Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru is quite possibly the most over-photographed natural wonder in Australia, but I didn’t let that deter me from spending three days driving and walking around and around it looking for the new angle. What I like about this is that the sun had set leaving the moon to provide light. The stars are out though barely discernible at this size of image, and the 30 second exposure allows for the kind of cloud movement I would ordinarily avoid. I feel a roadie to the reddie coming on!

On the same day we had been to Kings Canyon and climbed Heartbreak Hill to the Canyon Rim. A sartorially splendid gentleman stood out, for both his jaunty scarf and ability to look Milan fabulous, and for being a good sport while his partner took a photo.

Massimo was certain a fashion forward pose would conceal his abject terror

Massimo was certain a fashion forward pose would conceal his abject terror


Centre of the world

Nelson, Centre of the World

Nelson, Centre of the World

I had the good fortune to find myself in Nelson, New Zealand, at Christmas. Nelson has a warm spot in my heart for so many reasons. My family lives close by, I got married to a wonderful Aussie there, and I’m pretty sure my forefathers landed there back in the 1800’s on a tiny island called Haulashore (why, oh why, can I not find Aunty Mary’s family history book, at such a time?!). Of more general appeal, is the fact that Nelson is New Zealand’s sunniest town in the Marlborough region, lush with great wine, people, golden beaches and turquoise waters sparkling with luminescent dolphins.

As I wandered about looking for a view that summed up the fabulousness of the place, I fell upon the Centre of New Zealand. As luck would have it, the geographic centre point of New Zealand was on a hill afforded an excellent 360 degree view. What are the chances? Panorama? I say yes.

Named ‘Baldy’ by the clients I had in mind when I created it, I like that this looks like a flower, and the tiny boat on the harbour. I also love those unmistakable kiwi hills. When printed at 40in x 40in (the printing industry still clings to imperial) it’s Where’s Wally Does EPO.


Fear and reward

Lakeside beach

Lakeside beach

I am quietly finning along, snorkelling for the third time that day at Lakeside, on the Ningaloo Reef in the magical Cape Range National Park. If this rings a bell, it is because I harp on about the place incessantly, there is so much life out in the water. Along with Turquoise Bay, it is a favourite with day-trippers. Borne by tour buses, they amble to the spot with the snorkel marker, march directly out for around 30 metres, flop about for 20 minutes, then retire to shore to smoke, look bored with precision, and burn a new layer of ‘it sucks to be my family back in Europe’ into their undernourished frames.

Turquoise smile

Turquoise Bay smile – that little lump on the horizon is the reef

 

It was at Lakeside that I had an epiphany in 2008. With nothing but the rasp of parrotfish beak-on-coral in my ears, my brain found a space to discover I actually wanted to be a photographer. (And a marine biologist – but that ship had sailed). Snorkelling or diving is the only time I truly switch off. Underwater, where air is generally absent, is ironically when I feel most able to breathe. The eternally blue space, without walls or fences, represents endless possibility for me.

So, I am quietly swimming in and around the rocky outcrops, following a fish that completely changes its colour and pattern as I get close or back off, a peeved turtle, 4m ray, and pausing to watch a plague of parrotfish engulf a patch of coral, the tiny territorial resident fish dashing out and back nervously. Just when it could not get any better, a huge school of mackerel and other silvery fish with wide eyes swept past and then started circling me, gaining pace as they went round. I decided to join their circling, and as I went round and round was thinking “Choice! They think Im their bro! I’m a mermaid!”. Amazed they cared not a whit as I whipped by the other fish and matched their crazy changes in direction, I was at once silver and fishy. Then it occurred to me. They are commonly known as bait-fish. And a school of darting bait-fish are probably being chased. Not that those three reef sharks and their homies, Trevor Trevally, and Barry Barra, liked the cut of my gib, but it’s safe to say I found myself ashore with no recollection of the breathless flail between realisation and landfall.

 

not my pjs

view to the west

When we returned to our camp, we shared a beverage with our lovely Swiss neighbour, J, a fellow water-baby with designs on the outer reef. He had travelled for some months around WA in his wagon, sleeping in the back, and reliant on a dwindling collection of camping ephemera. As days rolled by he realised he only used one plate, cup, knife, fork and spoon. Subsisting happily on long-life wraps, honey, nutella, and canned goods, his camp stove, multiple devices of convenience and esky (chilly bin) found new homes with the Belgians that packed every other camp site.

