Adventures to the Grawin Opal Fields including Glengarry & Sheepyard Opal Fields and Lightning Ridge
Date: 19th – 22nd March 2020
Distance: Blue Haven to Grawin and back – approx 1342km
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to visit Lightning Ridge and I was fortunate enough to have recently been given the opportunity to head out that way for a few days. My super awesome friend Tamara who I work with organised for me to go on a trip with her husband, Andrew who has a couple of mates who own a claim in the Glengarry Opal Fields. They were heading out there to drill a new hole to open up an existing underground mine.
The area Grawin Opal Fields are located about 40 km southwest of Lightning Ridge and refer to the group of opal fields made of Grawin, Glengarry, Sheepyard, and Mulga Rush.
What should you take to Grawin Opal Fields?
I made myself a checklist of what I needed to take so I could check it off again when packing up to come home. This list also includes the other items we packed in the truck.
- Wide brim hat
- Camp chair
- Bottled water
- Sleeping Bag
- Fly net
- Portable bbq
- Phone charger
- Fold up table
Chuck all the above items in a large travel bag and you are good to go.
The most important item to take to Grawin Opal Fields
The item I am the happiest about taking is the fly net. OMG! I have never experienced so many flies in my life! They are unforgiving and just stick to your face no matter how much you brush them away. I picked mine up from Freddy’s Fishing World along with a small wide-brim hat. Something to keep in mind with wide-brim hats is you may have trouble getting the fly net over if the hat is too big.
Day 1 – Thursday – The Road Trip
I was keen as mustard to get up there so I stayed at Andrew and Tamara’s place on Wednesday night so we could leave early and beat the traffic. First mistake, some idiot (me) forgot his pillow, which set us back half an hour to go back and get it.
Our first stop was Muswellbrook to meet up with the other Andrews mates, the guys that own the claim. We had a quick brekkie at Maccas and continued on. Drove through towns like Aberdeen and Murrirundi before going through Willow Tree. Andrew mentioned a pub there called the Graze Willow Tree Inn. Apparently, it has the ‘perfect steak’ so we’ll definitely have to stop in on another trip.
We both couldn’t believe how green the landscape was on the way out. I was fully expecting it to be just dry red dirt most of the way, so naturally, I was surprised to see it so green. Talking to the other fellas who have been visiting for over 20 years, they have never seen it so green. It was really nice to see. I was the typical vacationer taking photos the whole way.
We also stopped at Narrabri to get fuel and then again at Walgett to get a few grocery items. Walgett is the closest town to Grawin that has grocery-type shops to get supplies.
With the stops mentioned, the trip took us about 8 hours and we arrived at Grawin around 2:30 pm and wow what a place! It is a landscape that deadset resembles a mix between a moonscape and a scrap metal yard.
There are dirt tracks with shacks set up on every corner using whatever they could find.
The fellas’ camp is no different, a caravan attached to a little shack. I didn’t know what to expect seeing it from the outside but inside it’s amazing! A fully self-contained little space. We got straight into it and got ourselves set up. Barby sorted and got the water running and the solar working. Happy days.
One of the fellas gave me a tour around the joint and within seconds of driving out of the camp, I was lost. It is such a big maze that it’s hard to find your bearings. It’s really cool to see after years of people digging all the piles of rock just laying around along with all of the old school trucks and machinery/tools.
Day 2 – Friday – Drill day and exploring
Beautiful morning… until you walk outside and a million flies land on your face! It was nice to be able to have a fresh shower, even had a coffee waiting for me, you beauty!
The guys organised for the hole to be drilled on Friday rather than Saturday which worked out really well with having the full day Saturday to get the ladder built and installed.
After the hole was dug, we decided to take a tour around the area and do some sightseeing. Interesting place with heaps of little shacks around. No joke, every claim had an old rusty dodge Bedford truck!
Be careful of the cacti! Holy shit they are hectic!
You cannot do a trip to Grawin and not visit the local watering holes! We stopped in at the Club in the Scrub and had a cold one then continued on to the Sheep Inn, having a couple more.
Drove around the tracks some more and came back to camp to help the fellas put the rings in the hole. The holes need to be as safe as possible, so they build corrugated iron rings and insert them in the top of the hole. This helps stabilise the hole from caving in. While the fellas worked on the finishing touches for that, I took the opportunity to scratch around the tailings to see if I could find any potch left behind in previous digs.
Andrew cooked up a storm with some seasoned steak and potato salad. Seeing as we went up in late March, the flies were absolutely terrible, if we had gone up in the colder months, it would have been quite nice to sit outside and have a bbq by the campfire.
The flies went away by the time it gets dark and by dark, I mean pitch black. Living in the city, you don’t know the dark until you visit a place like Grawin. We sat out by the fire and had a few drinks while the fellas told me some cracker stories from the other times they have been up here.
Day 3 – Saturday – A visit to Lightning Ridge
Got up and freshened up with a shower, come out and made some coffee and whataya know, Andrew is already cooking up some bacon and eggs. We ate like kings all weekend thanks to his cooking!
We got ready and drove into Lightning Ridge for some sightseeing. Our first stop was Sunset Opals, then on to the Opal Mine Adventure Walk-In Mine which was really cool to see a working mine. They have a little shop there too where you can buy opals.
Our last stop before heading back to camp was the Opal Bin where we met a lovely lady named Justine where I purchased an opal specimen.
We wanted to check out John Murray but sadly he was closed due to the ‘situation’.
After getting back to the camp late afternoon, we helped shovel the dirt up around the mine shaft so the water doesn’t drain into it. The fellas built a metal ladder to put down the hole, but we didn’t have enough material to stabilise it against the wall of the shaft for it to be safe enough to go down. So we constructed a fence around the shaft so the area is safe. A real shame as I would have loved to go underground.
The old Bedford truck needed some repairs, and of course, while fixing it, parts were misplaced. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking on the ground for them! No luck, unfortunately.
Andrew cooked up a storm again with marinated chicken and rice with some veggies and chorizo through it. Bloody beautiful. After dinner we spent the night by the campfire again, talking shit to each other and having a good laugh.
Day 4 – Sunday – Pack up and drive home
Woke up to another fantastic breakfast being cooked! Our trip sadly came to end and it was time to pack up. We got ourselves organised and put everything back in its place, cleaned up and started locking up. We were on our way back to the coast by just after midday. Stopped in at a few places on the way back for a feed and toilet break and around 9pm I was back home, ready to step back into work the next day.
Overall it was a fantastic trip and I cannot wait to get back up there later in the year around August/September.