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