J wanted buddies to go and explore the outer reef. He had gone out on his own but was worried he may be…ahem…taken, and no-one would know. Fortified with a zesty cider from Harcourt in Victoria, I found myself consulting tide and moon charts and committing both W and I to an outer reef expedition with the excitement I always have when an adventure of any kind is afoot, and drive I have to never miss out.

Cape Range National Park

Cape Range National Park

The following day, in the last 30 minutes of an incoming tide was the only opportunity in the next 7 days, when the tide would be high enough to swim over the reef edge. J knew the way and so three small figures swam out to the reef, quickly invisible to those on shore. The thing about a reef is that waves from the outside hit the edge, rise up and then smash down. Along with a titan tidal-pull, I found myself swimming two strokes forward, getting drilled by excitable waves, then dragged back 4 strokes, enjoying a nasal flush along the way. I don’t think it is a spoiler alert to say we made it, and the silence on the other side was astounding. The water clarity, unmatched. A long shelf of volcanic rock and an amazing variety of coral sat around 15 metres below us and ran out about 40 metres before dropping off into Predator World. As we followed the edge of the reef, we swam over enormous cracks in the reefs surface, so deep you could only see fish in the first few metres framed by blackness. Think awe meets terror. Leaving a sacrificial layer of dermis on the way back over the reef edge, we plotted to do it the next day, knowing full well the ideal conditions to go over the reef, had past.

Again at dusk, three figures headed out, this time for an elusive gap in the reef that we could sneak through. It was a much longer swim and after about a kilometre, I found myself musing on the relative benefits of such activities. There are bitey things out there, but I figure the risk versus reward profile points in the right direction. I never take the ocean for granted, and I accept the side of scaredy-cat that comes with the incredible beauty I get to breathe in.

The welling surf and sinking sun loomed large in my overactive mind.  Stuff incredible beauty inhalation, I waved the boys on and with a feeling like there wasn’t enough air in the sky, swam to shore with an urgency that just skirted fish-in-distress. It is great to be alive.


Camping for Princesses Part 3 – Attire

Nothing about this is OK

Nothing about this is OK

I’ve never been that person that shows up to an airport with just carry-on for a 10 day trip and emerges every day of that trip in fresh and fit-for-purpose outfits, from trail to resort. I am the person with my bathroom scales at the front door, chucking things out to make the weight limit, as my driver revs the engine in the driveway. I then get to my destination with NOTHING to wear.

You can imagine camping and roadtrips send me into a whole new level of luggage anxiety. I can report, however, on this last trip up north, I almost cracked the code. This is what I know.

photo

Puffy love

Puffy Vest – In the West and NT over summer is roasting hot. See posts about Karratha, and any destination north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Every trip, my trusty down puffy vest pleads to come along. I relent, given its ability to reduce to the size of a medium sized potato, and imperceptible weight. Barring the months June to August, it stays stuffed in a corner of my bag, and only on winter nights does it get to bathe in the dancing light of the campfire. Vests are an excellent layering item. Pop on top of a short or long sleeve tee, and you have instant Sporty Person Does Semi-Formal. Heck, I even feel sportier wearing it. Mind the errant campfire embers. With a fffssspt and whiff of industrial plastics, you have little burn holes in your new favourite wardrobe item. Think North Face or Eddie Bauer, leave Burberry and Gucci at home for Saturday brunch in the zesty chill of an outdoor table in Melbourne.

red centre dawn

Boyfriend jeans, husband’s wool jersey, runners. No.

Its a fine line between practical and as a dear friend of mine would say, “No, darling”. If there is any red dust in your future, it will be drawn to your outfit like a lemon wedge to Corona. Do not even bother bending at the waist and extending arms to full stretch during basecamp construction. I can attest this attempt to escape contact with road-weary surfaces is a futile endeavour. Rather, look at every item with a view to a dusty outcome. It can be tempting to wander into one of those outdoor stores staffed by wiry rock-climbers, and deck yourself out in ‘performance fabrics’ that dry in an hour. This path leads you to a land of zips, velcro, and an storm of static electricity. Grab the aforementioned down puffy vest in black, and run for your life. A couple of years ago I was in Broome, and, desperate for hardy earth-coloured clothing, happened across a store that had the largest collection of active travel/outdoor clothing I had ever seen. I dashed from rack to rack and caught in the frenzy, carried out 3 pairs of cargo style shorts and 2 quick-dry shirts. Rounded out with my otherwise cool cowboy sun-hat, I felt positively stylin’. Then I got home and realised this would be a look that struggles to transfer to my metro existence. They sit on death row, awaiting their trip to the Salvos.

