This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2002 Travels May 15


After breakfast, we wandered up to the house to find Mike.

He took us through a series of mullock heaps beyond his house. His claim seemed quite extensive. He stressed that we were to keep to the obvious path between the old shafts – of which there were plenty scattered about, not fenced nor barricaded off.

Mike seemed to us to be exploring and extending old shafts, rather than completely digging new ones – and he seemed to be working down about 6 or 7 metres.

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Mike’s current mine

We spent some of the day, then,  with Mike at his current shaft. John helped him mine by winding up buckets of gravel, whenever Mike wanted, and by operating the tumbler that “sifts” the gravel, in between times. That piece of machinery had a petrol driven motor.

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John sorting gravel in the rumbler

Mike was excavating a previously dug shaft, hoping to soon reach the bottom, and the level of possible opal bearing rock, so what he was sending up was mostly rubbish, but worth sifting, just in case.

I wandered around, taking photos, watching birds, and being very careful to watch where I was walking!

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The honeycomb of old shafts around Mike’s place

The rest of the day was spent at the van.. There were lots of different birds around and some were  starting to get curious and come to check us out. A couple of other miners – B and wife – called in to see Mike and we met them. They mine at nearby Sheep Station Creek diggings. Mike also had a neighbour  who had moved to a new claim further away. He returned periodically to his old camp to raid it for corrugated iron. Occasionally we heard demolition type noises coming from that direction.

Again, we went up the lookout hill on dusk, to look at the skies.

We had established a campfire area behind the van, where we could put our little portable BBQ stand over a fire. Thus, we could BBQ meat, and heat water for dishwashing – and us washing – in the boiler pot. There was plenty of dead mulga wood around the area, for firewood. It burns well and makes a great campfire.

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Cooking dinner

We had also set up the gas camp stove, outside, to save heating up inside the van.

After tea, John went to fulfil his social obligations by watching videos with Mike. There is electric power from a generator to drive things like this. John says Mike has watched the same ones so many times that he can mimic the dialogue exactly! I guess this isolated and “free” lifestyle suits a certain type of personality?

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2002 Travels May 14


Our original broad plan had been to move on from Leopardwood to Duck Creek diggings, but that was before the solar woes intervened. But today, we were heading for Duck Creek, at last, having taken rather the long way round!

Refuelled Truck in Charleville – at the Independent depot – 84cpl.

From Charleville, we headed west on the Quilpie road – sealed but narrow. After much map study, John thought there was a back road from Cheepie that headed roughly south, through several stations, to the Duck Creek area.

Cheepie – a dot on our map – was even smaller than we’d envisaged. A gravel road took us away from the main road, across the railway line we’d been beside for much of the way from Charleville. There was one small siding building – didn’t think any trains stopped here these days. We found a small house that was signed as the Post Office, with a telephone box outside. And that was about the extent of the settlement!

We went into the Post Office to ask about the road/track south from here to Duck Creek, expecting that postal staff would know about such things. We walked into something out of a Stephen King novel! An elderly lady and her adult son, who seemed somewhat backward and definitely sinister. They were no help at all, just telling us that we were bound to get lost!

I was pleased to escape back outside.

My road atlas map – not very detailed at all – showed the road we wanted as heading south from Cheepie, on the western side of a stream channel, and eventually coming to a T intersection. So we took a road that seemed to fit this description – dirt, but not too bad. Just out of the village, we stopped for a little time, while John fiddled about with the GPS, entering in waypoints that he’d worked out from the map, last night.

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Not much help!

Near where we stopped was a post with a number of old, almost illegible direction signs on it; most of these were not to be found on my map, however a couple were – over Toompine way. It was not much help at all!

We continued on and came to a T intersection – so far, so good. However, there were no signposts here. We turned east, looking for another T intersection with a road coming from the south, maybe about 18kms on. Found what could have been the right road – again, no signs – so took that in a roughly south direction.

Not long after our last turn, we encountered a tractor coming towards us. John slowed right down, so as not to cover him with dust, and he signaled for us to stop. “Lost, are youse?” he said. “No” said the driver, confidently. Farmer was silent. Clearly, anyone towing a caravan out there, had to be lost! We continued on and left him scratching his head. It was a rather amusing episode.

We continued on this track, ignoring assorted others that crossed or deviated from it, that did not look quite so much used. From the direction shown on the GPS, we were heading in roughly the right direction.

