Quaaaaaaack! It was distinctive! Definitely a duck! So what’s so unusual about that, I hear you cry? Well, apart from being in the middle of the night when most good ducks should be sleeping, it was heard while bathing in the hot bore baths of Lightning Ridge opal fields, western New South wales
Mind you, on a freezing night after a hard days work digging for that elusive opal gem, as your body luxuriates in the steaming underground water of outback Australia, there are many sounds to be heard. Some of them legible. Others quite muted. This hot pool exemplifies the amazing mix of international people living together in one small town with a common interest of finding opal. Amazingly everyone seems to get along quite well and mostly forget old differences from their homes in Europe.
Listen carefully and you will note groups of men and women at the perimeters of the round pool, chatting in the languages or strong accents of the countries they abandoned to search for opal in Australia. Russians, Croatians, Serbians, Greeks, Italians, Africans, Germans, to name a few. And it seems that the obsession with finding black opal has forced them to leave there old hatreds behind in Europe.
But the duck? Well… to tell you the truth, it was a fake duck! You see, the story is really not that important. Just belly bouncingly funny that’s all. And it has to do with a good mate of mine, Roger, who prides himself in his ability to mimic Disney’s Donald Duck.
The duck sound itself might have gone unnoticed, but my comical mate had to follow up the noise with a clear, although somewhat cheeky version of “ahhh shut up”… Suddenly the pool became quiet.
Actually, the ‘bore baths’ as they are called, are but one of numerous interesting things to visit in the town of Lightning Ridge. Famous for its black opals, the ‘Ridge’ is also known for its laid back lifestyle, boasting nationalities from nearly every corner of the world, who, by and large, get on a lot better than what they did in their previous countries.
The town is full of all sorts of eccentric characters and is a photographers dream. The land surrounding and throughout the town is strewn with the carcasses of old motor cars and trucks in various stages of dismemberment, having been turned into a variety of different machines for the purpose of processing opal. If you’ve got a good sense of humor, and a passion for opals, you will enjoy a visit.
However Lightning Ridge, like all Australian outback opal towns, is a long way from civilization. You can learn a lot more about it online by a visit to the Opalmine site. Details in the Resource box below.