It seemed like a great idea at the time

It seemed like a great idea at the time

Tops – Think neutrals, earth tones, landed gentry on safari, and explorers, and the opportunity for a pop of vibrancy around your head. Proceed with haste to Target. Snap up great little tank tops and cargo style cap sleeve tees featuring metal buttons and tabs for about $7 on sale in varying colours. I have a Bonds khaki singlet with built-in bra from Coles that refuses to die. It pilled from Day One, but shows no dirt, works with plaid shorts (a miracle pattern where dirt is concerned), can be walked in for hours, yet perks up with some statement earrings for a rare counter meal at that beacon of food that is unholy – The Roadhouse. Take two white tees or singlets. They will turn grey from the campground washing machines, and brown from dust, but snooker them away in a sealed pocket and bring them out when you think you can take no more. Defying sense with a fresh white tee is an unparalleled gift to a dusty spirit.

Bottoms – Shorts need to be comfortable but hip slouchy loose is a no-no and cargo pants are no good for cargo. If you are walking for hours you will never put things in the multiple pockets of a pair of cargo shorts. Loose shorts need yanking up all the time. Err on the well fitted side, with a hint of stretch, in dark colours or zany plaid or checks.

Footwear – Thongs/flipflops/jandels are indispensible for avoiding contact with shower surfaces, a break from the close confines of walking shoes, and perfect for stumbling about in the night. Birkenstocks are a hidden gem for long periods of walking, when you dont need serious grip. Coming in a myraid of colours and finishes like patent and metallics, they swing from day trail to dinner. They dont love a dip in the ocean, but otherwise up for all sorts of abuse. When walking through long grass or bush trails, closed shoes are advisable. Choose camo patterns with a pop of pink or something that hides dirt because those new Nike Airs in lime and amethyst will be ruined day 3.

outback glam

Accessories – Hats are vital yet can be hot. I love my Akubra, but it is only bearable in winter. Panamas are a perfect blend of practical shade, safari style and the genuine article is hardy enough to bounce back from being stuffed in the back seat pocket. Take a watch that loves having sunscreen, sweat, and dust washed off – bright colours and rubber are good. Take cheerful earrings – I have a pair of jointed hula dancers that scream outback adventure.

I’ve saved the biggest tip for last. If you ignore everything up to here, ignore this last tip at your peril. Buy a fly net thing that sits on top of your hat. They can be bought for about $5 and their bang for buck is unmatched. I can put up with many things, but flies in facial openings send me over the edge. I swear this tiny investment saves marriages. As the sun sets, your beekeeper-meets-mourning accroutrement will attract envy.

130406_untitled_1759

Not uncommon to forget I have it on, and drink through the mesh.


Bungled

Bungle Road

The Bungle Bungle National Park is one of those places I’ve saved up. It hasn’t been on the way anywhere, and was part of the decision to take the route we did back to Perth. I envisaged much photography, angles, light changes, vistas, dawns and dusks. You know where this is going. We arrived at the entrance to the National Park, and barely slowing to 40 to dump the trailer, hit the dusty trail to the Bungle Bungle World Heritage rock formation, Purnululu. A brain rattling 90 minutes later we met sunset at the park. At these times it is a blessing W sets an 8km walking pace. We had 60 minutes of daylight left and about 8km of trails to walk. Breaking into a breathy jog, I kept pace with the diminishing sherpa who had the camera and the keys, certain my brain was now pinballing around my skull with every footfall.

The face of Another-Incredible-World-Heritage-Listed-Natural-Wonder-Fatigue

I admit right here that that was all the time we gave the Bungles. Even as I look back now I think perhaps the heat got to me. Maybe I need to return.

Meanwhile, the driver fidgeted, revved, and Broome called.

.

I love spinifex. Its ability to grow in rock, without water, to bounce back when flattened by fire. For such a soft looking plant, it is strikingly spikey. Between Purnululu and Broome I plotted to introduce a mass planting to our home garden. If anything could make a home between concrete tiles and arid sandiness, spinifex would be it.

spinifex regrowth

On the approach to Broome I once again discovered the paucity of available campground sites in NT campgrounds. Thundering past a newly established place 20 minutes out of Broome, I ordered the unthinkable. A u-turn. Brand new, modern, groovy, ablutions, kilometres of washing line, neighbours far enough away to be spared their symphony, and a communal fire-pit surrounded by generous characters offering education and home-made liquor (I learnt the difference between a bourbon and a scotch was simply the ‘flavour’ you add), made Broome’s Gateway unforgettable. And then we went one better.