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On the way to Duck Creek – we hope……

Stopped beside the track, briefly, to eat our lunch.

Them, after about 70kms, came to a fence and tall gate which had a sign on indicating that we were entering the Duck Creek and Sheep Station Creek mining areas. Somewhat to our surprise, I may add. For most of the way I really had little idea if we were on the right track – though I was more prepared to admit doubts than the driver was! The GPS actually worked.

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Entry gate to the mining area

Once through the gate we had no trouble finding Mike’s place, even though we were coming from the other direction to that which we’d come last year, when we visited from Yowah. Mike had put signs to his place all over! As there was quite a maze of tracks in the mining area, he needed to.

Mike welcomed us and said we could set up our camp anywhere we wanted to, on the big gravelled area in front of his house. There was no charge for this, though he indicated he would like some company in the evenings, to watch videos with. As these were of the “action” variety, I delegated that task to John! We were able to use the outdoor toilet he’d set up.

We were the only campers at Mike’s place, for most of our time there.

Mike was one of only three people who stay on these fields year round. He had been here for about twenty five years. By the standards of many opal fields that we had seen, his diggings-style home was fairly comfortable.

We chose to set up in a corner of Mike’s “campground” where we were unlikely to acquire close neighbours. Behind our rig was a little wooded dry creek gully that promised some bird life. It was a bit of a hike from here to Mike’s toilet, though. This was of the long-drop variety. He told us it used to be a mine shaft! Guess that’s one use for a worked-out shaft. I did find myself hoping, though, that it was all securely shored up and there were not likely to be any unexpected cave-ins!

We set up our camp for an extended stay and generally made ourselves comfortable. Then, relaxed for the rest of the day. This is the type of environment I really like camping in, so I was expecting to thoroughly enjoy the time here.

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Our camp at Mike’s place

Mike had said that he would show John some diggings tomorrow.

We felt nice and private here. We were not too far from the road/track that goes past Mike’s place and on to Sheep Station Creek diggings, and, eventually Yowah. However, passing traffic was rare. When there was any, Mike was usually out of his house quickly, to see who it might be. He seems to have appointed himself a caretaker of the diggings, on behalf of the part-time and absentee miners.

We were also close by the dry bed of Duck Creek.

Just on dusk, Mike appeared at our camp and told us to come with him. He took us up a low hill at the back of his house. He had some seats up there. He said he often comes up here at nights to watch for satellites passing over and we should keep our eyes peeled for same. There must be some sort of schedule, because we did, in fact, see one moving steadily across. After that highlight, we were allowed to go back down to camp and our dinner preparations.

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The mining area at Mike’s, from the top of Kike’s Hill

It was a chilly night – due to those clear, starry, outback skies! It was also beautifully quiet.

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2001 Travels September 30


Today we set out to drive to see if we could find the Duck Creek area, and check it out for future fossicking.

As per directions gained yesterday, we went back north to the Eulo Toompine road, and took that for nearly 30kms, then branched out on the track to “Dundoo”. We followed tracks past the homestead and on to the north, passing through some station gates and not being totally sure we were going the right way.

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Gate at the entry to the fossick area of Duck Creek

Closer to what turned out to be the diggings, it became a maze of tracks, as usually happens, but fortunately with just enough rough signage to keep us headed the right way.

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Kangaroos out this way didn’t see much traffic!

Just where the diggings started, there was a warning sign painted on an old cement mixer truck – used sometimes for washing opal dirt – making dire threats against anyone trespassing on claims.

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Welcome to Duck Creek!

A sign beside the track led us into Mike’s place. He had a claim and sold opals. We talked to him and found out that he allowed camping on a large flat area at the front of his place – quite an attractive area, for these parts. John was instantly keen to come here next year!

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Mike’s place

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Some of the diggings at Duck Creek

We had a look at the opals Mike brought out for sale and ended up buying some. They were probably not great quality, but we felt a bit obligated, given the time he spent with us.

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Mission accomplished, we returned the way we came, to Yowah. It seems that next year’s trip is firming up to definitely include opal hunting in these parts. That is fine by me – the country is the semi-arid mulga type of country that I loved around Opalton, so I was quite happy at the thought of hanging about in that.

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Springtime Duck Creek

Through our evenings at Yowah, there were great sunsets. It was not just opals that shone brilliantly in these parts.

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