Thursday, 12 April 2018

"The Ridge"

We  were ready for another break away and a few of Brian's family were gathering  out near Lightning Ridge at an opal mine that belongs to  one of the brothers'.
So we hooked our old caravan on and hit the road.
We headed up through Coonamble and Walgett where the  country becomes very flat,
We were not staying in town at Lightning Ridge itself so ,
we met Brian's brother at the turn off and then followed  him to the campsite as we hadn't been there before. It's been so terribly dry out this way  and the dust was evidence of this, but at least they didn't disappear as the plume of dust could be seen for kilometres.
The area around Lightning Ridge has a lunar landscape feeling about it, all these strange little white mounds of stones and soil where people have drilled holes to test for evidence of opal or have sunk some of the thousands of underground opal mines seeking their fortune.
I got quite a surprise when we got to the mine/camp site as it was on a much larger scale than I had imagined.
My brother in law had opted to mine in the open cut fashion instead of the traditional underground
Brian  put the drone up while we were there and took some overhead pictures of the site as well.
From up high you can see all those little white heaps scattered all over the area.
He also took an aerial photo of our campsite and surrounding countryside.

Everything is big out there, I felt dwarfed by some of the machinery,

Brian had a ball, like a big kid in a giant sand pit playing with the big Tonka bulldozer and front end loader.
Each night we were at camp this group of feral  goats would  come to visit and we would see evidence that that they also would wander through the camp once we all retired to bed.
We had a great time with the family  that were in camp with us, living off the BBQ each night and sitting around chatting and catching up with all the family news since we were last together.
The camp was basic but fairly well equipped, we had  power throughout the day supplied from a big generator and then we would switch over to our battery power in the caravan overnight.
There was a work kitchen in a hut, a separate shower and toilet  with water supplied  from 3  X 1000 litre pods, filled by the boys from a nearby hot  artesian bore.
The boys worked hard each day, needing to take a break here and there( they are not as young as they used to be, and I love this photo of Brian's brother with his  dog Molly having a bit of down time.
After work they often opted to take their showers at one of the rustic hot artesian  that are scattered around the area.
The water  coming from these showers is really hot, nearly to the point of requiring  cold to be added.
We girls, the gang of sister's in law opted for another  place of relaxation.
There is a concrete tub out in the paddock , with a plug in the bottom and an overflow and once the tap is turned on pumps a continuous flow of wonderful  hot relaxing water.
Most afternoons just on dusk we could be found sitting, laughing and chatting in the hot water.
As the tub overflowed it ran along and into a stock dam where cattle came and drank their fill.
Here were beautiful birds there as well each evening, this galah that came back each time we were there and the other beautiful parrot which I think is a mallee ringneck.
We had a tour through an old abandoned farm/homestead/shearing shed. It hasn't had people living there for many years and it was wonderful to see it, It was the style of home that I have always loved.
The home had three very large long screen enclosed verandahs and I could just imagine spending a lot of time out there.
Off the kitchen was the most amazing walk in pantry and I  though about all my preserving jars and  about how good they would have looked in there.
The shearing shed was amazing, a 5 stand shed that immediately took me back to my childhood on the farm where I grew up and how I adored shearing time.

I especially loved the old Lister engine in the drive room that used to run all the overhead sharing equipment and the old stove that was in the kitchen of the old shearer's quarters.

We also went to town one morning , Easter is a really big  weekend in Lightning Ridge, with stalls and markets, piglet races and all sorts of events spread over the weekend to entertain the many visitors that flock to town. We  decided that to do it justice , we would return another time at Easter to take in all the activities on offer. We wandered a little and took the kids to the hot pools filled with naturally heated artesian water for a swim.
The men spent each day digging the earth and loading it into trucks and carting it to the washery where it was  dumped into a big hopper, passed up the conveyor belt and into the top wash plant where all the earth, clay and  rubbish is washed away from the stones,
After the bulk earth  is washed in the first high drum, it is then all transferred to the lower drum.
It is then released  down the shoot,
And then the search for the precious opal begins.
My sister in law and myself spent many hours  "playing" at the washery, we stood knee deep in liquid clay and stones and searched for that precious hit of colour, but alas all we found were a few chips. The one downside was the awful heat and the  horrible flies.....
  Brian also did a drone shot of the washery area.
The men did a lot of machine maintenance at night,
Opals truly are a thing of beauty, and it was fun  having a week up there looking for them, although we personally didn't find any valuable stones for the brother in law, we were shown some that had been found while we were there.
They are stunning, and I can understand why so many people have traveled to the Ridge and decided to stay there and make it their life's dream and work. Lightning Ridge  is full of many different people  from all countries and all walks of life, many eccentric and unusual people that have to be  seen to be believed. There are also many people that live in various locations all over Australia and just come to The Ridge a few weeks a year to work their small claims hoping to strike it rich, such is the pull of that elusive magnificent black opal of Lightning Ridge.
We had a wonderful "holiday" up at Lightning Ridge and Brian is already planning  for when he can go back to play in the  big sandpit again.
So until we meet again,
Take care of you and yours,
Jane and Brian.


  1. What an interesting place to go, Jane. I love old homes like this one too and that big outdoor tub looks "just the ticket" for the end of opal-hunting days. Meg:)

    1. It was a truly interesting place Meg, Brian and I had visited about 40 years ago as a newly married young couple, but it was great to see it now through older eyes from a different perspective.

  2. i love opals but they don't love me, i have had 3 lots of opal jewellery over the years & they all disappeared! so i don't buy it anymore lol.
    some gorgeous photos of the area there, never been there but got close when i was 18, haven't been back out that way since, now i live in Qld but i've always loved the outback & mountains most; what a beautiful old farm house! what a shame it isn't being used! i hope the owners don't leave it too long, would be a shame if it deteriorated like so many of our beautiful farm houses.
    great post
    thanx for sharing

    1. I love opals too Selina, the very first gift that Brian ever bought me was a pretty little opal pendent that he bought on a trip up there to visit a friend when we were first going together. Thankfully I still have it.
      The old farm/homestead/shearing shed was so beautiful. The property is now owned by the local aboriginal council, I hope that they do something soon and not let it just fall into disrepair as many outback homes do.