We can thank friends living in Broome for recommending one of the best tours I have done hands down: Greg Quickes Astro Tour. I don’t hitch my wagon to tours as a rule, but this rocked. It wasn’t quite dusk as we enthusiastically make our way to a spot near a quarry a few KMs out of Broome. Luckily Greg had spotted Saturn and peering into the telescope, I saw what appeared to be a cut-out of Saturn. Checking the outside of the lens for a sticker, I looked again. Back to Greg. Back to the telescope. And here is where my artistic brain strains to wrap around the idea that the sky is blue but in the telescope it is black. I blame the 4WD brain air hockey. As other people arrived for the tour, they took turns peering at Saturn. Without fail, every person looked. Pulled back. Asked if it was sticker. Looked again. And the tour began. Multi-coloured jewels, millions of stars filling the viewfinder, navigating south by the southern cross, the Milky Way. No horoscope sign omitted, no question left unanswered. As the mercury plummeted to an eerie 14, (Broome was still 26) coats appeared and hot chocolate administered, I realised the best tour we had done hadn’t actually moved from one spot. Do it.


Where the crowds go to get away

Authentic industrial design, dangling in a tent near you

You know it is time to head to the big smoke when your Sauvignon Blanc is warm because your fridge has gone flat.

Darwin’s waterfront development had a stroke of the Docklands about it. Right on the harbour, the main restaurant area appeared to offer little more than ridiculously overpriced food-court fare, the neon yellow deep fried tidbits glowing radioactively under the fluorescents. A perfectly balmly night, the wharf cried out for a jug of sangria, some coastal peasant fare, light banter, and a surfeit of dangly earrings swinging from tanned lobes.

Perhaps my expectations were heightened after days without a shower block, and time spent calling every camp ground in Darwin trying to find a powered site.  We gave up and drove to the campground with Darwin’s last tent site. The campground was enormous, and upon closer inspection, appeared largely inhabited by permanents. Charging the most we have ever paid to rent a piece of grass, the owners took an entrepeneurial approach to satisfying our energy requirement. Magically discovering an extra powered site they didnt have earlier, they directed us to a spot behind the toilets, motioning to set up there and plug into the toilet block. Thankfully, the affable resident in the nearest canvas structure had the requisite 100 metre extension cord so we could reach along the building, up the wall, and through a cavity into the powerpoint in the laundry.

Buley Rockhole: multiple spots for refreshment

Litchfield is only 130km from Darwin, and a wonderful alternative to Kakadu. All the beauty and wonder of its more popular sister, but all the better for its more rugged exterior, the 4WD camping weeding out anyone in possession of a generator. Waterhole upon waterhole beckoned, monitor lizards scowled at the edge, and I simply did not want to leave. That is, until tiny bitey black slugs attached themselves to my person, as I swam in the Avatar style pools. It was all I could do to get the leech scene from the movie Stand by Me out of my head. A snake whistled by, and I levitated.

Greenants. Best left out of your hair.

As two full days drew to a close, we had one last place to discover. Tjaynera Falls at Sandy Creek, fringed by paperbarks and palms beckoned from the end of a challenging 4WD track. Campground conversation warned against taking a trailer, or even the Prado down there, due to the depth of river crossings. Undeterred, we drew up to the first crossing where seven vehicles had stopped, and a clutch of sleeve tattooed men in boardies and singlets stood at the top discussing the approach options. A shirtless young guy cast off his flop flops, and stubbie aloft, waded past the crocodile warning sign, to find the deepest spot for the benefit of the clutch. Silence fell, a flurry of nylon, and all bounded for their vehicles to be first over the lip.

Intrepid

I don’t care how stuck we get. I’m not leaving the vehicle.

Bourke St

When the headcount at the Falls made 20, we gathered ourselves and made for the car. It was lunchtime, and we would make Lake Argyle by sundown.


Kakadu North

Seed pods, Merl Campground, Kakadu

Our time at Club Croc drew to a close, but we felt we had not plundered the full depth of Kakadu. We ventured North to the Merl campground where countless people told us we would be carried away by mosquitoes.

