I have travelled thousands of kilometres throughout Queensland and parts of New South Wales. I have had the fortune of visiting fascinating places, but one place has eluded me for a couple of years. Three hours south of St George (Qld), into New South Wales lies the mining town of Lightning Ridge.
At the start of this year, I decided to visit Lightning Ridge to experience the heat and imagine life during the 1930s. Many people are not aware that Australia’s National Gemstones are the Opals. The rarest and most valuable Opals are the Black Opals, which are only found in Lightning Ridge.
Aurora Australis was found in 1938 and valued at $1 million in 2005. Halley’s Comet Black Opal, found in the 1990s made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest uncut Black Opal.
As I drove into town, I was drawn to the excavated mounds of dirt and rocks. I could not help feeling like I was part of George Miller’s Trilogy, Mad Max.
Once I settled in the hotel, I decided to explore the town. I took one of the self-guided tours, Red Car Door tour. One of the attractions in this tour was Amigo’s Castle. It is a private home single-handedly built of ironstone.
The next morning I did the Chambers of the Black Hand tour. It was a Black Opal mine that now displays art carvings created by Ron Canlin. These are carved on the walls of the mine some 40 feet underground. These carvings range from native animals to biblical characters to politicians. In my opinion, this is a must do when visiting Lightning Ridge.
Our last night saw us doing the Green Car Door tour which culminated in one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed. The colours are as vibrant as the Opals themselves.
Words and Images by Jose Alonso
Amigo’s Castle inspired by Roman Ruins in northern Italy
Carving of David by the artist Michelangelo underground
Sunset overlooking Nettleton’s First Shaft and Coocoran Opal fields