Lightning Ridge

Saturday, Mar 20, 2010 at 01:00

Sir Kev

When you mention to people that you are going to Lightning Ridge for a holiday and taking your family as well, you get a few blank looks and cries of “What the HELL for???”.

I have been to Lightning Ridge a few times when growing up (Living less than 300km away helped). Through my involvement with assisting in the organisation of the National Gathering for 2010 in Wiluna WA, and being unable now to attend, there was an opportunity to meet Michelle (you know the EO Boss Lady) in person as she was attending the Outback NSW Tourism Symposium (I called it a Conference), that was being held in Lightning Ridge over the period 22-23 Mar 2010. It was a good opportunity to finally put a real face to a name of someone who I have had a fair bit of email and phone communication with regarding the Gathering, Michelle even invited me to the “Formal” dinner function (Someone needed to chaperone her LOL).

We had my “Outlaws” visiting on Friday evening so had planned to leave sunny Chinchilla Saturday morning to start to head down to Lightning Ridge. Saturday afternoon we arrived in St George, where the record level flood waters had receded enough for us to be able to drive to my parents on the opposite side of the river to the town. The Mozzies and Sandflies were in minimum 1 million body swarms and the kids were not liking the taste of insect repellent ;)

With the most direct route to Lightning Ridge from St George closed due to flooding and the effects of the flooding, we had to make a smallish detour via Mungindi and Moree, then across to Walgett then up to Lightning Ridge.

Sunday morning we headed off from St George, down the Carnarvon Highway to Mungindi, this section of road only opened to vehicles under 5t on the Friday and in many places still badly damaged. Arriving in Mungindi to see the work on the new dual lane bridge over the Barwon River at a standstill due to floodwater. Although the work to date seems to be moving along quite quickly, so the minor 5 minute delay to cross the river may soon be over.

From Mungindi we coasted down to Moree, where we stopped to refuel. This is where our adventure really started ;) When I had finished refuelling and tried to restart Darkie, Darkie would only wind over but not start ? After about 10 minutes of trying basic fault finding checks a call to the ever reliable NRMA was called for. It was quite ironic to be stranded in a Servo with a car that wouldn’t start, it was even better that we were in the shade as the kids were starting to get restless.

When the NRMA arrived we moved Darkie out of the Servo, so as not to annoy the other customers. After another round of fault finding by the NRMA bloke, he declared that the Fuel Cut Out Solenoid at the rear of the fuel pump had died and that we were going NO WHERE at 3pm on a Sunday in Moree ? So the tow truck was called and Darkie delivered to the NRMA workshop which happens to be directly across the road from a Motel that had a Vacancy. After getting the basic essentials off Darkie we settled into a looooooong night in the Motel. A few calls were made, to let people know what was happening (including the place we were supposed to be staying in, in Lightning Ridge)

Monday morning finally arrived and I wandered across to the workshop to find out if and when Darkie would be back on the road, so we could continue on to Lightning Ridge. The NRMA workshop is actually part of the Subaru Dealership, so they didn’t have the diagnostic gear to check if it was in fact the Fuel Cut Off Solenoid to the fuel pump. They recommended I wander down the road to see Craig at A1 Auto Electrics and Air Conditioning to see if he could check it for me. Craig was only happy to come and check it out for me, and confirmed the diagnosis. He then did the call around to see what options I had in regards to getting it fixed. Mr Toyota flatly refused to look at it and said it would require both the Fuel cut out solenoid and immobiliser transponder (which needed to be freighted in from JAPAN), but they would do it in 10 – 14 days time when the part arrived from Japan. Next on the list was Aaron at Diesel Gas Technologies who is also a Fuel Pump specialist ? Aaron was actually fixing another vehicle with the same issue (must be a curse on diesel vehicles in Moree) and he would be able to have us back on the road by lunchtime on Tuesday. Not having much choice, Aaron was told to do what he had to do, to get Darkie back on the road (for a quoted price waaaaaaaaaaaaay under Mr Toyota).

As we had planned a trip to Lightning Ridge and had pre paid for tours etc, I then decided that we would hire a car and go to Lightning Ridge anyway, we would pick Darkie up on the Wednesday morning on the way home.

By chance Hertz had a Rav 4 available so we cross loaded our gear from Darkie, dropped in to see Aaron and hit the road to Lightning Ridge (24 hours later than anticipated). A call to Michelle to confirm we were actually going to arrive was done just before the phone reception was lost as we headed west from Moree. We rolled into Lightning Ridge at about 2:30pm and checked in to the Lightning Ridge Hotel/Motel/Caravan Park.