Palm seeds, post fire, Kakadu

Thundering along the road we heard a thump around the trailer. I was pretty certain no animal had met an untimely end so we concluded investigation would be in order. We paced around the trailer mystified, until I found a chain protected by heavy duty fabric dangling jauntily from the frame of the trailer. “What’s this for?”, I asked, swinging it around my finger. W said he hadn’t noticed it before. At about the same time we realised it was dangling from the spot where the spare tyre used to be, and 2 seconds later noted a black scrape on a corner of the trailer. Clearly suffering the same brain rattling experience I endured on the 4WD roads, the spare had made a bid for freedom, glancing off the metal case where the fridges live, and bouncing off into the underbrush. We immediately jumped in the car and retraced our steps, drawing to a halt at the point of ejection, behind a guy in a minivan beating a hasty retreat. We never recovered the tyre but were richer for the knowledge of where the wrapped safety chain should have been employed.

Ubirr rock plateau kakadu

Out of our remote camp ground we realised Kakadu is teeming with gorges and swimming holes filled to the waterline with backpackers, parents, and peeing youth conveyed via bus. Worse than Bondi on a filming day, all I could think about was the poor little freshwater crocs hiding at the bottom waiting for everyone to go home. I realised THIS was the Kakadon’t people talk about.

Undeterred, we took off up north where Kakadu borders Arnhem Land and an “All hands in the boat!!” cruise up the East Alligator River, allows you to appreciate the watchful golden eye of many a saltie at close range. At nearby Ubirr, rangers tell stories, and hundreds of people climb the nearby rock plateau in the movie footsteps of Crocodile Dundee who took Sue up there to show her ‘his territory’. Rounding off the day with a feast of unexpectedly fabulous authentic Thai food from the Border Store, we repaired to the campground to erect the tent just after sunset, when the mozzies were at their zenith.

Waving not drowning
East Alligator River, Kakadu/Arnhem Land

Emptying a can of pleasingly noxious flyspray into our sleeping quarters, I remained there until the inevitable odyssey to the ablutions block was upon me. Blithely wandering off into the dark without a torch, I spent 30 minutes circumnavigating the frustratingly organically planned campground. By the time I found our spot again, I had benefited from ribald snatches of german and french conversation as I passed, and lost the battle with mosquitoes the size of small birds.

Mamukala Wetlands Kakadu

The next morning, we squeezed in a trip to the Mamukala Wetlands, which I realise are what I have always thought Kakadu would look like everywhere. Swathes of water lillies and water birds were just too far away for me to get a great shot, but it certainly made me want to jump in a tinny and putt around.

Palm Seeds, Kakadu


The other Queensland

Not ready to release my grip on the coast, I lobbied for a night at a town renamed in 1970 to a number (once known as Round Hill), to commemorate the second landing by James Cook on the HM Bark Endeavour.  Queensland Roads has clearly struggled with references to the tiny coastal village of 1770, variously referring to it as Seventeen Seventy and The Town of 1770, to distinguish its name from the distance it will take to get there. With 300 days of  sunshine a year, and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, I marvelled that this relaxed gem of a swimming, fishing, crabbing spot had not yet been plunged into the shadow of a multi-story development. At sunset, people march fitfully down to the beach with their camping chairs and stubbies to witness the earths rotation away from the sun. Armed with a chilly beverage, I elected to enjoy the moment from the perfectly unassuming beachside restaurant deck, and conclude enthusiastically to strangers that this was precisely the kind of deck I always wanted.

We often get our best itinerary inspiration via strangers extolling virtues, or more often grim commentary, or one place or another. Carnarvon Gorge had various warnings about some road closures, as a result of the Queensland floods, but claimed 2WD and caravans could get in, so we would romp in. The mud bath of a road, grey skies and damp surroundings evaporated as soon as a wee echidna crossed our path. A local ranger gathered campers each night around a huge fire, for a chat about the place, its heritage, 20,000 year old Aboriginal rock art, giant ferns (Angiopteris) and tiny orchids. Most of the gorges and spots to walk to lead off from a 22 km return walk up the riverbed with multiple river crossings. The ranger cautioned against doing them all in one day, or even tackling the increasingly trickier rock hopping. I had looked at a 5 day tour (often a good way to plan your own trip). As the words left his mouth, I somehow knew the Team Expresso Tour would knock the lot off by afternoon tea the next day.

I lasted about 34 minutes before the first foot went in the drink. By noon, the meagre provisions had halved to one piece of chocolate and a mandarin, but the magical, other worldly, ancient places we got to see were worth every step Sherpa Tense-ing dragged my tripod, and multiple heavy lenses. By 3pm, we were back at the info centre with plummeting good humour along with our blood sugar, and unspoken expectation that there better be some photography magic in that 25 kilo backpack. Flat light all day told me it would be magical in our minds alone.

