Australia
Walgett

Here you’ll find travel reports about Walgett. Discover travel destinations in Australia of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

11 travelers at this place:

  • Day9

    Walgett to Lightning Ridge

    May 29, 2015 in Australia

    After another day in the Warrumbungle N.P. and a visit to Coonabarabran we headed North-West to Walgett where we had arranged to stay on a sheep property called Caloola with old friends. On the way we hit our first Dirt Road and the caravan handled it very well, including taking dirt and dust samples along the way and depositing them in the cupboards and over a lot of our stuff. (poorly sealed pipe and electrical penetrations). Because of the drought our friends have been forced to sell most of their sheep and only have about 20 now, some of them lambing at the moment. Here the countryside is completely different to the sheep country I’m used to seeing. Very flat with what they call black soil and no grass, just weedy looking prickly plants which the sheep manage to survive on during drought periods. The trees don’t even grow very tall. We were told that when it rains (as little as 2 – 3mm) the ground becomes so soft and boggy that it is impossible for them to leave their property until it dries out. They have built a gravel hard stand up near the front gate where they move their car up to when the rain is forecast, because even their 4 wheel drive can’t get up their 2.5km driveway. The Barwon River flows though their property and is prone to flooding when heavy rains fall. It all sounds a bit bleak but we actually had a really interesting time there (complete with “billy tea” by the billabong) and learned a lot about the area. They also run a Bed and Breakfast business as part of a chain called Outback Beds and have facilities for campers and caravaners.

    We reluctantly left Caloola after a couple of nights and continued North to Lightning Ridge which is famous for its opal mining. First we visited the Chambers of the Black Hand which is a fascinating underground mine where the chap who owns it has carved hundreds of sculptures into the walls which are made of sandstone. He was actually there carving a new sculpture when we went through and was happy to have a chat. Later in the day we went on a bus tour around the town and went down into a working opal mine where we learned more about what’s involved in mining opal. (We did lots of stair-climbing during the day). We also visited a shop where opals are cut, polished set into jewellery and sold and were given a demonstration of the process. I wasn’t able to convince Frank it would be a good investment to buy me one though! Our driver took us to other local attractions such as “Lunatic Hill” which is an open cut mine. Another mine up there is owned by an odd 84 year old chap who also loved to have a chat. Also Amigo’s Castle which has been built of stones retrieved from the mines and looks really impressive at first until a closer inspection reveals that it is unfinished and has no roof. The reason there is no roof is that the council rates the property by the area of the roof. No roof No council rates. All these characters are very strange and one wonders whether it’s a pre-requisite for living in Lightning Ridge. The guides told us of the high rate of crime in the area associated with the opal industry, including opal theft from mines at night. Gangs are in the area armed with AK 47 rifles and are not afraid to use them even on the police. Miners encroach on other peoples mines, sell opals and don’t pass on the share of the sale to their partners. This includes Siblings, Father and Son partners, Husband and Wife etc, no one is exempt from the greed up here. The other interesting thing is the collusive opal price fixing by the buyers to keep the price of opals artificially high while they rip of the miners. Interesting place to visit.
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  • Day10

    Woke up in the free camp in Walgett this morning and Gadi read the information boards on his morning walk all about the freedom rides in 1965, where aboriginal activist (Charles Perkins) then a uni student lead a group of University of Sydney students on a bus campaign through several outback NSW towns to protest indigenous inequality.

    Based on the freedom riders in the United States in the early 60s, we learnt that in Walgett the bus stopped and Charles made an impassioned speech at the RSL, which at that time refused entry to indigenous people, not even allowing entry to returned soldiers. Endemic racism in Walgett was beamed into the homes of thousands watching the news, when the president of the RSL was caught on camera saying he would never let an aboriginal person into the club.

    The publicity gained raised consciousness of racial discrimination across NSW at the time.

    We left the camp ground late morning and headed east to our next stop, the outback railway town of Burren Junction. Population around 160, this tiny town no longer even has a shop, but it does boast a pub! And, more importantly, the town maintains a wonderfully warm artesian pool and camp ground, well utilized by passing travelers (mainly nomads).

    Arriving around lunchtime, we found a prime site along a dam irrigating the nearby fields (and giving us a lovely water view). Later in the afternoon (after lunch and a snooze) we changed into our bathers and breathed a sigh of relief as we eased ourselves into the hot, deep waters. We spent a lovely couple of hours soaking, floating and talking to other nomads. We learnt that a couple opposite us have a rainbow lorikeet they rescued as a baby that fell out of its nest and broke its wing, so we chatted all things ‘bird’ related.

