Almost every Easter for the past 16 years we have camped in tents or cabins with friends from Melbourne. It all started when we were at North Ringwood Uniting Church in Melbourne and continued with our moves to Horsham and then Adelaide. After quite a few years of attending or running Easter camps, the weekend away has become a relational constant through our many moves of house and job. We look forward to the company and to exploring some new part of south-Eastern Australia.
Often we have created our own Easter worship and reflection times, and occasionally also drop in on local churches to share in their services.
This year we and another family stayed at Gunyah Valley Retreat east of Bendigo, a house that was to be someone’s retirement home on a farm. A great venue and location, surrounded by scrub with a dam, a fireplace and even a pianola - but it meant 2 days of driving for a four day weekend.
We spent Saturday visiting nearby Heathcote - a farmer’s market, tasting some local wines (Peregrine Ridge highly recommended) and a lovely platter lunch at the Heathcote Wine Hub, then a drive to see some of the vine country to the north. Night-time was spent making pizzas and defeating Sauron in the Lord of the Rings board game.
Sunday morning we visited Eaglehawk Uniting Church for worship led by Rev Cynthia Page and also caught up with David Uren. Then a wander through the Catholic Cathedral, a remarkable space, a meandering walk past shops (fabulous hat shop) to the Bendigo Easter Parade. We watched over lunch in a nearby cafe, which was close enough to the pipe bands. The Parade seems to have Chinese origins and featured a vibrant array of dragons, however the rest of the floats and performers covered everything from Hare Krishnas to belly dancers and Gothic vampire cabaret! What puzzled me was the lack of any apparent Christian presence - I guess the Christians were all worshipping in their churches! Something here about a lost opportunity to tell a story.
Yvonne’s sister and her husband came down from Boort to join us for a coffee. The ladies and I visited a remarkable art display of imaginative scupltures at a local gallery and some fabulous antique shops, one with several vintage Edison phonographs, then a display by the Bendigo Bonsai Society.
Dinner was home made tortillas with chilli-lime pork followed by Game of Thrones episodes.
On Monday we stopped in at the Bendigo Art Gallery to see an exhibition of works by the Royal Society from the UK accompanied by works by Australians who had spent time in London. Wonderful to see Gainsborough, Turner and Constable alongside Streeton, Dobell and McCubbin. A late departure meant that we didn’t arrive home until 9 pm.
The weekend was too short. I realised that we spend time in the bush too rarely these days. Art, nature, conversation, food and wine, reflection space - refreshment for the soul.