TUESDAY MAY 19 LIGHTNING RIDGE
This morning was a mix of cloudy spells with blue skies and sunshine. There was a pleasant breeze. It was still nice and warm; the shorts are getting some use.
Usual sort of morning. John slept late. I spent a little time on my laptop. Downloaded photos from the camera SD card to save on computer. Then had to fiddle about a little bit to organize them into folders. The process seemed much more clunky with whatever programs run the interaction between this new Pentax camera and the old one. Thought I’d read somewhere that Pentax was now owned by one of the big Asian based camera companies. I was trying to keep all my photos accessed through ACDSee – the old Pentax program – and it did not seem to be easy.
After lunch we moved back into tourist mode again.
Drove to the mail collection centre. My parcel of mail was there.
Decided to tackle the Blue Door Tour – one of the longer ones. This mostly winds through the Three Mile and Four Mile Fields, for a long time the main mining area of Lightning Ridge. The ground is honeycombed with mine shafts and there are many of the quirky “camps” on claims.
Blue Door route
This is also one of the few areas where there has been open cut mining. Mostly, opal occurrence is too patchy and unpredictable for open cut mining to be worthwhile. But some areas of these fields were so rich in opal that it was undertaken. Some of the old open cuts have been filled in, some are still open.
Open cut and site of Opal Centre
Our first stop was at the Chambers of the Black Hand premises. These structures are in one of the original mining areas. A miner decided to carve a great variety of sculptures underground in old mine shafts. As you do… A guided tour takes in this attraction – the old shafts full of assorted sculptures in the stone, and part of an old mine – undecorated. Ando had told us to stop in here and mention our link with him to the guys there. It did not seem to have much impact! They were waiting for the customers booked on their 3pm tour. John signed up to do a tour tomorrow and they all tried to talk me into going too. Nup. I do not happily do underground. John doesn’t usually like it much, either. I was never quite able to work out what he was thinking when he was arranging with Ando to go down his shafts.
A little further on we stopped again, this time to take some photos of a shack on a claim, where rocks had been used to hold down the corrugated iron on the roof. In these parts, cheaper than nails I guess. We’d seen this back in 2009 too. This time there seemed to be fewer rocks, but the roof was still on.
Rocks on the roof…
Across the track from this a large area was fenced off and there were recent earthworks. A sign board indicated that this site would be the planned Opal Fossil Centre – a multi-million dollar project with buildings designed by architect Glenn Murcutt. The model pictured on the board looked really impressive. Ditto the scale of the earthworks being done. The building would be two storeys underground, with the ground level roof being used to collect water and generate solar power, so the place will be self sufficient in both. I thought, from the earthworks that it was utilizing an old open cut. It is being developed by the local community, in stages, as funding permits, and was planned to be open in another four years or so. It should be a wonderful tourist drawcard and, with current opal mining focus shifting to fields well outside of town, showed some of the locals were looking ahead to ways to sustain interest in their town.
While we were stopped here, nearby one of the local tour companies had a group noodling on some dirt heaps on a claim.
No shortage of shafts and dirt heaps here
Next stop was the Fun Bus. An active imagination could conjure up all sorts of ideas here! But it was actually a claim adjacent to the old Lunatic Hill open cut. An old double decker bus was part of the structures on this claim.
The Fun Bus
The elderly resident still mined there. He had a stall selling his opals; he was packing his display away, so I guessed he only set it up at times tours were due to come by. However John had a look at the offerings and bought a $40 bottle of small pieces that he thought he could use as inlay features in his woodwork. We chatted with the miner, who told us that he’d been robbed several times.
In the old open cut, it was apparent where it had intersected the old shafts that were in prior existence.
Open cut and old shafts
We took the track around to the Lunatic Hill Lookout, but did not get out of the car because we’d been chased by three dogs that had come out of one of the camps by the track. They gave every sign of wanting to eat us. Retreat was in order – ours!
The track was rough in parts. I hoped the Terios tyres were up to this stuff.
Opal mining machinery is strange…
One of the features on the Blue route was a rather eerie looking old “church” that was built years ago for a film set. Didn’t stop here again as we’d spent time here in 2009, but it certainly is an interesting oddity in a place that is full of unusual features.
At the end of the tour route, we could have continued on the track to the highway and gone back into town that way, but we chose to wind our way back through the fields.
There were some unusual and funny signs around the place. One camp had a road sign warning of loose stones, propped up outside. Statement of the bleeding obvious!
Another borrowed from a popular song with a sign that it is a long way to the top – if you drop the toilet roll. Some of the old shafts on claims are used as long drops…. practical.
Back to our camp. Had a chat with the new neighbours, finding some similarities with them, in terms of prior careers and having taken early retirements to travel.
I ran out of time to change the leg dressings today. Tomorrow. Not a task I looked forward to, so easy to put it off.
Tea was pork chops, marinated in oregano, lemon rind, oil. It really makes them yummy. Had mash and wombok coleslaw too.
Had an email from friend M. Still in Broome. Her friend had been in hospital overnight due to one of his chronic health problems, and undergone extensive tests. They’d had to wait for results in a few days, so had taken the chance to go up the Dampier Peninsula to the top – weren’t all that impressed with the resort there and were now on the way to camp at Middle lagoon. I knew M would like that, not so sure about C.
At nights, we’d been able to hear a few generators going in the distance. Thought they were probably ones powering camps on nearby Kangaroo Hill. Tonight, there was quite a loud one going somewhere near the Bore Baths – someone free camping there?