    We stayed in the pool until the sun set low on the horizon creating a thin orange and flame red line along the horizon. As I made my way back to the caravan in near darkness, I took in the beautiful reds, oranges and yellows of the setting sun along the dam. Just as I reached the van I heard a ‘thump thump’ sound and was privileged to witness a dozen kangaroos silent (other than the sounds of their hooves thudding) as they hopped along the ridge above the dam, one after the other.

    Dinner of leftover lasagne tonight and it was time to turn in for the night.

    Today I am thankful for so much - finding a relaxing place to stay awhile, beautiful hot water to float in, great weather and lovely neighbours all around. To see the kangaroos hop by against the last bit of sunset was just the icing on the cake!
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  • Day11

    A day of soaking and relaxing

    August 30 in Australia

    We decided to stay out here in Burren Junction for a few days as we are really enjoying the artesian water and the camp site itself, with our water front site and the mostly friendly people surrounding us.

    What a lovely day it’s been. I went for a mid morning soak while Gadi spent time on some maintenance and talking to some of the other blokes about things like cars, solar, inverters and other boy toy paraphernalia!

    I came back to the caravan to chill out, eat lunch and even baked a chocolate cake in the Weber. Late afternoon we both headed back to the pool for another ‘swim’ and chat to our fellow campers.

    Eventually I dragged myself out of what felt like an oversized warm bath tub so that I could come back to the caravan to watch another magical sunset beyond the canal.

    I prepped dinner on the Weber and chatted with our neighbours while warming myself close by their splendid ‘Oz pig’ fire.

    Finally Gadi made his way back from the pool and we headed inside for dinner. Today went by in a flash and yet we didn’t do very much st all. Crazy really...

    My take home from today:

    May there be more busy days like today doing not very much at all but feeling so content being in the moment.
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  • Day12

    Buffeting winds & card games

    August 31 in Australia

    We both woke before 6am today to hear and feel howling winds all around and I quickly headed outside to make sure my bathers hadn’t blown away.

    Later in the morning we played a few rounds of rummy tiles with our neighbours and then they taught us how to play Bush rummy with cards. We enjoyed a pleasant few hours playing games and chatting over a cup of tea and slices of my chocolate chia and hemp cake.

    Around lunchtime rain pelted against the sides of the caravan, with an ominous grey sky visible through the skylight. The winds moved the rain on and, as quickly as it began, the rain was gone and the sky turned blue once more.

    Late afternoon Gadi went to the hot pool and Cadbury and I took a chance on the lessening winds to go for a brisk walk around the dam behind the caravan, phone in hand to capture photos of the setting sun behind the fields of wheat.

    Finally went indoors as the last weak rays of sun tried vainly to paint a golden hue on the dam water. Time to prepare (luckily we have leftover fish curry) dinner - for Cadbury and for us.

    What I learnt about men today - you need to communicate exactly what you mean. For example, if you ask one to heat a container of leftovers (could be anything, but let’s use the example of fish curry) on the stove, how do you think they would go about it? I discovered they take you literally. What I found was a plastic takeaway box filled with curry simmering in boiling water when what I had meant was to empty the curry into the pot and stir it every now and then.

    Another thing I learnt today is - maybe, just maybe, their method has merit. After all, this method got the job done eventually and it meant less messy clean up!

    Good night, sleep tight xx
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  • Day13

    More of the same - how marvellous!

    September 1 in Australia

    Another day here in Burren Junction, not going anywhere, but enjoying the peace and quiet of this lovely outback location.

    Pancakes for brekkie today! You know it’s going to be a good day when you start out with pancakes with fresh fruit salad and maple syrup or lemon and sugar.

    A fresh breeze kept the morning just below 20 degrees. We lazily pottered around our campsite and eventually I made the effort to change into bathers, put on sunscreen, sunglasses and big floppy hat, and made my way to the artesian pool for a long, hot soak - and a bit of exercise swimming round and round.

    Time seems to run away in that pool, but eventually I dragged myself out, long after my fingers had turned all wrinkley, feeling hungry and ready for lunch.

    I made some muffins in the Weber and we spent a couple of hours sitting outside chatting and playing Bush rummy with our neighbours, Barb and Earl. We enjoyed some pink bubbly and banana coconut muffins for afternoon tea.

