Australia Rockhounding Trip
May/June 2004
By Scott Braley

I get called upon to travel a great deal – too much at times. When the Australian Army (and later, the Perth Department of Health) asked me to teach a class “down under”, I was very reluctant – NOT!!! Thrill! My wife was VERY gracious and said I could take a week or so of vacation after my teaching was done. She lets me get away with a lot! So my schedule looked like this – Day 1, fly in to Sydney and to the first teaching site in Albury-Wodonga; day 5, after teaching, fly to Melbourne (just for the night, didn’t get to see anything); fly to Perth and start teaching day 6; fly back to Sydney on day 8. That’s a lot of flying – Sydney to Perth is roughly the same as NY-LA. I suppose it helped that the Australians paid for 1st class (DC-Houston-LA), business class (LA-Sydney) and vice versa (ß said w/ straight face – business class is cool on those long flights….)

After talking a bit with Darren here on McRocks, I arranged to meet up with him in Brisbane. As I was putting together my itinerary, my dad unexpectedly said he wanted to go too, would I mind? Shoot no! So we arranged to meet in Sydney on my day 8, after all my teaching was done. We finalized the travel plans: a day in Sydney (day 9), then drive to Lightning Ridge to noodle in the dumps (day 10), drive to Darren’s house (day 11), then collect at Mt. Tangerine and on to his trailer (day 12), Doon-Doon and vicinity (day 13 and 14), then Dad and I go back to Sydney (day 15), another day there then fly home (day 16 and 17). See what I mean about my wife? That doesn’t even count her letting me go to Maine later (another FT report, eh?). I feel like I dropped a day somewhere? Hmm, they say memory is the first thing to go…

Hmm, spent some time debating how much non-rock stuff to put in here! I’ll summarize in one paragraph – Australian customs is very slow, Foster’s is NOT Australian for Beer, teaching went fine, VB is the best beer in Australia, Toohey’s is the best beer in Australia, XXXX is the best beer in Australia, Emu is the best beer in Australia. Each state is VERY biased about their beer. I saw a number of wild kangaroos in my travels, but once my dad got there we only saw them as roadkill – got to be a running joke! While in Perth I hit a couple of rock shops, got some rough boulder opal I liked (brown rock with speckles of green and purple opal, will look cool polished) and a really nice piece of specular hematite. Can’t really photograph it, it is polished and looks like a mirror! Nice stuff.

So. Lightning Ridge. It is a dump. For real. Oh, the TOWN of Lightning Ridge is nice enough. Found a cheap motel, someplace to eat (note to the LR Chamber of Commerce – open more restaurants). The mine area is like an Arkansas trailerpark AFTER the tornado. Rotted, broken down trailers surrounded by trash and mounds of rock. There are two common dump areas, whichever one is closed to dumping on a given day you can “noodle” (collect) on.

My dad noodling at Lightning Ridge

We got some decent stuff, nothing really valuable but some nice blues/lavenders, I’m cabbing some of it just to see how it turns out. I guess we left there after a total of about 6 hours with 20 or so pounds of matrix. I’d like to go back some time and dig in the real mine, but like usual there’s rules and stuff, sigh. Darned safety legislation!

Well, we got in the car and drove to Brisbane to see Darren. Got to his house but he wasn’t home; his girlfriend let two complete strangers into the house! Heh heh, well, ok, she knew we were coming. Cracked a few beers when Darren got home, went out to eat, then crashed for the night. Drove out to Mt. Tangerine the next morning to dig for thundereggs, but (*gasp*) the site was closed on weekdays! Frikin-frakin-grumble-grumble! Since my dad had yet to see much (live) wildlife, we checked out the little petting zoo/wildlife sanctuary at the park. Dad finally got to see some live kangaroos.

Dances With Koalas

Darren’s friend and fellow rockhounder, Tully, drove up the next day.

Darren, Tully, Me and Dad at Darren’s Trailer near the Gold Coast

I don’t remember the names of the places we went and which days – I know there was Doon-Doon and Mt. Warning. The wildest place was the river near the Hare-Krishna temple, looking for sardonyx and chalcedony.

A piece of sardonyx I picked up

Mt. Warning was where we were looking for jasper and colored rhyolite, like this piece that Darren keeps bugging me for pictures of! Here it is! I’ve cut it in half, but not yet polished it.

Colored Rhyolite from Mt. Warning

Me breaking rocks at Mt. Warning (or is this Doon Doon?)

Darren introduced me to some of the adult beverages down there aside from beer. One I particularly liked was ginger beer; haven’t been able to find it here though. Imagine highly concentrated essence of ginger ale….feels good in the sinuses!

Darren also gave me some other stuff: here are two pieces of petrified wood, just as examples:

When we got back to Sydney, Dad and I tooled around some. I think this explains the relatively low population of Australia:

And I thought the mosquitos were bad in Maine! The Australian Museum of Natural History had a nice mineral exhibit. My crocoite picture is a bit out of focus (can’t always trust autofocus in glass cases!), sorry.

Crocoite, Tasmania

Rhodochrosite, South Africa

Reticulated Cerrusite, Broken Hill NSW

And, surprise surprise!

Mica from Yates-Brooks! I could say “I’ve dug there!”

Finally, Dad and I did the Bridge Climb – well worth the money! They make you wear these funny suits though….


I had a great trip, and am looking forward to hosting Darren and Tully (hopefully!) next year.