The “Ridge” situated just a stones throw south of the QLD/NSW border and about 800km inland from the east coast, is as rich in subject matter for the artist as it is for its intriguing inhabitants.
The many square miles of opal fields that surround the town centre are rather unique in that they resemble the moons surface, with the exception of the many “camps” and tin sheds occupied by miners and families alike. With no town water or electricity, the occupants have to improvise with other sources of power by either solar, diesel powered generators ,down to wierd contraptions such as peddle powered washing machines put together from old push bikes and oil drums.
What generally surprises the first time visitor as they explore the never ending maze of dirt roads that dissect the opal fields, is the ingenuity employed in the construction of the obove mentioned camps, made from anything from hard iron stone, rough sawn tree trunks,sheet iron and even empty beer bottles cemented together, or a combo of all of the above.
The landscape is certainly not without it’s beauty. The brilliance of flowering cacti and bushes growing in and around old abandoned working trucks of yesteryear compliment the miles of creeping bougainvillea in full bloom exploring old unroadworthy bus windows and caravans alike.
This blog in its self could not do the “Ridge” justice, there are simply far too many outback yarns and tales of rag to riches, huge stone castles built by single men, hot thermal springs ect..just to name a few. Needless to say Lightning Ridge is well worth the visit.
I will add in closing though, that there are many opal jewelry shops in the Ridge and they all have something to offer. However , the stand out for me was “lost sea opals”. I was fortunate enough to befriend the husband and wife owners, Andrew and Jo Lindsay. Andrews vast knowledge and hands on experience in opal mining, fossils and basic hard work ethic, are matched equally by Jo’s high standard of hand made jewelry, producing beautiful contempary pieces in their state of the art workshop, which is easily located on the main road coming into town. In retrospect, I miss my morning coffees at Lost sea and most of all Andrew’s wise council and friendship.