Is there a gold mine in Olinda? Absolutely! Let me tell you about finding gold in the Dandenong Ranges.
In a patch of thick wilderness somewhere between Silvan Reservoir and SkyHigh, hides a quiet valley that is now loosely managed by Parks Victoria.
If you go wandering, who knows what you’ll find. Have an open mind but more importantly, keep your eyes peeled and the wonders of the world may just reveal themselves to you.
Overgrowing Sycamore trees keep this small hideaway concealed for much of the year. When Winter arrives, it forces leaves to tumble creating a damp and slippery forest floor but with that opens up a whole new world of secluded adventure.
Not too distant from the main path in, a little way up a steep embankment, stands the opening to a deep tunnel. To it’s left, ruins of an old iron shed lay crumbling and falling. Turning back to the tunnel, it’s obviously too neat to be an animal creation and half of a sign reluctantly blocks the entrance.
Is this the site of a search for gold?
The tunnel is deep. Descending down a slippery entrance, visions of Alice falling down a rabbit hole flash before my eyes. It’s dark, muddy but widens about 6 feet in to allow my 5’9″ self to stand upright and move more freely. This tunnel however is a dead end. Probably 30 or 40 metres in the tunnel balloons but comes to an end. A weird fur like substance covers the walls.
Nothing to see here. Only a dark, somewhat creepy hole dug deep into the mountain. Nevertheless, walking farther into the wilds of this area will have you finding more of what you seek.
This land was once inhabited by people and subtle hints they were here still remain. Only a few years ago it seems, people were still inhabiting a humble shack on the property. A mostly intact outdoor toilet room stands near the crumbling mess of an old home, it’s contents spilling from below the broken floor.
Further in through the thickening Sycamore infestation, a brick wall remains near a set of brick stairs. Not far from this is what appears to be some sort of water tank and pump and maybe even an ornamental concrete pond. The Sycamore is so thick in parts that after walking 10 metres, when you turn to look back, there’s no vision of where you once were. It’s easy to get lost in here and with Blair Witch Project vibes, getting spooked is all part of the adventure.
I need to learn more about these parts. Who, or what lived here and were they searching for gold?
Inspired by Bryan Birks and equally shy to knock on strangers doors, the key to learning about this tiny patch of mountain wilderness was, I knew, hiding right in front of me. Literally.
As mentioned before, with an open mind, the world will show you the way so it should be no surprise that Keith and Yvonne appeared at the exact moment that I pondered knocking on some doors.
The fire roared and warmed the old brick home and for forty-five minutes we sat at their kitchen bench talking.
We spoke about the local area and how it was once a thriving area perfect for producing berries and flowers and more. There was talk of local community and friendly banter between neighbours. And we discussed how Steve Bracks took the land back, put it under the care of Parks Victoria and how now it’s ruined with those Sycamore trees.
But mostly we talked about the joy of the mountains, community and the history of the area on the far side of the hill.
“We used to play in that tunnel as kids,” Keith mentions. They had dug down up the hill a little way and it filled with water. That tunnel was to let the water out. It’s not a gold mine, sorry. But as we talked and talked more it dawned on me that I did find gold in the hills.
Keith and Yvonne are the gold mine in Olinda. With vast knowledge of the local goings on in the area but also a deep connection to the land, wildlife and community. Our banter flourished while friends and family dropped by each time I stopped to visit. “You’re welcome anytime” they’d say, making it impossible to not feel like this is your home too.
Main street Olinda used to be a meeting point for locals where everyone knew everyone else but now even on the weekends, you barely see anyone familiar. No one talks like we used to. It’s sad.
The people. Our communities. That’s where the gold is hiding. That’s where it’s always been hiding. And those riches are far more valuable than any sort of highly conductive shiny metals. We’re reminded of this clear fact when we meet a couple like Keith and Yvonne.
If you’re looking for gold in Olinda, or anywhere for that matter, look no further than the people. Knock on some doors, say g’day on the street, listen to people’s stories and enrich everyone’s lives.