    Steak and veggies on the Weber for dinner, cooked just as the last smear of deep red sky sank below the horizon beyond the nearby dam.

    Another day well spent!
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  • Day14

    Last day in Burren

    September 2 in Australia

    Another lazy day today spent in our lovely artesian spa campsite at Burren Junction. I took Cadbury for a walk past the dam and out into the fields giving Gadi time to watch Insiders. Then I very nicely made him a father’s day breakfast of yoghurt, muesli and mixed berries and he spoke to both our kids on the phone before we had (what would be our last) swim in Burren Junction.

    We had a lovely soak and float in the hot mineral-rich water before heading back home, hungry for lunch so I whipped up salmon patties and a salad. Afterwards, relaxed from the warm water and sated after lunch, I ended up having a lengthy nanna nap (thanks to new neighbours with very loud voices waking me at 6.30am).

    We spent the rest of the afternoon playing Bush rummy with Barb and Earl and really enjoyed chatting with them snd sharing a lovely bottle of Shiraz.

    We watched our final glorious sunset over the dam and prepared a simple pasta with pesto for dinner.

    Time to unwind inside.

    Night night!
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  • Day11

    Lightning Ridge

    January 8, 2017 in Australia

    The air-conditioning wasn't working in the cabin at Lightning Ridge Holiday Park, so I simply cleaned the filters and it started working perfectly (thanks Dad). Other than this small hiccup, it was very comfortable and had everything we needed plus more. One incident when we arrived really set the tone for Lightning Ridge: one of the permanent caravan park residents was driving back to the park as we were checking in with a flat tyre. He was swerving all over the road and ran up the gutter on the way in which completely slashed his tyre. He proceeded to drive through his annex, smashing in the front of his car and destroying the washing machine along with rattling his van - it was a very amusing site to see. Later in the evening, he was walking over to the BBQ area and got a bur in his foot then fell over. After chatting with the caravan park owners, we found out that this isn't uncharacteristic for the area because the resident had been out drinking with the Serbians to celebrate their Christmas-time! Later we found out that overall, Lightning Ridge is not policed very much compared to other places (maybe because it is mainly white people!?) so basically everybody gets smashed and drives, and there is a huge drug problem. We even though we saw a drug deal happen immediately as we got off the bus.

    In the morning after a good sleep we ate the Dubbo bran for breakfast which was extremely filling then went to the front desk for our tour at Chambers of the Black Hand which we had booked yesterday. The bus picked us right on time around 8am, then drove us to a few more hotels to pick up others - there were 5 of us all up. We drove past the Yellow Car Doors (in Lightning Ridge they don't always use street signs and house numbers, instead each person erects a car door along the road to tell you where they are), and past a few operating mines until we came to the large mental black hand, used to point miners in the direction of the highway before the days of GPS. It is very easy to get disoriented on the minefields (50x50m blocks called claims scattered all over the place).

    After a quick safety induction, we put on hard hats and approached a tiny blue shed. Inside it were simply some stairs into the ground which we walked down one-by-one. The mine was a long way down but not too far - when we got down it opened up into a welcome room where we handed over our money to visit the gallery and the mining level. We heard about the history of the gallery: Ron Canlin who immigrated from the U.K. purchased the mine in 1982, but it was a total flop. Around 1996 he decided to open the mine to tourists, and he decided to carve a welcome sign in the wall using a butter knife. He never stopped, and now the caverns and halls in the mine are filled with thousands of individual sculptures from Egyptian rooms, Buddas, cartoon characters, Star Wars characters, David, The Last Supper, and much more. He uses only the original butter knife and a fork to make his carvings, though paints some of them.

    Every year Ron makes the chambers bigger and bigger, so they are changing continuously - locals go down every year or two to see what he's been up to! After browsing the sculptures, we went down one more level to the mine to discover how Opal is mined. We were given a lot of information about the manual labour and safety requirements for mining - Lightning Ridge is the only place in the world that has Black Opals, it only costs $400 to get a mining licence, and it's only $1000 to get a claim. Overall, to set up a small mine it's only around $10,000 and has become very tempting to us given the interesting lifestyle the miners seem to lead. After the tour we went upstairs for a cup of tea and accidentally sat down right next to Ron which was very lucky indeed. He joked a lot, and talked about how he made his decision to come to Australia which was simply because he thought Opals were nice and he wanted something special. His wife decided it was a great idea and came with him, she ran and edited the local newspaper for many years.

