Two streets down from the Opal Caravan Park is one of the famous Lightning Ridge Car Door Tours, the Red one. Thus we leave the bitumen to follow numbered red car doors to explore this town’s minefields and minefield is an appropriate description. Because people live on mining leases in Lightning Ridge their houses are as basic as possible. By order of law the land should only be used for mining not housing. The hillsides are littered with ramshackle dwellings, decaying caravans, tram cars, corrugated iron shanties and mullock heaps with rusting bucket structures atop that look like roller coasters, which denote mine shafts. You would not want to stagger home drunk. The streets are mere tracks, sometimes only defined with rocks.
But on the other hand some folk have flaunted the law and built attractive homes like the Black Queen from beer bottles and cans.
The piece de resistance though is Amigo’s Castle. Built by Stefano (Amigo) Vittorio it is a replica of the ruins that he played in as a child growing up in Italy. Using unwanted ironstone boulders Amigo started building his home in 1981 and it took him twenty years. Of course it was an illegal dwelling and when the government threatened to destroy it the locals banded together and fought to get it heritage listed. It has to be one of the newest buildings on the heritage register. Amigo didn’t use standard scaffolding for his castle he just perched timber on 44 gallon drums. Which must have been quite a feat.
Then there’s the guy who has built an astronomer’s monument from concrete. The Red Car Door tour is a corker and jubilantly we take to the Green Car Door Tour and bump across rough ironstone roads. This is where the town got its name as lightning is attracted to the ironstone. The so called sights had us scratching our heads and wondering which tree actually was the native orange tree. The approximate location of the first mine was a hole in the ground like all the rest (at least we can say we’ve seen it) and when we did see the best attraction we paid it no attention. What was it? A house built of beer cans we’re told.
Now where are those artesian baths again?