I really didnt know what to expect as we grew slowly nearer to the Ridge. I had certainly heard many stories prior but the hours of long straight road leading to the town certainly gives one time to think. Much of Australia has been in prolonged drought and the stock reserves from Moree right through were thick with very large mobs of hungry sheep and cattle competing for what appeared to be very little grass. Good rain fell just days before we arrived so hopefully some of the many farmers and drovers camped along the road can soon take their stock back home.
As we passed the old Cement Mixer which welcomes you to Lightning Ridge, I was surprised at the lack of visible mines. I left my better half at home to look after orders so it was myself, Andrew, and my cousin David that spent the next 5 days at Lightning Ridge for the biggest week in the small town’s year – their annual Opal Show.
Lightning Ridge is famous for its Black Opal and it is a place that will amaze. The people there are hard to describe – mostly very hard working (and hard playing) genuine folk with a very diverse ethnic background.
Our first afternoon after setting up our show site were spent in tourist mode with a walk-in mine our first stop. Great for families with easy access and a short interesting film while underground. The guide advised us he gets around 20,000 visitors a year.
Lightning Ridge has a very interesting approach to signposting their streets – this handpainted sign on an old car door, which we were advised should be Holden only to fit in with town planning, is typical of the sense of humour in this outback mining town.
After this we pulled up in the main street and asked a long bearded old gentlemen where the nearest mines were, he looked at us a bit strange but I guess he was somewhat used to dumb tourists so sent us the right way. Driving just a few hundred metres further along the main street and turning east I was amazed when we found them. Just metres from the town there were open shafts scattered everwhere along with hundreds of small mullock heaps. This photo shows a typical mine shaft roughly fenced off with just a couple of loose strands of barbed wire.
There is a diverse range of dwellings in the town – some very unusual indeed. The last picture (above) perhaps is more typical of many of the camps. All these are within a 1 mile radius of the main street.
This photos shows a miners shop near the open cut – this old miner operates the shop most days while his son mines. They live in an old double decker bus which has a sign on the front “the fun bus”. He told that they bought it with his wife’s superannuation money which used to be in BHP shares – he reckons if they still had the shares they would be worth over $75,000 now so considers his home quite valuable.
We had a good 4 days of trading in the Bowling Club but most of our proceeds went on opal – just couldnt resist. Keep an eye on our online shop – there just might be a few nice pieces of opal appearing there any day.
Cheers for now from Andrew (Aussie Sapphire)