Lightning Ridge: The People, and The Appeal

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When we rolled into Lightning Ridge, after a series of unfortunate and displeasing coincidences, we were ready to roll right back out the following day.

I was crushed. Luckily things changed, very quickly.

This post was originally published in 2008. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

Ever since reading about it in the Lonely Planet, I wanted to go, and was prepared to travel out of our way to get there.
Lonely Planet says:

“Near the Queensland borer, this fiercely independent and strikingly imaginative mining community (one of the world’s few sources of black opals) has real frontier spirit. Battlers still dream of striking it rich underground here, and now and again some of them even do. Consequently, the streets are trodden by eccentric artisans, true-blue bushies and the general unconventional collective.
And that’s all ridgy-didge in the Ridge.”

So luckily, while attending a local Rotary meeting, and consequently spending the following few days enjoying the hospitality of many of the locals, we too had a chance to fall in love with Lightning Ridge.

The Rotary meeting was, of course, wonderful. As Rotarians, wherever we are in the world, attending Rotary meetings gives us a chance to trade stories with other people, all sharing the common goal of providing Service Above Self. We always have a good time.

Chris (short for Christine) was the first woman to open her heart and home to us. She had an additional flat on her property that was empty, so it was “no big deal” to her for us to stay there. Neither were the bacon and eggs in the morning, the wonderful dinner, contacts in Broken Hill and Melbourne, parting gifts, or unmitigated access to her laundry and small fruit orchard. She shrugged off all our accolades of appreciation, and said that it was just as nice to share company with somebody from abroad. We have opened up our (so far nonexistent) home in Canada to her; as soon as we get one, we hope she’ll visit!

I asked her why she and her husband (who was out of town) like to live here, since they are some of the few residents who aren’t here for the opal mining. And it seems that what makes Lightning Ridge attractive is also what makes it hard to take: isolation. At first, she and her family loved small town life, and lived in many of the smaller towns in the area. There is a rampant sense of community, and a real beauty to this chunk of land on the edge of the Australian outback. But now for Chris, with grown up children living in Perth and New Zealand, one with two kids of their own, the negative side of the isolation can be tough.

“It’s hard for somebody to visit us,” Chris said one day. “You have to fly into somewhere like Brisbane, and then it still a full day of driving to and from Lightning Ridge. Not a lot of people have that kind of time these days.”

This is true. You can’t just happen to pass through Lightning Ridge; you have to want to come here. With only one road in and out of town, no railway, and an insignificant airport, it’s not a thoroughfare by any means. We had basically planned our own road trip around Lightning Ridge being one of the determining factors of our route.

While we’re on our sponsored trip courtesy of World Nomads, we’re publishing all full stories to our journal over there. So to read the rest of this post, click here and check it out!

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