    After this tour we went back to the room and had a rest because we were tired from the heat outside. After about 20 minutes rest we decided to go for a walk to the other end of town to take a look - we saw the Visitor's centre and went for a little fossick in the free area, finding what we thought were Opals (to be confirmed). On the way back, we saw a VW Combi Van with wings and a propeller, a few old cottages, and went to a few Opal stores where we learned more about their composition. From what I can see of Lightning Ridge, it is an absolutely eccentric and admirably eclectic township with lots of friendly and amazing people. Afterward we went to IGA to get some ingredients for pizza to cook in the special pizza ovens at our caravan park, then went back and watched a movie because we were hot and bothered (it was around 3pm). We had made a decision to stay one more day and cancel our stopover in Dubbo for one night as we didn't want to go and hang with the junkies at Tower's or pay overpriced rates for a pub room, and Lightning Ridge was fascinating us. We changed our bus, cancelled Tower's Lodge, and paid for another night at the caravan park. While doing these things we drank some Stone's ginger wine and some goon, then prepared the pizzas. We gradually transferred the ingredients to the BBQ area fridge and sat under the pagola watching the sun set while we cooked and ate them listening to 'Outback Radio'. The pizzas were delicious - afterwards we decided to go back to the room where I did some writing, backed up my photos using remote desktop to my server, and we watched some TV. At around 10pm we decided it was time to go for a walk to the hot springs, so we left for the 2km journey in the 30 degree heat to discover whatever we could.

    Distance Travelled: < 20km / Steps Taken: 15,000 / Temp: 37*C
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  • Day12

    Lightning Ridge Day 2

    January 9, 2017 in Australia

    The Artesian Bore Baths were quite a site at night. It was a dimly lit circular pool about 10m across, 2km out of town, so we could see the stars. As it was so hot it was not steaming, however it was around 42 degrees inside the water! I read a lot of the signs around which described a water conservation project to limit the amount of water going into the baths to 9l/second, down from 20l/second. The runoff water from the baths is used for mining and gardening operations (townspeople have two water supplies). There is another bore nearby which runs at 2l/s (down from 20l/s) that supplies drinking water. We sat in the baths with children jumping in and screaming, then they decided to leave. After a few minutes, a man came to the pools and introduced himself, then we had a chat. After a while chatting, he invited us to come over to his house to look at his opals, drink beer, and learn about some of the mining processes.

    His house was only about 5 minutes walking from the baths, and we talked along the way. He told us about his past life and about what he does in Lightning Ridge. There were some other people at his house who we had a chat with for around an hour then they left - after they left he showed us how to cut opals using a diamond grinding machine which was fascinating. After many hours of this, we decided it was time to go to bed at 5am. He invited us to his mine the following day to give him a hand and to have an experience, so we organised to go out with him the next morning and said goodnight.

    The next morning he didn't call us so we just went about doing our own thing - we ate breakfast, cleaned and packed, and cooked pizza for lunch. I did manage to get in touch with him at around 5pm, and he said that he was trying to call us but it didn't go through - perhaps the phone was out of reception. He said that we are welcome to come back any time (which we probably will because it was so much fun) to do a bit of mining experience with him - Riagan is really keen to get a mining claim and go digging for a year. I'm keen to have the experience and see how it goes at a minimum.

    We went to see the house made of glass bottles, and went fossicking in the evening. It was quite interesting because we seemed to find a lot more opal after we had spent time at the miner's house, we had got an eye for it. We also watched a movie in the afternoon, had some naps, and ate leftover pasta extended with tomato paste and walnuts for dinner which was quite nice. It was bed time quite early because we had to be on the bus at 5.50am to go back to Dubbo - so it was with disappointment that we said goodbye but not forever to Lightning Ridge. Going to the miners house was definitely the highlight of the trip so far, I really want to go back to experience more one day in the near future!

    KM Travelled: A few / Steps Taken: 12,120
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  • Day24

    Day 24

    June 23, 2017 in Australia

    Had a good night at the free camp last night very quite considering it is on the highway, nice clean and new toilets good overnight stop. Headed off at 8 this morning, stopped in at St George for fuel and kept on going to Dirrinbandi then down to the Hebel gate the Qld and Nsw border, weather still very good 23 degrees so decided to stop in at lightning ridge for the night. At the Opal caravan park, good as usual this is our 3rd time here very busy lucky to get a powered site, had lunch and drove in to town for a look around, booked the bus for 6 o'clock to take us to the bowling club for drinks and tea.Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Walgett

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