Australia 18 June: Castlemaine, Vic - Ballarat, Vic

Panning for gold

It was a cold but clear morning, just 5 degrees when we began our running.

Bidding farewell to Namanita this morning the girls team started running from Castlemaine. With only 15 km to cover, our first stint was all over all too soon.

Today the distance allocated for the boys team to cover was less than half of yesterday's distance.

Yesterday Bayarkhuu himself covered 35 km ...

... and his Mongolian brother Sarankhuu ran 31 km...

... but today our team had just a leisurely 36 km in total to cover.

The boys team covered the remaining distance to Daylesford where both teams rendezvoused at the local market, met with the shoppers and stall holders, and invited them to hold the Peace Torch.

Our Mongolian runners meet Lobsng who was selling items from Tibet – where he comes from. Gan-Erdene explained the significant connection between Mongolia and Tibet dating back to the 14th and 15th century, from whence the Tibetan Leader received the title of Dalai Lama - which his successor still holds today.

Back in the van, it was time to continue running towards Ballarat. The boys team took the first 19 km.

The girls team ran the final 26 km for today's schedule.

We covered our last section to Ballarat quite quickly. On our approach to Ballarat both teams met up and at the same time Peter, a cameraman from the local WIN TV.

Peter was heading out along the highway to Daylesford to film us running in and and was quite surprised that we had already reached the outskirts of Ballarat so quickly. Normally to help cover the longest distance possible just one or sometimes two of us will run with the torch but at Peter's request 10 of us, almost our entire team ran along the streets of Ballarat whilst Peter filmed us from various vantage points.

It was time to head for the gold!

The entire team then ran to Sovereign Hill, in Ballarat.

Sovereign Hill is a mini town recreated to represent what life was like for people who came to work and live in Ballarat during the Gold Rush years of the 1850s.

We were met by Mark, in an impressive 1850s top hat and tails outfit ...

... along with many other staff members from Sovereign Hill who were also dressed in period uniform.

It was quite a cool afternoon so they would have been quite comfortable in their costumes but one wonders what it must be like for them in the height of summer and also what it was like for the early settlers. Fortunately for us we do not now have to wear such attire in our day to day lives.

Mark led us down to the river and we were shown how to pan for gold, in the same way that the early settlers did in the 1850s.

Kanyaka and Ganaa were the most successful and both of them collected quite a few specks of gold from the river, though not enough sadly for them to consider quitting their day jobs and moving to Sovereign Hill to pan for gold on a full time basis.

Nikolaus wasn't so fortunate.

Mark generously led us to other parts of Sovereign Hill. We saw sweets being made in the same way they were made originally in the 1850s. Best of all we all got to taste some of them at the end.

We also watched gold being smelted at 1200 degrees celsius.

The resulting block of 99.99% pure gold was quite small but deceptively heavy, weighing 3kg. We all were privileged to hold the gold bar, which incidentally, is worth a very impressive $170,000!

We also toured an underground mine to see how it was like for the diggers over 150 years ago. Descending 52 steps we heard all about the big 62 kg gold nugget, the second biggest pure gold nugget ever found in the world. The largest also came from the state of Victoria. Even today gold is still being mined deep under the Ballarat township and from time to time the rumblings of explosions deep beneath the town can still be felt. Last year 1400 ounces of gold was extracted from beneath Ballarat.

We finished our day with a beautiful dinner for our entire team hosted by Sovereign Hill at their Charlie Napier Hotel who also very generously provided accommodation at their spacious Sovereign Hill Hotel.

Much much gratitude to Sovereign Hill for so generously hosting us this afternoon and evening. With well-fed runners and a restful night we will be all ready to start our run into Melbourne tomorrow.