Bike Odyssey
Sydney to Darwin 2001

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Journal for 7-Jul-2001 : Lightning Ridge
Date: 07/07/2001 (Location=Lightning Ridge, Dist=89km, Total=908km)
Woke at somtime very early AM. Pat rafter had just broken back against Andre Agessie to level at 6 al in the fifth set at Wimbledon, and Steve Waugh was 102 n.o. at Edgabaston. It took an hour to get back to sleep I was so excited.

For short time at the start today we got feel what it's like to ride with a tailwind. By 10 it was a slow grind again.

Lots of emus by the road, and flocks of sheep next to the unfenced roads. Barking at them is a great way of shooing them off the road ahead, but even though they ignored cars, car horns and trucks, two middle aged cyclists generally scared them witless. The road from Coonamble to Walgett is a stock route, so peridocially we came across herds of cows grazing semi-supervised of the road verges. A "Ye-Har" is needed to get these guys moving. The warning sign of this was an old car bonnet/hood bearing the
following message smeared in blood: "You love your car, I love my cows, DRIVE SLOWLY!!".

Met Neil, a "General Manager" with the Commonwealth bank doing a tour of their (remaining) rural bank branches.

Near the highway turnoff to Lightning Ridge is a monument explaining how the area got it's name. Supposedly a flock of 600 fluffy white sheep were instantly converted to crunchy black lamb cutlets with a single bolt from the sky. Sounds a bit fishy to me. "No Sir, I did not sell your sheep over the border in Queensland, they were happily grazing away on that ridge and they were killed instantly by a bolt of lightning".

Lightning ridge is an interesting town to say the least. It's an opal mining centre, but is different from Coober Pedy in a few important ways, not the least significant being that "the Ridge" has both trees and grass. There are no underground houses here (that I could see), but that doesn't mean there are necessarily any building regulations. Lack of planning controls have allowed residents to construct their dwellings out of glass bottles, old trams, old trains and in one case construct a complete 12th
century European castle. However the most common type of residential dwelling is a fre-fab kit home. There are a lot of large and thriving commercial buildings and businesses in the centre of town, far more that needed to support the few streets of actual houses. The sign at the entrance to town proudly proclaims "Lightning Ridge: Population ?". Apparently about 1200 people are registered to vote here, but 10000 collect mail from the Post Office. Very few of the "residents" bother themselves with unec
essary red tape like GST, BAS, TAX etc. It's Australia's concept of a tax haven. Just out of the official town are a myrad of tracks and opal mine workings, most of which have a caravan and accomodate the not so phantom population. The concept of street numbers here is generally regarded as rather too formal. The track to your lot is identified by an appropriately coloured car door hanging from a tree.

David F

P.S. At the Walgett Bowling club served me 2/3rds of cow, seven hundred chips, and pile of veges, potatoes, a salad, and probably a few things under that lot I never got to. This might explain the shape of most of the club's patrons.

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