We had some lunch and left Lightning Ridge in mid arvo and started the drive home.
We all left and said our goodbyes at Gilgandra on Saturday. Kylie & Ben and Mark & Virginia were heading straight home that night, while we decided to go to Dubbo and spend the night there and head home today.
We booked in to the Cattlemans Country Motor Inn at Dubbo - wow, such a nice hotel! For $120 we got a huge new room with king size bed, balcony and all the mod cons you would need. This 4.5 star hotel was a huge jump from what we've had for the past week! For the price, you can't go past this hotel when staying in Dubbo, highly recommended.
We arrived home early afternoon on Sunday to even hotter weather than we've had - well it was actually quite a lot cooler in temperature, but felt so much hotter due to the humidity. Give me the outback heat without humidity any day.
Anyway, we all had an amazing trip, too short, but still a great time. And we managed to knock off another thing from our bucket list. Can't wait to get back out there again!
Until next time .......
Yesterday we had a look around Bourke in the morning and then drove from Bourke to Lightning Ridge, which wasn't a very big drive. On the way we drove through a dust storm which got pretty bad and you couldn't even see the road in front of you. Pretty cool to see and amazing to see how quickly it changed. We later spoke to locals in Lightning Ridge who said that the storm came through there aswell and they couldn't see down the main street and shops etc were covered in dust/red dirt.
When we arrived in Lightning Ridge it looked like rain and storms were around, and because of that and the wind and heat we again booked into cabins! We stayed the Outback Resort & Caravan Park which was so nice. Went to the pub (part of the park) for a beer (got free beer vouchers with our accommodation!) and the kids then went for a swim before dinner.
After dinner we took a drive out to the Artesian Bore baths for a swim. The water comes from the Great Artesian Basin and is approximately 2 million years old. Natural pressure sends the water to the surface through an artesian bore and it stays at a constant temperature of 41.5 degrees Celsius.
The Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest freshwater basins in the world and contains approx. 8,700 million megalitres of water and underlies 22% of Australia.
We've been to a few of these baths and they are meant to be very therapeutic for the body, they are very relaxing. This one in particular is open 24 hours a day and it's free entry. It was about 10pm when we headed down there and it was so relaxing lazing around staring up at the stars in the dark sky.
This morning we headed in to town to have a look at the various opal shops and had a visit to our favourite artist, John Murray. Of course, we didn't leave without buying a couple more prints!
We then headed off to do a couple of the car door tours. Along the way we visited one of the mines to do a tour.
Lightning Ridge is home of the Black Opal. Black Opal was first discovered in the area in the 1870's Mining in the late 1800's and early 1900's was hard work, as miners used hand picks and shovels to dig and climbed the mine shafts with the backs and legs braced against the walls or on knotted ropes. Today, miners use steel ladders and mechanical pulleys take the excess dirt from the mine to the surface. Everywhere you drive you can see the dirt piles appearing at the top of mine shafts.
There are mines everywhere, just holes in the ground ranging in size, some only really visible due to the pile of dirt next to it.
Having never been there before we went to visit the Bottle House. This was an old miners house, the owner and his wife built this and used to sleep in the mezzanine level. It was built out of bottles which came from a nearby pub (can't remember exactly where). Inside it's now a museum of lots of old things with lots of history. The old guy knows everything and knows where he bought or got every piece from and it's story. Lots of things we remembered from our childhood, old cameras I remember that mum had. There was a lock from the Old Dubbo Goal, a wanted posted for Ned Kelly (authenticated), lots of crystals and petrified wood etc from places that we have previously visited so we found it very interested. Don't think the others were that excited with this place, but we both enjoyed it and found it very interesting and enjoyed chatting with the owner and hearing his stories.
We love Lightning Ridge, it's one of those places that you really can't describe to people, no-one truly understands until they go there themselves. The population is said to be around 2,000, but it's hard to know as only some people actually live in the town in houses, the rest live up on the mine fields in 'camps'. To call these camps a house would be stretching it! They range from quite nice structures with solar panels etc to caravans or shipping containers to some sort of shelter slapped together with iron and wood! None of these camps are connected to the towns power grid, some use solar power or generators, while others go without power. "Camps" are marked with car doors or bonnets (or similar) with "Joe" or "Sue & Ben's house" to others simply saying "keep out" "F**k off" etc!
This morning we headed down to the bakery to grab some breakfast and then off to explore Bourke.
Firstly we went to the Bourke Wharf, the Port O' Bourke and the location of the old Bourke wharves. A three story replica wharf now stands just slightly down stream form the originals. We also saw the Old Crossley Engine which is just near the carpark to the wharf.
Next was the lock at the Bourke Weir. This was built in 1897 and was the first built on a river anywhere along the Murray or Darling River systems. This lock and weir is also apparently the only one of its kind built on the Darling River.
We then headed off to see the PV Jandra. The PV Jandra is a replica of the original 1894 steam paddleboat that pulled a barge behind as it went from station to station along the Darling River to collect wool bales. This replica was built locally by the Mansell family in 2000.
Our final visit was to the Bourke Cemetery. This is the resting-place for 1991 Australian of the Year Professor Fred Hollows. The cemetery also has several graves of Afghans associated with the camel trade that ceased in the 1920's.
