MONDAY 20 MAY DUCK CREEK
After another chilly night, it was a fine day.
After breakfast, John got organized to go fossicking, as usual. He went out to where Mike was already at work in his shaft. John was soon back, saying Mike was stand-offish and said he’d work on his own today. John could fossick elsewhere on the claim.
John’s feelings were quite hurt, and he felt we should leave tomorrow. However, I thought we should stay longer and not appear to leave just because John could not go through the material from the tumbler any more. I suspected that, now Mike had bottomed the shaft, with help from John’s labour, he thought the dirt going up to the top would contain more opal, didn’t want John seeing what was being unearthed, and certainly did not want to share anything found with him. Thus, labour no longer needed!
So we just pottered about in the morning, reading, sewing.
After Mike knocked off work for the morning, I had a brief chat with him – encountered him as I was walking to the toilet. He seemed to be in a better mood. Told me there had been mullock fallen down the shaft again, and the dust from that was affecting him.
Then B called in. We’d heard that there were the remains of some old police barracks, dating from the opal rush days, and asked him where they were. He said he was going that way and would show us. So we followed his old Landrover up past where we’d walked the other day, to where there were some old stumps on the flats. It must have seemed a God-forsaken place back then! There was a hand made, rough, sign, saying that it was an “historic site”. Probably put there by Mike?
We were not far from the open cuts where we’d walked yesterday, so we drove in there again. John went off to do a bit of fossicking, while I went off bird spotting.
After much persistence, I saw a chestnut-breasted quail thrush – an elusive bird, thus much walking around was needed before I could get a clear view of it in the binoculars. Getting a photo was impossible. John abandoned the fossick and came out to join me bird spotting.
While we were both off, thus occupied, away from Truck – fortunately – C’s old Toyota truck drove in and parked near Truck. We thought he was checking up on us, as the handful of regular residents of the fields seem to do with any visitors, but stayed out of his sight. I found out later that he thought our vehicle was B’s, and wanted to ask him something. We were lucky to be out of sight and not get cornered for a massive talk-fest, as C is wont to do!
Went back to the van for a late lunch.
I knew, from the earlier conversation with B, that Mike had said that Bl needed bread. I had no idea why he didn’t take some with him yesterday. I think Bl had brought supplies for Mike with him – maybe he left the bread by accident.
B had said that he wasn’t going out to the Gorge, where Bl went to camp – I got the impression that he did not like or trust Bl. We decided we would go and take the bread out there. It might get us in Mike’s good graces, and would be a chance to see some new scenery that sounded interesting. Mike told us to call in to B’s camp at Sheep Station Creek to get directions, and told us how to find them.
We drove to that diggings area and found B’s place. Like Mike, they were going through old mullock heaps too and B was working down an old shaft. We had a chat and a cuppa with them – they seemed pleased to see us. They talked about their mining and showed us the mullock washing machine that B had designed and made. It was much better than the dry rumbling that Mike does, because more opal material shows up when wet.
B escorted us to the Gorge turnoff. It was only a few kms out. We followed wheel tracks and found Bl’s camp. There was a big open cut and a derelict caravan near it. That had broken windows and we assumed it had been broken into, at some stage. Mike told us later there had been a huge wind storm that damaged the van – the owners were in it at the time!
Bl’s camp was very isolated – just how he liked it. It was on a low rock ridge, overlooking a surprisingly deep creek gorge. There were still a couple of small rock holes with water in, at the head of the gorge, and a slight flow between them – seepage from a small spring?
It was really too late in the afternoon for decent photos – a pity, as the area was quite scenic.
Bl said he’d been walking down the gorge and that was really nice. We gave him his bread. Apparently Mike had been out to check up on him, on his bike, yesterday, and see where he had set up his camp!
We said we might come back tomorrow, in brighter light. That seemed fine with Bl – he even offered to run us down to the ford, so we could then walk the gorge one way.
When we got back to our camp, there were five other new people camped there too – two couples out from Yowah and their English visitor. Mike was being the genial host.
We chatted for a while. One man told John that he made his own spirits, in his own still. He gave us some whisky to sample – it tasted very good! He said it was really cheap to make. John got the name of the place in Maryborough that sells the stills – said he’d like to call in there when we are on our way south again. I was dubious – as far as I knew, such activity is of dubious legality in this country! I just hoped John forgot all about it, in the intervening time.
The whisky man was originally from Victoria, a retiree. He told us to call in on him at Yowah, if we come this way again next year. He also told us that he’d towed his camper trailer across the Simpson Desert, and seemed proud of this. It was a black mark in my book! One of those that churns up the dunes unnecessarily and makes it hard for following drivers!
Our tea was a bit ad hoc. We had a big bowl of guacamole – my avocadoes were ripe and about to deteriorate. Ate that with rice crackers and biscuits and followed it with minestrone. That was quite enough.
It was a cold night.