We had booked a cabin with ensuite and received the mud map of the “Park”. After getting our bearings, Sam and the kids headed for the swimming pool while I headed down to the Bowls Club to finally meet Michelle who was stuck doing a static display for the 1st day of the “Conference”. The display was pretty hard to miss as there was no EO merchandise anywhere and this really short, timid blonde chick was cowering under the table to avoid being noticed by attending delegates (note what she does when away David??). The only thing that gave her away as “Michelle” was the fact that she was wearing an out of date ExplorOz Polo shirt and no-one else in the place was.

After introducing myself as just an interested lurker to this EO caper, I think it finally twigged in Michelle’s head that I am truly MAD. A quick game of 20 questions etc and it seemed like we had known one another for years. I have met quite a few ExplorOz members now and it is one of the most intriguing things I like about being a “Member”, it is almost as if we are family/long time friends when we meet in person for the 1st time, as the common bond of ExplorOz has brought us together. While chatting to Michelle aLightning Ridge EO member appeared, Wolfgang J (NSW) works at the Lightning Ridge Bowls Club and he shared some brilliant photos of his CSR trip that he did last year.

The afternoon session of the “Conference” drew to a close and Michelle and quite a few other delegates of the “Conference” were staying at the same place we were. So a quick introduction of my mob (Sam and the kids) to Michelle and her Parents (Sandi and Colin who had spent the day touring around Lightning Ridge), we ducked over to the Hotel to have a quick drink (Gotta love XXXX Gold on tap) before Michelle and I went to the “Formal” dinner where I tried ever so hard to behave hehehehe

See Michelle’s Blog about the fun and games we had at the “Formal” dinnerMichelle's Blog

Although I was an unofficial attendee, I have never met such a great collection of people (apart from EO), who would freely give tips on how plan things. I am now thinking of some other gatherings that I can organise with a bit of assistance with a couple of the people I met. After they closed the venue and bussed us back to the Lightning Ridge Hotel/Motel/Caravan park, we ended up back at the Hotel which was calling last drinks as we walked in LOL. A few take-aways later and the group settled in outside for some more chit chat. We were eventually moved on from the beer garden.

Tuesday morning arrived and the kids wanted to have a look around and see what Lightning Ridge had to offer. We had a “Tour” booked for the afternoon so without knowing where the tour would go we did a minimal look around, but enough to entertain the kids. The “Tour” of the “Ridge” didn’t start off the best as the tour guide also owned one of the Jewellery shops so we had to endure his hard sell as he took us to his shop first ? But as the tour went on it definitely got better. The kids didn’t like the Black Hand Mine as they were a little overwhelmed with being so far underground and some of the carvings in the rooms were a bit beyond their imaginations. The final place we went to as part of the tour was the Black Queen, it was possibly the only place my kids paid attention. Her performance was quite enthralling and the collection of lamps was unbelievable. A late finish to the tour meant for 2 hungry and tired kids, by the time dinner arrived they were dead on their feet .

Once the kids were fed and put to bed, Sam and I sat down to a chat with Michelle about a wide variety of things, including our thoughts of the 2009 National Gathering we ran in St George. A couple of Bundy's later and it was time to start thinking about finishing the packing ready for an early get away in the morning.

With the sun not yet making an appearance, we loaded the Rav 4 and dreaded the thought of waking two sleeping kids. Once that deed was done we dropped over to say our farewells to Michelle and her parents as well as a few of the remaining delegates from the "Conference".

A quick trip across the Gwydir Highway to Moree saw us arrive at about 9:30am at Diesel Gas Technologies Moree to collect Darkie. Much to my suprise the cost of the repair was well below what Aaron had originally quoted, so much so that even including labour it was cheaper than quoted price of the parts. Aaron and I had a quick chat about things I have had done on Darkie and what ExplorOz is about.

After cross loading once again we headed back into the main Business centre of Moree to return the Rav 4, had a quick coffee in the McDonalds, while the kids blew off some energy in the playground. The kids then appeared saying they had found a Red Back spider in the playground. I had a look and found quite a number of them in the play equipment, after letting the staff know, they promptly closed the playground until they had all the spiders disposed of. Seeing as the kids now had no place to run around we hit the road for Goondiwindi.

Another stop in Goondiwindi so the kids could have an Ice Cream and yet another run around, we eventually headed north up the Leichardt Highway to Moonie and then onto Condamine, where we turned East and headed towards Chinchilla.

In all it was a most stressing trip that we have done in quite awhile but I think as time goes by it will probably become a trip that we will always remember.

It was good to finally meet Michelle and I hope she isn't having nightmares from my antics at the dinner function hehehe

Now I need to get ready and decide what to do for Easter ;)
Russell Coight:
He was presented with a difficult decision: push on into the stretching deserts, or return home to his wife.
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