It was a really cold night, but with the extra blankets it was OK. Like a lot of sunny mornings, once the sun’s up, it’s warmer outside the van.
We’re in no hurry, as it’s only 80 or 90 kms to Lighting Ridge. There are two ways of getting there, on the main highway via Walgett, or the back road that runs north of Collarenebri. The highway is all the black stuff, the north route is mostly dirt. Justine prefers the former, but as we’ll leave on the Walgett road, I’m keen on another way in.
The river doesn’t seem to be flowing much, and we’re told by one of the other campers, this is due to a weir a bit further down river. Justine points out, the whole time we’ve been here there have been no fish jumping in the water, so not sure there is much life in the river.
A little after 10 we drive out. Collarenebri is a pretty small town. As we drive though we’re treated to an odd issue, two signs to Lightning Ridge, each pointing in the opposite direction (one is the white on green, the other is black on white). I take the latter as this is the backroad.
It’s only about 5 km and we hit the dirt, while the first 5 or 10 km are rough it seems to get better as we drive another 40 or 50km, easily at 80 or 90km/h until we reach a turn off that google maps suggests we can turn left for 30km or straight ahead for 50. I turn Left! Not long and it seems like we’re on a bit of goat track, but it improves and we make good time. We pass a couple of what I’m guessing are locals, and boy they don’t slow down on these roads when passing.
So all up, about an hour and a half later we pull into Lightning Ridge. The Caravan park we’re booked into onto is at the far end of town, but as we are coming in the back way, we reach it first. It seems busy, there must be over 100 sites and as Justine come back from checking in, tell us they are fully booked (A trip over to the visitors centre, and they tell us, there is no accommodation available in the town at all). When booking I suspected the issue to be all these New South Welshman with no other state to visit thinking that Lightning Ridge would be the place to go (hell that’s what I did), but we’re told there are all these people waiting for the Queensland border to open so they can head north. The theory is on the 10th the place will empty out.
After setting up we head into town for a bit of a reccy, boy is it busy, I would think the locals are of two minds about the influx. The local IGA is being stripped, not though panic buying, but the hordes of people. A quick trip over to the visitors centre.
We’ve booked into the Chamber of the Black Hands mine tour, the first opening was Thursday afternoon, boy this place is busy. There is talk about rain out this way on Friday, given they can close dirt roads out this way pretty quickly and there is a lot of dirt between here and Cameron Corner, so plans are may be still be out of our hands.
Earlier evening and we take a walk around the park, on top of the 100+ official camp site, the park as what appears to be another 100 un-powered bush camp sites, and these seem to be pretty full too, not of tents, but caravans, so I suspect a number of people have turned up without a booking and are now a bit surprised.