drive from Melbourne. The town is near the last remnants of the Great Dividing Range that stretches from Queensland thousands of kilometres to the north. At this point the mountains are more like rolling hills with outcrops of extinct volcanoes dotting the landscape. These hills keep Daylesford relatively green. The town is rather small and quaint. There is not much to do there except relax and enjoy the countryside. Relaxing is the main reason why city folk flock here in the summer time. Daylesford is in the middle of "Spa Country". In this region there are many natural springs and a spa industry has set itself up here. The big thing to do is check yourself in at a spa and be pampered for a couple hours.

We did not do a spa, but we did relax. Daylesford is situated around a small lake appropriately named Lake Daylesford. There is a lovely path that runs around the lake where one can watch the ducks swimming or sleeping and listen to kids swimming in the most likely cold water. We stayed at a gay owned B&B close to the lake. The name of the house is called Balconies and as it states in the name is surrounded by a long balcony that overlooks a well kept garden and ponds just before the lake. Balconies is a wonderful place to stay with gracious hosts Lucien, Nigel and their cute Maltese, Claudia who loves to sit in the cosy sitting room and chat with the guests. Claudia loves guests and becomes fast friends with us. As long as you scratch her tummy she will remain a long time friend. We happened to be there on Monday night and all of us guests and the hosts gathered in the sitting room and glued ourselves to the gay Monday night ritual of watching "Queer As Folk" (American version) on the telly. We programmed our VCR at home just in case we would not be able to watch it in Daylesford which was obviously not necessary.

We spent most of our time downstairs in the pool and spa. Because there are only five guestrooms, we had the pool pretty much to ourselves most of our two night stay. The spa was what we Americans would call a Jacuzzi and the pool was nice a chilly. We would take turns getting messaged in the spa and getting chilled in the pool. We could swim and spa in the nude because it was predominately but by no means exclusively a gay male establishment and being gay goes hand in hand with being nude for some reason. I don’t mind, I always get that liberated feeling being nude. We discovered a nude beach South of Melbourne on one of our day excursions outside the city a couple weeks ago. That was great fun – my first time at a nude beach.

As I said before people do not come up to Daylesford to do something. They go up there to relax and enjoy the quaintness and serenity of the region. Another favourite past time is to take little drives to other small towns around Daylesford – something akin to Sunday drives. We decided to go an hour east and visit Hanging Rock near Mt. Macedon. Hanging Rock is an old volcano that because of the way the lava flowed and the millions of years of erosion looks like rocks are just hanging on the mountain. We climbed to the summit of Hanging Rock about 700 meters above. Hanging Rock is covered by Eucalyptus trees and there was a wonderful scent emitting from them all the way up the ancient volcano. The walk up was not as bad as I expected and the views from the top were very picturesque. Again the dominant colour was the different shades of browned farmland but broken up by small tufts of deep green forests. Another stand out from the view was the horse racecourse down below next to the mountain. It stood out because it was a brilliant almost unnatural green. Out of the dull browns and greens was a neon green circle – an oasis of watered and pampered grass.

Our last morning at the Balconies and in Daylesford (New Years Eve) was a very rainy day. Normally this would have been an awful start to a day in Daylesford, but everyone was in a good mood because of the rain. I could almost feel the communal sighs of relief of hearing rain pounding on roofs and cars outside. Luckily we were getting ready to head on back to Melbourne for the New Years festivities that night – which turned out to be dry for the midnight fireworks along the Yarra River. The rain on the way home was very soaking and heavy (the heaviest I experienced during my six months here) and I could imagine the grass starting to turn green alongside the road back to Melbourne.
A trip to Daylesford is not your ordinary excursion. People go there to do very little. There are no amusement parks (thought there is a gold mining town theme park in nearby Ballarat), no major casinos, no huge museums or theatres. Even the landscape is nothing spectacular, but very soothing. Speaking of museums there is a wonderful gallery in Daylesford called the Convent Gallery. An old convent on a hill turned into a very quiet and relaxing gallery of modern painting and sculpture with wonderful panoramic views from the top floor. Now that there is a drought in effect throughout most of Australia, a nice downpour would actually be a highlight instead of a hindrance to a trip to Country Victoria.

© Brian Wood 2003

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