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Postcard from Lightning Ridge

July 3rd, 2010 1 comment

 The Missus and I are heading north, like migrating swallows, seeking some respite from the Melbourne winter. Our first stop is Lightning Ridge, outback New South Wales, where Nigel, a childhood friend of The Missus has an opal mine. But it’s still cold – minus two overnight with a heavy white frost.

 We lob into our comfortable lodgings at Chasin’ Opals and then head out to explore the town. It’s mostly a tourist town now, with most of the holes filled in and only about 50 miners left out in the bush. The architecture is fascinating – just grab anything that’s at hand. Bottles, cans, stone, scrap cars, caravans, cobbled together with bits of tin. The hot artesian bore that once soothed miners’ aching muscles has been turned into a swimming pool for tourists. The Missus flops in.

 Next day Nigel takes us on a 150 km tour of the active opal fields. They all have evocative names – Moonshine, Allah’s Strike, Eagles Nest, Dead Man’s Lead, Les’s Rush. It’s a maze of rough bush tracks, camps, humpies, mines, hoists, agitators, bores, tanks and rusted, discarded machinery. The usual deal is to drill a nine inch hole to find the opal dirt and then a three foot shaft if it strikes some colour. The opal dirt goes up in a bucket on a hoist and is then washed in an agitator, a large cement mixer barrel. The Missus confronts all her fears of claustrophobia and descends 60 feet into the mine, clinging hopefully to Nigel. It is an amazing experience. A rabbit warren of tunnels. And a helluva lot of work for little reward. But it’s the lifestyle that seduces them.

 Nigel says that the people out here are all social outcasts, misfits and alcoholics. I think I could fit in here. And they even have a 1200m racetrack. I would call the going, ah, let’s see, puggy.

One Response to “ Postcard from Lightning Ridge ”

  1. Yamaha Lover says:

    I wish I could write like you as Margaret Laurence once said “When I say “work” I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”

    Sent from my iPad 4G

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