This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2001 Travels October 3


We slept in somewhat. It was too chilly to get up early!

Spent the bulk of the day browsing around White Cliffs. We had been here before, on another school holiday trip. We liked it before, and that was enough reason to detour this way, this time.

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White Cliffs from one of the opal mining ridges

Opal was discovered here in the 1880’s and it became the world’s first commercial opal field. The opal was found in seams and veins that made mining it relatively straightforward. The opal from here features colour flashes in a milky pale background – so it is “white” opal, compared to the “black” opal of Lightning Ridge, to the north east.

The mining here peaked in the early 1900’s, and so too did the size of the township. Although the population has shrunk, it is still a viable small township, and opal mining still continues. It is a spread out place, where mining has occurred on several low hills that surround the centre. The name was due to the white chalky hillsides of the opal bearing areas.

Because of the extremes of temperature here, many people live in dugouts in the hillsides, which maintain an even, pleasant temperature.

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An area of dugout homes cut into the side of the ridge

When we were here last, we got to know a German lady, Barbara Gasch,  who ran a gallery here. She was a master gold and silver smith and did beautiful work featuring opal she and her partner had found. The dugout gallery was adjacent to their dugout home, which she’d showed us round. We’d loved the skylight set into the dugout “roof”, where they could lie in bed and look up at the stars at night.

This time, her gallery was not open and it looked rather as if they may have moved on. I was disappointed, as I’d looked forward to catching up with them again.

We drove out and around some of the diggings areas. Had a bit of a noodle on some mullock heaps, where it did not look as though there was anyone around, or freshly mining, to care about what we were doing. However, we were aware that we may have been on someone’s current claim, so did not stay long at that.

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In one of the opal mining areas of White Cliffs

We drove a little way east out the gravel Mandalay road, where, last trip, we used to ride the bikes out. It was much easier in Truck!

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Typical country surrounding White Cliffs

It was another cold night.

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Dusk over the mining ridge at White Cliffs

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2001 Travels October 2


In the morning, the rain appeared to have stopped.

The motel breakfast that we’d ordered last night, was delivered to our unit. I was feeling pampered.

When we went out to Truck we were embarrassed to find big piles of red mud that had dropped from underneath Truck as it dried out a bit. It made quite a mess on the clean cement forecourt of the motel! We got going as quickly as we could.

We were relieved to find that the road south was open.

It had dried enough for the main wheel tracks to be packed down and not too slippery – but the sides were still sloppy and in places showed where some of the rigs that had travelled it in the rain, had slid off.

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The Silver City Highway, south of Tibooburra

We detoured from the Silver City Highway to have a quick look at Milparinka – these days mostly ruins of what were some quite substantial stone buildings. This was the centre of a gold rush and mining area in the 1880’s. I was pleased to see some attempts to restore and preserve some of the old buildings.

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Restoration of building at Milparinka

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This old Milparinka building was in definite need of restoration

We drove a bit beyond the former township, to Depot Glen, where the explorer Sturt camped by a waterhole in 1844/45. The grave of one of the expedition members, Poole, was there too.

Some 70kms south of Milparinka, we took the road to the east, towards White Cliffs.

This was definitely a minor, back road, but did not seem as badly affected by rain as the road we’d been on. However, there were still some muddy sections, especially where we crossed creek beds – mostly dry, and in one of these a small “pretend” 4WD was stuck. The occupants clearly had no idea what they were doing. They were just out for a drive!

John towed them out of the muck, and then we resumed on our way to White Cliffs. They kept going the way they had been headed and we hoped they’d stick to roads they could manage.

We set up the tent again, in the White Cliffs caravan park. This had a dirt and gravel surface – one does not expect grass in a place as arid as this. There were some shelters scattered about and we set up by one of these – just to make life a bit easier if the rain came back.

John spent some time scraping dried mud from the under parts of Truck. Despite the generous dollops we’d left at the motel this morning, there was still plenty more attached to Truck. It had been carrying a lot of extra weight!

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At White Cliffs – a chunk of dried-on mud from the under parts of Truck

The night was quite cold, so we did not stay up very long after dinner.

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