Moss Garden magic at Carnarvon National Park


Vegas bound

I am 9 days on the road, a day away from my target, and the sciatica plaguing my right butt cheek to back of knee is threatening to lure me from my active driving position to stop at every roadside lay-by and channel Annie, my physio, who would optimistically encourage me to engage those muscles that have lain fallow for almost 48 years.

The road from Lightning Ridge to BrisVegas is paved with many roadworks, diluting my goal to reach ‘Vegas by sundown, and compelling the selection of a suitable roadside sleeping point. Moonie Crossroads called me. From the care in selection of signwriting font, to accuracy of grammar, and claim to clean loos, I was easily drawn in.

Laying claim to Australia’s Largest Wild Pig Display, I was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the people who sought and killed said animals. Booking a room in the single bed wing, I circumnavigated the caravan park/accommodation area 4 times, watched by two guys on the verandah of their unit – clutching tinnies, craning their necks, and offering no assistance – then grid-searched the staff quarters around a pile of retired highway signage, reconsulted the mud map roadsign, and finally gave in, returning to the servo to query the harried, but terribly pleasant, young man at the till. Moments later found me starfished, all four extremities of my person hanging over the bed, laid out by a takeaway pudding from Lightning Ridge, and a ‘Yoga Tea’ sachet from a half price box I purchased in Renmark, Victoria, bestowing longevity and overall wellbeing on those who drank it. Om.

In the morning, as I sped away from the triumph of taxidermy Moonie Crossroads represented, I decided my last day of solitude would make the most of listening to stuff W wouldn’t sit through, and the eternal educational improvement of my unworthy and easily-led-into-temptation soul. Terrifying myself with podcasts on industrial seed-oils, grain misdemeanours, and sugar, the evil clothed in white, a colour one equates with all that is pure and good, I feared I needed something truly frivolous lest I confirm life without bubbly wine and lemon meringue pie was simply without value. I had never seen fields of cotton until I neared Brisbane, and I couldn’t help stopping to examine it, feel it, and consider the implication of the lives lived in the US South, snatching me back from the precipice of being the shallow twat I was. My gratitude journal flamed.


Striking

Lightning Ridge is quite different from Coober Pedy. I wrongly assumed the singular pursuit of opal would render them similar, and indeed the fever is the same, but Lightning Ridge feels different. As in any small town, locals are entirely up to date on each others movements and motivations, yet if you were to ask where one would find so-and-so, nobody has seen or heard of them.

Many people live in ‘camps’, on pieces of land they pay an annual lease for, are entitled to mine, but not erect permanent buildings upon. This results in the creation of  living quarters gaining sophistication with the years that pass under the leasees habitation. The resulting structures, made of local stone and second-hand materials, are stripped of the superfluous and sparely beautiful. Every wall, cup, and mat has been made, gained or bartered for with purpose, earnt its place, and speaks to the spirit of those that live there.

There are, of course, a myriad of tours and attractions for the visitor and I was lucky enough to be superbly hosted by generous long-term residents I & S, who ferried me from one to the next and rounded out the experience with a gastronomic tour of the eateries. I cannot imagine ever finding a better affogato or lemon meringue pie or a bar filled with as interesting faces and stories.

The attractions have a character all their own. Ranging subjects and hosts from the early 20th century to current day, you cannot leave without an indelible impression. The bottle house, of german design, is crammed to the rafters with nostalgia for anyone born in the last century, and manned by the gentleman who built, and once upon a time, resided there.

The ‘Chamber of Hands’ is a curiosity of carvings by one man, using the walls of an old mine, that inexplicably weaves from the Simpsons and Spiderman, through various animala, to the egyptian tombs.

In stark contrast to most of the lodgings I have endured on my trip, the accommodation was not only cheaper than Bourke and Broken Hill, it felt like you were staying at someone’s house – safe, comfortable, thoughtfully put together, and super clean. Survival tip: make sure you park like the locals – angle parked and reversed in. A lovely octogenarian parked next to me alerted me to the fact I was both flouting street rules, AND positioned too close to him. I enquired as to why everyone had to park reverse angled and he replied sagely “because that’s how we’ve always done it”.

Love it or hate it, if Lightning Ridge doesn’t strikes a chord with you, you are surely made of stone.