We had visited Fred's grave on our last visit to Bourke and we wanted to take everyone else there to view it aswell as it is such a beautiful place. Fred Hollows was a world renowned eye doctor helping people in Australia and overseas, in particular in outback areas. Fred was 63 when he died at his home in Randwick on 10.02.1993. After an official state funeral at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, he was buried, according to his wishes, in the red dirt of Bourke.
Fred's grave is surrounded by native trees and boulders from nearby Mt Oxley are laid out in the shape of an eye – part of a sculpture created by local Indigenous artists, international sculptors and Bourke residents that includes a carved standing stone transported from Wilcannia.
Fred was buried with his glasses, a bottle of whisky, letters from some of his children, sawdust from his workshop, his pipe and a tin of tobacco. His coffin was draped with a pall that was hand painted by the people of Enngonia.
The notice board at the grave states that "the sculpture captures Fred’s love of the outdoors and climbing, and its polished surface brings to mind the tiny intraocular lenses that Fred was so determined to bring to the developing world. The Hollows family is happy for visitors to touch and feel the rock, to climb on it or sit peacefully and contemplate life."
The plaque states "The key he used to undo locks was vision for the poor". Such an amazing place and such a beautiful tribute and setting for a loved man who did so much for so many people.
Left Tibooburra early for the relatively short drive to Cameron Corner, we wanted to arrive early and set up camp before it got too hot.
The roads today were more red and sandy than the last few days as we headed closer to the Strzlecki Desert.
Today saw us drive through the Sturt National Park and along the dog fence, passing through the dog fence at Cameron Corner.
We arrived at Cameron Corner around 11am (but gained an hour as the store is located in Qld so it was only l0am!).
We arrived and went to the corner store to pay for our camping and have a quick drink at the bar. Camping was $10 per night, with $5 of that going to the Royal Flying Doctors Service.
With the $5, they rolled it up with a tack in it and you have to throw it up for it to stick on the roof! Between our three groups we all had a go at it and only George and Ben managed to get them to stick!
After setting up camp we went for a drive around the property and then took a drive back to Fort Grey campground and had some lunch there, while Mark and Ben and the kids went for a mini bushwalk.
We headed back to Cameron Corner via Queensland side and the Fortville Gate
Today's temperature was 31 degrees at 9.30am today! Daytime temperatures were around the low-mid 40's for most of the day. These temperatures were alot lower than what we were expecting and prepared for. We had been told to expect around 50 degrees at this time of year.
Luckily there was a breeze at night which kept things more comfortable.
After lunch we drove through an area which was completely filled with kangaroos and lots of babies aswell. Some of these guys were huge and although we have seen so many kangaroos the last few days, we haven't seen this many together. When we got back to camp, we were talking to the owners and they said that there is absolutely no water around and most of these poor guys will be dead in the next few months. It's just part of outback life, but very sad nonetheless.
This morning we packed up camp and left early before it got too hot, it was 31 degrees at 9am! Things were a lot quieter this morning, but there were a few people up and about!
We ended up getting to bed at 2am, but didn't really get much sleep due to the music and noise around, and then up again at 6.30am. Safe to say that everyone is a little tired this morning and in need of a coffee/V/Red Bull!
Photo shoot on the clay pan
We called in to Tibooburra for fuel and breakfast before starting the drive to Bourke.
We headed to Bourke via the Tibooburra - Wanaaring - Bourke Road which we had heard gets a little rough, but we didn't have any issues. We called in to Wanaaring and were told that the section from there to Bourke had only just been graded so was in good condition, if we had been there a week beforehand we may not have got through.
Arrived in Bourke late arvo and we all agreed to book into a cabin in the caravan park for the night! It had been a long day's driving and after not much sleep last night, a comfy bed and air conditioning was appreciated.
So this is what the trip was all about, to spend New Year's Eve in Cameron Corner and get to celebrate 3 times in one night!!
Festivities started in the early afternoon with games of horse shoe toss, mini golf etc. We took a wander around and met some of the other campers, even some from a few suburbs away from us!
The ground was marked with lines in the sand so we all knew which 'state' we had to be in! First to celebrate was NSW, we had the countdown and then everyone celebrated with each other.
The real party started around 10.30pm (or 11.30 pm Sydney time). Everyone started to make their way up to the corner post where the owners had set up tables, chairs and music.
We all headed up with drinks, glow sticks and sparklers!
1/2 hour later we all moved over to South Australia, had another countdown and celebration. Finally it was Queensland's turn, so we all jumped over to line in the sand into Queensland for our final New Year's Eve celebrations for 2014.
This was finally finished off with a small fireworks display, not quite Sydney standard, but never seen fireworks in the middle of the outback before!
We were all in bed around 2am and up again at 6.30am to pack up camp! Not a great deal of sleep ..... the music blaring and talking, laughing and screaming all night didn't help things either, but hey it's New Year's Eve so what do you expect!! Must say that things were a lot quieter this morning!
What a great night, such a unique experience and such a great bunch of people. We estimate there would have been around 70 people there. We will definitely be coming back again! It's one of those things you really need to tick off your bucket list.