"Oh you're in the haunted room," the chef said.
"Oh yes, many people have reported it's haunted."
Fortunately I'm not into haunted, but as I snuggled down for the night I got to wondering about the people who had slept in that room over its 100+ years. Maybe a miner who'd struck gold, a travelling salesman or a government official come to inspect the mines. I wondered about the conversations that those walls had witnessed ... celebration, despair, indecision, plotting or discrimination?
Life on the goldfields wasn't easy for the Chinese workers. Their culture was so very different to the European way of life. They were viewed with suspicion ... they spoke little English, most were devout Buddhists or Taoists and seen as idol worshippers, they worked in groups rather than mixing with the general population of the goldfield and they preferred alluvial mining using copious amounts of water in a land where water was a scarce commodity.
They were generally left to work over areas that European miners had already worked but because of their tireless and meticulous work, they still managed to find rich sums of gold, which further incensed the other miners. Racism and discrimination was rife.
I wandered through the spectacular chasm, under the natural arch that's weathered with the march of time, and felt an affinity with those Chinese miners ... the loneliness they must have felt, separated from their families ... unable to speak English and ostracised for living the only culture they knew. Of course there are many sides to every story, but it made me think about the pressure we so often feel to conform.
Fear so often drives us to suspicion and mistrust of those who are different. We have a propensity to notice the differences rather than the commonalities. How much richer we are when we choose to look beyond someone's outward appearance, see their heart, and offer them the gift of friendship ... where understanding begins.
Some of the greatest evils of history involved forced conformity and some of the greatest achievements and movements of mankind have come from people who thought for themselves and dared to be different.
The beauty of the gorge belies the hardship and suffering that its walls represent. It's the whisper of history that reminds us that our similarities are far greater than our differences.