407. Sunday 1st February 2015. From Lightning Ridge to real lightning on the Gold Coast…

Monday 26th January 26, 2015

Australia Day

John Murray Art Gallery. These images were painted by him on the wall outside in Billygoat Alley. Note the Billy Goat shown in the paintings.

John Murray Art Gallery. These images were painted by him on the wall outside in Billygoat Alley. Note the Billy Goat shown in the paintings.

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An old original miners hut now a historical society museum. The statue is of Charles Waterhouse Nettleton.

An old original miners hut now a historical society museum. The statue is of Charles Waterhouse Nettleton.

This Tawny Frogmouth is well camouflaged in the tree.

This Tawny Frogmouth is well camouflaged in the tree.

Last night we went to the bore baths after Donnis finished her shift late. A grade one emergency had occurred due to an accident on a property way out of town. A man on a quad bike was badly injured. We arrived when only two other people were at the pool. They left soon after we arrived and we had the place to ourselves for awhile. Then a ute with three people and several dogs arrived. They were wild pig hunters travelling the back territory of western NSW and had just arrived in town after a long day searching for wild pig in the back blocks of the Brewarrina district. One of the two men was carrying a large hunting knife in a scabbard on his belt. They had arrived with no drinking water and were hoping to find something to drink at the pool. At midnight they would not find anywhere in town to purchase water until tomorrow. After checking the heat of the water with their hands they decided not to enter the water. Another trio arrived who were also visitors and too cautious to enter the water. Another couple arrived and it was time for us to say goodnight as sleep was knocking at our heads.

Woke late…8am… and the temperature was already 26° with not a cloud in sight.

I found this poem, in, of all places,  the New South Wales Government Website, Mining & Energy when I was researching information about Western Land Leases, Mining Leases and Mining / Fossiking Permits.

The township and the lure of the black opal have been encapsulated in Laurie Hudson’s poem:

There’s a sleepy little township, out beyond the western plains,
Lightning Ridge, the town of opal, where there’s heat and scanty rains.
The location is not scenic, just rough ridges all around
Nature sired her scenes of beauty, in black opal, underground.
If you’ve never seen black opal, you have missed a splendid sight,
Like quicksilver gaily coloured, slipped through the shades of night.
Though you’ve roamed the whole world over, seen most all there is to see,
There are scenes you’ve never dreamed of, in the stone of mystery.

Michael returned from his weekend of exile on relief duty at Goodooga Indigenous Settlement Hospital.

The Aged Care section of LR hospital has 20 beds and all are occupied and in fact has a waiting list. The hospital put on an Australia Day barbecue luncheon for the residents so the three of us joined the residents, other nurses and staff for a beer and a steak.

I met the man in charge of hospital security and asked him how he came to be here and when. It seems he was living in Melbourne and felt life was getting beyond him. He resolved to travel to LR and sit in the Hot Bore Baths and think about his future.  He saw a job advertised for security staff at the hospital and applied. That was 13 years ago and he has no plans to leave.

I met a man in a wheelchair who had his legs removed due to diabetes.

Then there were the four nurses, all from India. All have been here 2 years and love the town the lifestyle and their work.

Back to my research. Although the concept of a mining lease may have a certain romanticism about it, the reality is a lot different. Just to obtain a lease and mining permit and permit to build a dwelling can cost thousands of dollars per year. There is no guarantee you will find opal and things such as equipment, building materials, power, water, waste disposal and food supplies have to be mostly trucked in. Or at least purchased locally and hauled to your lease. The lease boundaries must be marked and not encroach on other leases.

A mining lease marker.

A mining lease marker.

All this before you even turn a sod of soil. It takes a certain type of person prepared to put up with red tape and hardship for the chance to make their fortune.

Or not.

A lonely miners house near the first shaft. This house is built from mud and aluminium cans.

A lonely miners house near the first shaft. This house is built from mud and aluminium cans.

Anothyer miners house in the lonely original ridge. Note much of the house is constructed from local rock and the roof is various types of roofing material held down by more rocks.

Anothyer miners house in the lonely original ridge. Note much of the house is constructed from local rock and the roof is various types of roofing material held down by more rocks.

The local newspaper announced a man was missing. His car, wallet and possessions were all intact and no signs of a struggle at his residence in a mining camp. Locals have speculated he could be at the bottom of an open shaft (which was the first thing I thought of too)  either accidentally or otherwise. After wandering around on just a small part of the claims and noting the hundreds of open shafts with little or no attempt to cover them I can imagine how easy it would be to fall into a shaft in the dark.

One of thousands of open shaft. This one is unusual in that it has a far better safety grille in place. Most shaft do not.

One of thousands of open shaft. This one is unusual in that it has a far better safety grille in place. Most shafts do not.

After dinner I went to the site of the first recorded shaft which is unusual in that it has a fence around it and a plaque on a rock with a steel grille over the shaft. This area is the original ridge, the highest point in a vast flat plain. As far as the eye can see this is flat land with a few small ridges, the remnants of a once vast inland sea. Locals and visitors come here for the sunsets but tonight I was the only lonely visitor in a lonely place.

The beginning of sunset from the original "ridge" site of the first shaft sunk in 1902 and from where the first miner, Charles Waterhouse Nettleton sold his first black opal in 1903.

