Lightning Ridge was out of our way but we decided to detour into the town as it has a hot spring pool. We stopped at the tourist information centre to find out where the pool was. As Adrian was talking to the woman behind the counter I was looking though the brochure. I picked one up for ‘Chambers of the Black Hand’. With a name like that you would think it is going to be spooky and if I hadn’t seen the photos on the brochure I would have thought the same. The Chambers of the Black Hand is an opal mine. The owner has turned the 100 year old mine into a sculpture gallery. On the brochure it states, “Walk among 18 years of one man’s Passion.” “We cannot begin to tell you what this is like. You will stand in awe and just marvel at the energy, imagination and the art that surrounds you.” How could anyone pass that up? On the back of the brochure it said there were no afternoon tours in the off season. Dam, it was 11.15 now. I gave them a quick call and they said if we could get there quick we could have a self guided tour. I asked for directions and we were on our way. I did start to think whether it would be worth it or not as it was going to be $35 per person. How much did I wont to see the art? I figured we probably wouldn’t be back any time soon so why not.
It didn’t look like much when we rocked up. Thankfully there was plenty of space to park the car and van. We often think twice about seeing thing because we are unsure about if we can get the car and van in and out. (Note to tourist people; add a sign to let people know if you can turn a car and van around. You may get more people.)
When I saw the stairs down into the mine I did wonder about Adrian and his back. He assured me he would be fine so down we went.
The gift shop is the first and the last chamber you enter. The staff member greeted us and told us to be quick. Nicely he only charged us for one as we only had the half hour.
The brochure was right, “We cannot begin to tell you what this is like.” It is hard to describe what wonders you walk into. Carved into the side of the wall and some on the ceiling, are an amazing array of sculptures and paintings. Over 700 of them. The artist (who’s name doesn’t appear on the brochure) often takes suggestion from the tourist and is constantly adding to the collection of carvings. The brochure quotes “Life is not measured by the breath we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” That pretty much sums it up. I was blown away with the carvings. We walked from one chamber to another, each one with something amazing in it. It is not just one here and one there. There didn’t seem to be a spare section of wall left unadorned. If the wall was not suitable for a carving it was painted instead. Most chambers had a theme to them. I didn’t count how many chambers there were but it would have been easy to get lost if you weren’t paying attention to where you were going.
It even has a 10 ft high Buddha.
Probably my favorite piece was the ‘Weeping Lion of Lucerne (Lion Monument)’ I have seen the original. This one is not as big but very impressive non the less.
The original ‘Weeping Lion of Lucerne’ is of a giant dying lion, which has been carved into a sandstone rock wall on the edge of Lucerne. The lion is dedicated to the Swiss guards who lost their lives protecting the French king Louis XVI during the French Revolution (1789 – 1799.) The lion was carved between 1820/21 and stands 6m high and 10m long. The area where the lion now sits was once a quarry, with the stone being used to build the town. Now days it is a great tourist attraction.
Most of the sculptures aren’t as dramatic as the Weeping Lion. Most are just fun.
I loved the mine and it is defiantly on my list of things to come back and see but next time we will make sure we have more time.
After the mine we made our way to the hot spring pool. Our luck was with us again as there wasn’t anyone at the pool, leaving the car park with plenty of room for me to pull the van in and out without any problems. We grabbed a quick lunch before going for a swim.
The water comes form the Great Artesian Basin and is approximately two million years old.
The groundwater was discovered in 1878 and range from 100 to 2000 meters deep with water temperatures ranging from 30 to up to 1000C. The Basin is said to be the world’s largest freshwater basin containing approximately 8,700 million megalitres of water. Some people believe the water has therapeutic properties. The Lightning Ridge bore bath was opened in 1962 and the temperature varies from 40 to 460C. The information board at the pool told us “A relaxing soak in this mineral rich water is the best remedy for soothing away your aches and pains.” That was why we were here. Adrian slipped into the hot water and with seconds had a smile on his face. No pain.
I went for a quick dip and then got out. It was too hot for me. Adrian stayed in as long as he could. I left him to it and amused myself with taking photos of a butterfly and a bird taking a bath.
We stayed at the pool for about an hour. Adrian finally emerged from the water, red all over. Unfortunately his back pain started to come back almost straight away. We had been told of another hot pool with a bush camp. It sounded great so we checked wiki camps and it agreed. We plugged the bush camp into our GPS system and we were on our way.
As we turned back onto the highway we saw a large emu statue made out of old VW cars. Ok you may need a little bit of imagination to really see it and it will depending on where you stand. The statue has been named Stanley and it was originally bound for Birdsville but ended up at Lightning Ridge. The bit I like the best about the statue is a time capsule has been placed inside of Stanley to be open in 2063.
About 10 ks down the road I had to slow down. Why? Emus.