Full many a glorious morning have I seen – flattered mountaintops, heavenly alchemy; you know: the biz. But while there have been some right corkers (March 24th 1987, for instance), few have seemed so satisfying in recent times as the dawn I witnessed rising over the hills at Daylesford a few weeks back. My rather self-conscious sense of satisfaction may have had something to do, however, with the fact that the morning in question was the first on a long overdue holiday. Undoubtedly, the knowledge that I had nothing more taxing to look forward to than the decision over whether to get splendidly, rascally or shamefacedly drunk during the course of the day was clouding the working remnants of my supremely addled critical faculties.
For the slope-browed few who don’t know where I am going with this, and lack either the with or patience to trawl through the cesspool of juvenilia that is Sterne’s archives, this post marks another of our I Know Where You Live episodes – a series long forgotten and probably best left dead, but which I’ve opted to raise zombie-like from its shallow grave to do my bidding once more. The basic idea? In the spirit of neighbourliness, we visit Victoria’s cities, suburbs, hamlets and other assorted shitholes in order to pass judgement (and occasionally water) upon them. It’s just like Get Away, except that A. we talk about places to get away from rather than to, and B. without Catriona Rowntree, it’s just me wearing the bikinis and looking alluringly vacuous.
And so: Daylesford. Located a mere one and a half hour drive (plus quarter hour detour followed by heated recriminations about who missed the turnoff, and consequently a further fifteen minutes spent wondering how to escape from Digger’s Rest without being shanked) from Melbourne, Daylesford is a community built on and existing solely to tap the mystical, mysterious energy of ley-lines. Don’t let the brochures entitled Ye Olde Goldrushe Towne fool you – due to the weird magical powers, or some shit, lying dormant in the hills, Daylesford functions as a Mecca for psychics, clairvoyants, rune-casters, fakirs, gypsies, tarot dealers and sundry meddlers in the Great Unknown (i.e. middle-aged women with limited intelligence and over-wrought imaginations). It is impossible to travel more than ten feet in Daylesford without discovering yet another shrine to the Gods of Twee, usually in the form of a shoppe bearing the name ‘Dragon’s Den’ or ‘Glen of the Happy Gnome’. Venturing inside any of these will generally provide you with the opportunity to buy crystals, have your chakras re-aligned, and vomit on the aging hippy who runs the place when both the incense-choked air and the aura of quaint whimsy become unbearable.
Possibly due to the close proximity of fairies, the waters around Daylesford are advertised as having vague but wondrous mineral properties: like Bath, only without actual miracles. Casting scientific eyeball and curious tongue over the local spring output, I can only report that the presence of pixie dust has turned the water slightly brown, and given it the flavour of iron filings, with a faint aftertaste of poo. To be fair, I’m sure it did me a power of good. That or introduced parasites into my system. Regardless, after a brief taste, I stuck to wine and spirits for the remainder of my stay.
Besides the psychic community, which I gather is largely comprised of refugees from the spiritless wasteland of greater Melbourne with overly romantic notions about ‘getting back to nature’, Daylesford has its fair share of local bogans, hillbillies and slack-jaws. Really the only appreciable difference, though, is that the former will stop in the street and stare at you in order better imagine what your aura looks like; the latter to imagine what you look like naked and squealing like a pig. But don’t fret! Both strains of native have been charged by the tourism office to be on their best behaviour and neither will interfere with the casual holiday maker, lest the influx of tourist dollars cease and they be robbed of the means to purchase meditation tapes or goon.
For a tourist destination, though, Daylesford has surprisingly little to recommend it (unless goon or meditation tapes are your thing). It looks pretty enough, but its hardly spectacular. There’s some nice old buildings, but they tend to be holiday homes for yuppies; there’s a lake, but it largely functions as a repository for duck feces. You can go for walks. And that’s about it. Kids need not worry, though – entertainment has been provided. Daylesford his home to one of the most x-treme skate parks ever: a whopping fifteen feet long and ten wide, it has the gnarliest 1/8th pipe I’ve ever seen, fully sick jumps that are several entire inches high, and a totally rad air of dilapidation that speaks volumes about the cool broken limbs you’ll be able to show off to your friends. Provided you survive the country hospital you’re taken to, where the healing arts are usually practised in the form of poultices and cleansing chants.
What Daylesford does have going for it, though, is quiet. If you’re looking for a peaceful, quiet, not-unattractive holiday spot where your most demanding worry will be deciding whether the yokel who keeps hanging around wants to sell you medicinal marijuana, a home-made scented candle, or some quality time with his sister in a broken down ute, then Daylesford maybe the place for you. Unless you’re allergic to elves and friendly spirits, in which case you’d maybe better off purchasing some ear plugs and sitting in your back yard.
Daylesford: 3.5 bead curtains out of 5.