My Aussie Journey To The Opal Diggings

by Steve Newstrom
(Montana, U.S.A.)

My first stop in Australia in May this year (2009) was in Brisbane to pick up a rental campervan. It was the beginning of a 3 week tour to the opal diggings.

First, the GPS in the campervan unknowingly came unplugged and I spent 2 hours lost on a Brisbane motorway in a busy construction zone during rush hour. Then the petrol cap became jammed on the filler tube and I was unable to put diesel fuel in the campervan. And the ignition key, that unlocks the cap, was stuck in the lock.

So there I was, stuck at the pump, unable to get fuel or move the van. After a good dose of WD-40 I was able to remove the ignition key and backtrack to Toowoomba for repairs.

But as always in Australia you meet some VERY friendly and helpful people and make new friends…so a difficulty turns into an opportunity!

Two days later I made it to the Grawin Opal Diggings near Lightning Ridge. Found some nice gemmy black seam opal, China hat nobbies and some very bright smaller material that will cut small cabs at a very good price. Although the material was hard to come by and the price was dear, never-the-less I spent a delightful Sunday afternoon at the Grawin "Pub in The Scrub" looking at opal parcels and eating a hamburger "with the lot"...tomato, lettuce, onion, fried egg and slice of acquired taste :-))

Rains forced me out of the area early and I was lucky to get away when I did, as roads closed soon after I left. Made the long 3 day trek from Lightning Ridge to Coober Pedy via Broken Hill and Port Augusta.

From when I visited the Coober Pedy area 5 years ago, more than half the opal miners I'd known are no longer opal mining as the new iron, copper, gold and uranium ore mines near Coober Pedy are paying great wages but have unfortunately taken most of the younger opal miners away from the opal mining, so opal was very hard to find and prices discouraging - but I was fortunate to find a couple of nice sized opal parcels and several small opal parcels!


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