I can't believe it is a month since we were at Lightning Ridge. It is such a quirky place to visit. We've only visited once before, back in 2004. It has changed a bit, but still has that rustic feel about it.
We stayed at the Opal Caravan Park, which has only been open for a few years. We had heard it was good, and it sure was. It still had an outback feel about it, but the facilities they offered were excellent in every way.
On our first day we went exploring on our own. When you travel north up the highway you turn right into Lightning Ridge. If you turn left you get to the opal fields of Grawan, Glengarry and Sheepyards. We hadn't been there before, so that is where we started.
The first place you come across is the Grawin Golf Club, or the Club in the Scrub, which was established over 40 years ago.
Their garden was colourful and full of cacti and succulents, which would survive in this harsh environment.
This galah seemed to have a nest in the hollow of the tree.
Don't you love the ram shackle nature of the clubhouse. We overheard one tourist lady comment that they musn't have building codes in the Lightning Ridge area. I reckon she may be right, but that is what gives the area its character.
We had lunch here and they do great burgers at good prices.
The way you find your way around out here is to follow the car door signs. There are different colours for the various tourist trails. We were following orange this time.
There are all sorts of shacks, huts, buses, caravans, shanties and the occasional house on the opal fields. This one is quite presentable compared to some.
There are also lots and lots of old cars, trucks, tractors, buses, caravans and all manner of old machinery rotting away.
Mining equipment is rather varied and creative. This is one of the more substantial setups we came across.
We were told to have a look at the war memorial. It was really well done and well maintained and commemorates former residents who were veterans, and a separate section also honours those who weren't veterans.
Of course, you can't come to these parts without having a scratch around. You do, however, need to be mindful of where you "noodle". We were told this slag heap is fine. It is huge. See the tiny yellow dot. That is a man.
Linda and I bought nice bright little picks at the start of our trip. No, we didn't get their value in opals.
The boys didn't have a great deal of success either. We did have a lot of fun though. That evening we were told that the best way to noodle is to take a rubber mat that you can sit on, a small hand held garden scratcher and a leather glove on your left hand. Make yourself comfortable on the mat, scratch around with your garden scratcher and go through the loosened material with your gloved hand. If you don't find anything fairly soon go to another area. If you start to get a little potch, continue in that spot, as the waste material obviously comes from closer to the decent opals in the ground. We all found a bit of potch, but that was all. By the way, potch is opal that just has a bluey grey colour and no "fire" in it and is worthless.
This isn't a good photo, but the plant is called Hudson Pear. We'd never seen or heard of it before. It is a real problem in the area and is worse than prickly pear. We saw lots more as we travelled around.
During the cooler six months of the year Mel and Susie provide comic entertainment each evening in the caravan park. You turn up at the entertainment shed with your nibblies for a fun hour. They don't get paid by the park, just by donations from the visitors. They were really great fun.
The sky was lovely in the early evening, promising some rain. We received about two spots and that was it.
The following morning we had an explore around the town.
Mick and I followed the red car door tour.
They really do have a sense of humour out here.
The artist John Murray is a local and completed this mural in the main street last year.
Of course we had to visit his gallery. We visited last time and purchased one of his prints. It is still in a box at present. His gallery burnt down a couple of years ago, so he is in a nice fresh building. Apparently they were able to save his art works. Some of his larger pieces are really stunning without being quite as quirky.
I love the shaded dog kennel out the front of the gallery.
We had noticed quite a few of these butterflies around the place. Not what you expect in such a dry climate.
In the afternoon we went on a Black Opal Tour. It was really interesting.
More mining equipment. These were fairly typical. Apparently, this setup meets all safety requirements. The single strand of barbed wire and sheet of mesh is considered sufficient barrier to the entry to the mine shaft.
We visited Fred Bodel's Camp, which is one of the earliest on the opal fields. Opals were first found and mined in the area in 1905. Fred built this camp in 1906 and lived here till he died in the early 1970s aged in his 90s.
Another old rusty relic.
Lunatic Hill was the only open cut opal mine.
The well known Australian author Ion Idriess mined here from 1909. He started his writing career by sending articles to newspapers. I have his book "Lightning Ridge" (along with many others) sitting on my bookshelf. I really should read it.
The next stop on our tour was the "Walk In Mine".
Back on the surface we were greeted by this parrot, which I assume was a King Parrot.
I'd been seeing gum trees with shiny, roundish leaves for quite some time. They look so fresh and clean in a dry, dusty landscape. I finally learnt that they are a "Bimble Box" or "Poplar Box".
We weren't sure if we should leave the boys here or not......we relented and posted bail. I'm sure most jailbirds don't look quite this cheerful.
We finished off the day by following the Green Car Door Tour. We had been told at Gulargambone to do this route for sunset. Another lady there said they went and it wasn't worth it, it was just a lot of scrub, to which the first lady replied "did you go at sunset?" The answer was "No". So we went in time for sunset......and just arrived in time. There were only three other cars there.
It was that lovely golden hour. Mick was waiting patiently with his camera.
Linda did a bit of scratching around and found a few pieces of potch.
We had also heard of the maze that was created by a small band of friends in just six hours. Too clever.
And the sun slowly sets.
Lovely blue light when you turn around.
Time to play in the maze.
As the evening closes in.
Now to explore the Beer Can House. This was built in 1977. They started with stones at the bottom, but their kids were helping and the stones were too heavy, so they changed to beer cans. The house was lived in until the mid 1990s and is now being restored.
You can see where the walls have been repaired, by looking at the openings of the cans. Notice the ingenious windows.
From the outside.
The same window from the inside. All the windows are different, with various shaped bottles and other glass items and patterns made with the bottles.
Walking back to the car we noticed another nice, safe mine opening. In the middle of the road to the carpark area there was a mine shaft that only had a sheet of mesh over it and no fence at all. You definitely have to keep your eyes open when out and about.
And finally, the sun had set on our time in Lightning Ridge. We did go and test out the thermal bore baths in the evening, which were very hot, but there are not photos of that, which is probably a really good thing.
The next day was to be back on the road.
The next day was to be back on the road.
We really enjoyed our visit and could easily have spent a few more days in the area. We loved the quirkiness of the area - the ingenuity, creativity and make do approach. There are several other tourist attractions that would have been interesting and it would have been fun to have a bit more of a scratch around. Oh yeah, to just sit around and relax would be nice too. It was the perfect time of year to visit with the temperature reaching the mid to high 20s each day. Very pleasant. Hopefully we can visit again one day......but not wait another fourteen years.