Meet Stanley and come visit 3 pubs in the scrub

After lunch we passed Lightning Ridge’s newest icon, an 18 metre emu called Stanley. Originally conceived by local artist John Murray for the Birdsville Track, due to bureaucracy, it ended up in the artist’s home town of Lightning Ridge, where it was only opened this May.

We then took a self-drive tour through opal fields past a cemetery with a classic Aussie grave (Akubra hat and longneck beer bottle on it) to 3 pubs in the scrub.

First came the Grawin Opal Miners Golf Club known as the Club in the Scrub, where we had a drink and met a local called Reg and a friend.

The two of them took us to visit the new Sheepyard War Memorial and Reg described how he had been a key force behind its creation. It had a special feel, with a lone pine similar to those at Gallipoli and memorials to Korean and Vietnamese wars. Beyond the war memorial we came to Sheepyard Inn.

Finally we got to the Glengarry Hilton. We didn’t have time for a drink there as we’d left a prescription at the chemist before lunch and been told that it would be ready by 3.15! Apparently they close for lunch.

They have their own way of doing things out here. Living is cheap for a miner – no power or water bills and rates and lease of $200 a year respectively.

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Lightning Ridge – town of eccentrics

In Lightning Ridge, inland New South Wales, Australia, many signs are written on car doors, as there are plentiful old car-wrecks lying around. The local tourism people have made car door signs a feature, with four colour-coded self-drive tours.

Instead of driving, I followed the Red Door tour by foot between the mine sites. Then after lunch, we took a bus tour of the mining area, went down a mine and watched a demonstration of opal polishing. I was particularly impressed with three dimensional opals, that are polished by hand using an instrument similar to dental drill. But they were pricey, so I didn’t succumb to the temptation.

The town has more than its share of eccentrics, who have built amazing, illegal structures on crown land without permits that are now heritage-listed. We met 80-year-old Brian who in his time had played bit parts in many films including Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max Thunderdome. Even the mine we visited had been used as a set for a movie called Goddess of 76 (remember the Citroen Goddess)?

Apparently there are now only 100 or so working miners, plus hobbyists who work a claim during their spare time, but the town has more than its share of both millionaires and people on welfare. Tourism has grown in importance as mining has declined.

For swimmers, I have included a photo of the fantastic indoor swim and dive complex, built largely with funds raised by the local community.

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