Opals, emu eggs and nutters

I had always wanted to visit Lightning Ridge. I had been to Coober Pedy and found it fascinating, so a trip to the Ridge seemed to be a must.

After leaving Moonie, we headed west, across to St George. Here in St G. is a marvellous collection of carved emu eggs. An old Greek fellow does them; he has a story to tell about his years in Greece during WWII and how he came to St George and happened upon this carving of the eggs. The gallery is called the Unique Egg, and unique it is: beautiful carved eggs with portraits, landmark moments like the Commonwealth Games, Merino Sheep, Diggers and so on. It is well worth a visit.

We had lunch and proceeded south-easterly, through the small town of Dhiranbandi and onto Hebel, right on the border of QLD and NSW. Hebel has a small cafe and a pub. Cuppa time there, and in the cafe, home made pies of every description, yum. Back on the road and towards the Ridge we went. The roads were rough, but very little traffic was going our way. They were all heading north, smart people! The further south we went the colder it was.

We finally arrived at Lightning Ridge and the van park was right across the road from the bore baths: natural thermal water straight out of the ground, water which was 41 degrees in temp. I did not go in as it was far too hot for me – the people climbing out resembled lobsters. One woman almost fainted from the heat of the water. We settled in for the evening and next morning began to explore the area.

Masses of rocks white in colour, big rocks, small rocks, powdery rocks – all left over after the opal is extracted. There were many colourful characters to chat with, though they did give us strange looks, as if to say, don’t mess with my dig. Signs warning of savage dogs on the loose, and land mines ready to explode, were dotted about the digs. Also, car doors are the chosen way to advertise everything. Green car doors, red ones, blue and yellow ones, all telling a story.

A castle, yes, a castle. Built by a European man, it’s unfinished but quite a work of art. There’s also a monument to the astrologers and an art gallery of John Murray’s wonderful emu and animal paintings. The sandstone sculptures were done when the owner of the dig found no opals. He is making more from his sand sculpture tours than he ever would from digging opals.

Finally, there’s a large open-cut mine, aptly called Lunatic Hill. In my opinion, one would have to be a lunatic to go down the little holes in the ground. I always reckon if I had been meant to go down a hole in the ground I would have had grey fur and a white fluffy tail.

All in all, Lightning Ridge is indeed a place of wonder

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