No trip to Lightning Ridge is compete without a visit to the opal fields of Grawin. This is real outback opal mining country. Probably how Lightning Ridge itself would have been in the early days. Look it up on the map, it really is out there on its own…
The Ridge to Grawin
The Grawin opal fields lies about 30km as the crow flies from Lightning Ridge more or less south-west. But it still takes almost an hour to get there as there is no direct road. Heading south on the main road out of The Ridge there is a small road just past Stanley the Emu. This brings you to the small village of Cumborah. From there you head north for about 17km then take a left turn onto unsealed roads for Grawin. Not only are the roads unsealed from this point they are also quite rough in places. It is manageable in a 2 wheel drive vehicle but low profile cars are likely to take a beating.
Grawin opal fields is a genuine example of a living, working pioneer town. It appears more a collection of homes and mines with the odd service industry. But it is still home to enough people with that frontier spirit that built countries like Australia. There is a petrol station and shop as well as several pubs. All built by the miners who have come and gone over the years, or have stayed on.
There is even a nine hole golf course – of sorts.
Orange Car Door Tour
We stopped in the famous Club in the Scrub for a light refreshment while Dani bought an ‘opal’ ring for his cousin Susana. (Which reminds me, where did we put that?).
There are two other pubs in the Grawin fields. One is called The Sheepyard Inn, jokingly referred to as ‘the best baaaaa in the outback’. The third is the even more humorously named Glengarry Hilton. But who is to say that others won’t pop up in the near future. These are classic outback pubs. Great places with great characters and all built by the pioneering miners. I am not saying that I could live in such a place but I would certainly go back in an instant. All of them offer accommodation and hearty meals. as well as cold liquid refreshment.
This is classic outback. Frontier stuff. I have read about the first community buildings that different nationalities erect when they settle down to make a new town. It goes something like this: The first thing Americans build is a school, while the English always built a shop first. In this part of the world I guess the first focal point for the community to be built is a pub.
The road back to Lighting Ridge was the same, via Cumborah. There is nothing worth stopping for in Cumborah. Not even a pub as far as I could tell. Yet in this part of the world there are many similar tiny towns that do have the classic outback pub. The most famous one is perhaps the Carinda Hotel which was used by David Bowie to film the video for his 1983 hit ‘Let’s Dance’.
Check out that pub in the music video on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbD_kBJc_gI
We would go on to see quite a few interesting outback pubs over these school holidays.