Lightning Ridge is unique. Seven hundred kilometres from Sydney it feels like the outback but in Australian terms of distance it isn’t, really. An ironstone ridge rising from a floodplain it attracts lightning and thus the name.The Ridge is an opal mining town where people live above ground usually beside their mines. Unlike the opal towns of Coober Pedy and White Cliffs where they prefer to live underground because of the hot climate and the dry air in their mines.
To the tourist it is a town of characters and eccentrics and never knowing whether the scruffy bearded guy in the clapped out ute could really afford a Rolls Royce. According to the rules a mining lease is for mining, not living on but if you’ve got a hole in the ground that may or may not contain riches beyond belief you wouldn’t want to leave it unattended at night now would you? Which explains the strange living quarters built from tram carriages, used corrugated iron, stone and beer bottles. This is recycling at its best.
Opal dirt here is white in colour so every lease has ant hill like white mounds with rusted iron structures atop to haul the 44 gallon drums of dirt to the surface. This may sound like the description of a junk yard and indeed that’s what a lot of the mining lease areas around The Ridge look like but somehow you can’t help but fall in love with the place. The hot dry days, the cool nights and the colour of the sky at sunset leaves you captivated.
Yes this crazy town has won me over and I haven’t even told you about the indescribable beauty of the black opals.