For those of you who think we are well researched let me shatter that allusion. We are plotting our path the same way I choose a horse, dog, roach, crab or anything in a race. By it’s name of course. And this is how we found ourselves at Lightening Ridge. It sounded interesting and a little exciting and on further investigation, what a winner!
I have a sense I recognise the name from some famous Australian folk law, yarn or poem but still even after spending 3 days there I am no closer to discovering why it is familiar to me. If anyone know a verse where it features, please put me out of my misery and leave me a comment.
What I now know about Lightening Ridge is, it’s an opal town and has hot baths from the Great Artesian Basin. This body of underground water is the largest in the world and covers a vast area of NSW and more so Queensland.
We arrived after dark again, so the excitement of discovering a new place was to wait till the morning. However two things where clear. There was lush green grass (which we have not seen for a little while) and the bathroom amenities were big, well designed and immaculately clean. Really, wow, best we have seen so far. Totally recommend Opal Caravan Park, Lightening Ridge.
Next morning I got a sleep in (as much as one can when living in a caravan). It was mother’s day, and the girls had been planning for the week leading up to it. I had a wonderful day starting with breakfast in bed. Thoughtfully, Charlotte had written Ken a list of everything they needed and asked him to set it out the night before. In the morning they loaded it in the washing basket and headed off to the camp kitchen to leave me to sleep.
We then enjoyed the hot baths down the road, which were very hot, 41.5 degrees celcius. It was lovely and you could just feel the layers of tension release from your body until you were so floppy you could hardly keep your eyes open, let alone crack a smile for a photo. After this nearly sent us all to sleep we just had a very chilled out arvo. Mother’s Day pampering continued with massage, foot washing, nail painting and hair and make up done by the girls.
The day concluded with a comedy and poetry show put on in the caravan park by a couple of resident funny ladies, Sue and Mel. They were very good and got Charlotte up to do a Henry Lawson poem with them. She stole the show of course and then they decided to see if the confidence and talent continues in the family and got Georgia and Lulu up, which also meant I had to get up. Was great to see the girls get involved and Charlotte have a chance to get on a stage and perform, she just loved it!
The following day we went full tourist and did one of the opal mine tours and visited the gallery of famous Aussie artist John Murray. Artist seem to thrive in these rural towns and settings, it’s been wonderful to see. An why wouldn’t you be inspired by the freedom and environment of outback Australia.
The mine tour was wonderful. Learning about what makes Lightening Ridge special and the ins and outs of opal mining. Our guide has been and still is a miner, his father was an opal miner and he was a wonderful storyteller. The Ridge is the only place that produces the black opal (or blue/green opal). It’s only recently been considered valuable so there are plenty of stories of folk in the past having discarded them and the kids using them as marbles.
Opal mining to this day has not been a profitable enough business for the big corporation to get involved with so most of the mining is done by individuals or partnerships of men. Usually at a depth of about 18 meters you start to find opal and there is no way of knowing or judging where it may have formed, so it’s really just complete luck. It’s a largely unregulated industry, to this day anyone can pay the $600, do a one day OHS course and aquire the 50 x 50m plot and begin mining.
Still in opal mining there is a really sense of the individual miner, staking his claim and making his fortune, like in the gold rush days. But as our guide put it, “2% of us get rich, 10% of us make a comfortable living and the rest of us are living in hope”.
In the soft lime stone above the opal mine we toured in, an artist has been doing carvings and sculpting through out a network of tunnels. It’s been a life’s work in between mining and with the artist in his 70’s it’s a large body of work. It added a further enjoyable dimension to our morning in the mine.
Thumbs ups for Lightening Ridge.