The beginning of sunset from the original “ridge” site of the first shaft sunk in 1902 and from where the first miner, Charles Waterhouse Nettleton sold his first black opal in 1903.

Suinset from the ridge. Notice the maze of stones.

Suinset from the ridge. Notice the maze of stones.

This is a large hoist to bring up "bucket" loads of material dug from the shaft and galleries far below.Later the miners will trawl through this mullock heap looking for colour (opal) which they may have missed while underground.

This is a large hoist to bring up “bucket” loads of material dug from the shaft and galleries far below.Later the miners will trawl through this mullock heap looking for colour (opal) which they may have missed while underground.

A smaller hoist in silhouette on the First Shaft Ridge.

A smaller hoist in silhouette on the First Shaft Ridge.

The sun is sinking fast and highlights the twisting red earth road disappearing in the gloom.

The sun is sinking fast and highlights the twisting red earth road disappearing in the gloom.

More sunset.

More sunset.

This is sunset from the main road of Lightning Ridge.

This is sunset from the main road of Lightning Ridge.

At midnight Donnis, Michael and I went to the Hot Bore Baths.

Tuesday 27th January

Today was the long drive home to the Gold Coast. Nine hours of bouncing along in TERIOS. I had a lot of time to ponder a few thoughts. One ponder was about the cost of fuel. When I left home the cost of a litre of E10 unleaded fuel was $1.05.9 and expected to fall below $1 within a week. Fuel is cheaper in NSW so I expected prices below $1 already. WOT THE!. Fuel in the NSW town of Lismore was $1.24.9 and at a discount outlet in the small town of Casino it was $1.21.9. In Armidale it was $1.24.9. In near western NSW at Moree it was $1.25.9 but at remote Lightning Ridge it was $1.24.9. On my drive from Moree north, fuel was $1.30.9 at Boggabrilla on the border and at Goondiwindi just over the border I fueled up at $1.31.9! Heading east towards the coast I saw fuel prices at $1.41.9 and it was not until I was near the coast that I saw prices of around $1 per litre.

Fuel prices do not make sense.

It was a tiring trip especially as TERIOS is not equipped with seat options to raise or lower the seat or adjust the lumbar tension. I was constantly wriggling and trying to ease the discomfort in my back. Highlight of the trip was Cunninghams Gap a notorious mountain pass near Ipswich which connects with the coastal plains near Brisbane. Trucks must use low gear and I found myself in a long line of cars slowly snaking their way down the pass.

After I arrived home, absolutely worn out I caught sight of myself in the mirror. Those red rimmed eyes explains why they felt so gritty and why I felt so tired. Despite feeling tired and ready for bed, sleep was eluding me. I had reached the point of being over tired.

Wednesday 28th January.

Hmmm! Just a little more information on the missing man. The Police have set up a Facebook page about the missing man and are asking for information. Some of the comments are complaining that not enough is being done to find him. Of course none of the whingers have actually assisted in a search party. One of the posters is a woman who claims to be his “missus” and she is missing him. A link to her Facebook page shows that the missing man, Ben, was involved in a fight in late November and she is saying he is lucky not to have suffered greater injuries and she blames him for what happened. Hmmm! Perhaps the altercation only about 6 weeks before is linked to his disappearance?

I spent most of the day doing light duties around the house and just relaxing. However I did go a bit crazy in the afternoon and cooked a Salmon Mornay, a Cauliflower Au Gratin and Turnip Chips for dinner. Now I have leftovers for another two meals although to be honest it took a bit of will power not to eat all the cauliflower in one sitting.

Saturday 31st January

I have been riding the bike every morning. Today I rode on a bike track at Runaway Bay about 3 Klms from home. The track is a 1.5Klm long, is wide and has inclines designed to test riders.  I managed two circuits by which time my leg muscles were burning and I still had to ride home.

After breakfast I cast my vote in the Queensland elections and at noon had acupuncture treatment for a painful shoulder, neck and chest. The acupuncturist told me I had a mild case of tendonitis ( mentally I wondered how a bad case might appear as I have been in pain for more than a month and cannot sleep on my right side and cannot turn my head to the right to check traffic when driving)

In the afternoon a heavy duty storm arrived, seemingly from nowhere and not at all predicted. Lightning seemed to strike in the street outside and rain began to lash the buildings. Too late I tried to close all windows and doors but started on the wrong side of the house. The bed was wet as was the floor in the downstairs room. The rain continued to slam against the house as I mopped up with an armful of towels.

Sigh!

Sunday 1st February.

Had an early acupuncturist appointment. The treatment yesterday seemed to ease the pain and discomfort. Maybe today’s treatment will give me a comfortable nights sleep and no pain when I turn my head.

Then I had coffee at home and baked a coconut berry slice.

Hmmm?

What to do with the rest of my day?

Go to Sea World. – Lots of families will be there. Crowded.

Go to Burleigh Heads National Park.-  Again lots of families and of course parking problems.

Go to the Travel Expo at Broadbeach. Lots of people but I can catch the bus and then the new Light Rail which has a station right outside the doors to the Convention Centre. I have been wanting to travel on the Light Rail since we arrived on the Gold Coast.

I tossed a coin and went to the Travel Expo. So did many other people but at least I had no parking problems. I noticed as I stepped off the tram there was a sign to say the car park was full.

Hmmm!

Spent a couple of hours wandering around and looking at possible travel destinations and travel modes.

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