Lightning Ridge

So, a few weeks in to John’s retirement. He still feels like he’s just on holidays and will be returning to work soon. Luckily there are still things to do besides “rootle about”. Emails still arrive, the share market hasn’t shut down, the SMH is still published and the renovation on our apartment still requires a few decisions along the way. He does receive a few calls about new work – he started off by saying that he was retired – now he says he’s taking an extended break and to please contact him in late August if there is some work which looks interesting. So retirement (full-time) may yet be some way off.

But to Lightning Ridge……we passed through Walgett where the biggest building in town was the cop shop and the biggest shop was the gun shop.

Then through some of the driest and grayest country I have ever seen. The land is the colour of grey kangaroos and the road is dotted with roadkill. And it goes on and on.

Until Lightning Ridge. Opals, opals, opals!!!!!!! There are no longer any mines in Lightning Ridge. The mines are at Grawin – about 50 kms out of town. It’s a shanty town of tin houses, rusted trucks and 3 pubs. There is no water and there hasn’t been for 2 years. The problem of no water, besides the obvious is that the miners can’t “wash” the rocks they mine in order to see the opal. So there are mounds and mounds of mined rock, ready to be washed. No washing means no income. Temperatures range between 52 degrees in summer and minus 2 degrees in winter – in a tin house. Who would choose this life?

But there are pubs!

We didn’t take a photo of the Glengarry Hilton as the owner/manager? was lying on the floor smoking something and listening to The Doors “Riders on the Storm”. We decided to just let him be. He looked very relaxed and in no position to pour us a drink.

We discovered that:

  • there are many Vietnam Vets in Grawin and that ANZAC Day is huge. They have built a war memorial and museum that attracts many returned soldiers
  • that in a good year, a miner can make $500,000
  • there are stories of miners making $3,000,000 in 6 months
  • no-one tells you what a bad year earns, but given the conditions at the moment we can guess
  • Grawin accepts all comers. There is a place for everyone. That’s who lives here.

Lightning Ridge itself is not so interesting. My guess is it survives on tourism and servicing the mines. The sunsets were pretty good.

Those dark clouds you see are rain clouds. It rained that night for the first time in 6 months. There were alot of smiles that morning. No rain in Grawin unfortunately.

Off to Narrabri to the Mount Kaputar National Park.

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