“Sofala was dead. Everything was closed” says a friend. “I couldn’t even get a cup of tea” she adds.
With her comments front of mind, my expectations are low as we drive into Sofala. Perhaps that’s why I’m pleasantly surprised.
We park in the narrow main street and begin exploring. It’s around eight thirty in the morning, and there’s no one around. Doors to the few shops and houses are shut.
About 45km from Bathurst, Sofala claims to be Australia’s oldest surviving gold-rush town. In the mid-1800s thousands of people sought their fortune here and frequented the numerous hotels. Reduced to a population of 131 (2016 census), the village with some quite dilapidated buildings, has a certain historic charm.
Doctor Wilson will be in town in four weeks’ from 2pm to 4pm according to a notice on the community hall door. The community nurse visits for an hour on Monday mornings, but not on Public holidays.
The sound of morning television drifts into the street from an open window. Somewhere a dog barks.
I follow the road up a hill where a small corrugated iron building overlooks the town. A cross fixed to the apex of the roof and broken headstones in the dry grass give it away as a local church.
Peering through a broken window I notice an elaborate wooden organ. A cushion rests at the end of a nearby pew with a water bottle next to it. Rolls of barbed wire lean against the back wall. I doubt there’s been a service held here for some time.
A schoolboy of about 12 years old opens a gate in the wooden fence adjoining the church property. He latches the gate, and walks through the church grounds to the primary school over the road, greeting me as he passes.
The village is waking up. Two men, mugs in hand, chat over the open bonnet of a car parked in a back yard. A man walks his golden retriever with another very overweight dog waddling behind. He tells me that “The one from the pub follows me. He needs the exercise”. Later we meet again. He’s given the pub dog a bone and sent him home.
A Quirky Village
There’s a pretty double storey wooden home with filigree balustrades and a rusted metal roof. A second look reveals that while the front is still standing, the back half is falling down.
The Old Sofala Gaol Museum and Café is closed. A biggish box with a corrugated roof sits on a table alongside a fence, advertising fresh herbs for sale. The box is empty. A collection of rusty metal items stand in line on a front lawn.
Behind the sun-bleached picket fence there’s an exercise bike and a bicycle attached to a lawn mower. An iron coat of arms and a faded surfboard lean against the house. Opposite the house, metal bedheads staked into the ground fence off a triangular patch of green.
There’s movement in the main street. An elderly woman parks her car in front of the Royal Hotel. She and her husband get out of the car to look around. She holds video camera up to her eye and starts filming her surroundings.
Time for Breakfast
It’s 9am and the Rustic Café has started to serve coffee. We’re lucky. They only opened for business (Wednesdays to Sundays) yesterday. Today is Thursday.
A local couple arrive for take away coffees. Looking through to the kitchen one jokes “I never thought I’d see him in the kitchen” adding “he does look the part, old codger”. As they leave, they wish the owner luck.
Sofala is worth exploring
Sofala may not be open for business every day of the week, but it’s definitely worth exploring. However, if like my friend you want a cup of tea, it’s best to visit later in the week.
Enjoyed discovering Sofala? Then you will enjoy reading about nearby Hill End here and finding out that there’s more to Mudgee than wine and food here.
My wife & I are just back from a road trip. Bathurst, Cowra, Young, Yass, Gundaroo. Goulburn. 1300 kms. Very nice, interesting countryside. You are right about the beginning of the week there being nothing much open although we usually managed to find a cup of coffee. Generally up to Sydney standard unlike the old days when you would be hard pushed to find a coffee machine the other side of the Blue Mountains.
Enjoy hearing about your travels. Thank you.
Thanks Richard. I still need to explore that part of the world. And the coffee in Sofala was great. As was breakfast.
Its always good to hear of the charm you see in places as Sofala that I probably would miss. You are opening my eyes to seeing more. Keep up finding interesting places.
Thanks Loretta. It’s fun exploring and looking out for things that are quirky or different.
A friend and I had the same problem in Millthorpe a while back. Nothing was open except for the general store where we had the most amazing burgers for lunch,
It’s interesting isn’t it, Mary, that so many country towns cry out for business but close early in the week. Especially as many of us are “holidaying at home this year”.
I like the faded glory of Sofala, and especially that other relic of the Turon goldfields, Hill End. Some great art history too, eg Drysdale.
Yes, Ric, I do too. A story on Hill End coming soon.
Sofala is full of charm but when I went a few years ago there was only one place to get food and drink and the lady was quite rude… she knows she is the only one there and has no need to change LOL…. I visited the museum too quite interesting what this man has collected over the years
Fortunately, Sylvie the woman you mention is no longer there. I would have liked to visit the museum.
Interesting to see the rusted relics and wonder what life was like during the gold rush. Thanks for another good post.
if your in sofala ,a must [ the watering hole ] the royal hotel sofala ,& the cafe on the other side ofthe road , it is well worth the visit for the best food and beer ,have a look around the villiage ,the sun sets are as good as beer & the food and you will always returne . ron
Hi Ron, we enjoyed the cafe, but the Hotel wasn’t yet open. As you say next time we must come later in the day to enjoy the food and beer and of course the sunset.
Loved the post, Jo.
Living, as we do, in the middle of nowhere, I understand why they do not open all day every day. Must be soul destroying when nothing happens, and you have things to do…..
Interesting that there is a school when the population is almost too small for a school.
Thanks Bronwen. It would be interesting to know how many students there are at the school. It could be a one or two teacher school with classes having students across the grades.