Chambers Of The Black Hand

One of the most amazing sites in Lightning Ridge is the Chambers of the Black Hand. When opal miner Ron Canlin bought an unwanted mine in Lightning Ridge in 1982, he dreamt of making a fortune by uncovering rich seams of precious stone. These days the 66-year-old miner’s imagination is filled, not with glittering opal but with the angels, goblins and religious figures he carves into its sandstone walls. As a source of opal the mine was a flop – yielding just $27,000 in 25 years of toil. But the endless supply of bare sandstone has proved to be the perfect canvas for a form of sculpture that is attracting tourists from across the country.

Using the tools of his trade – a jackhammer and pickaxe – and a few kitchen utensils, Canlin turned his seemingly worthless mine into an eclectic underground sculpture gallery. The result is The Chambers of the Black Hand, a set of catacomb-like rooms where dinosaurs, goblins and wizards and figures such as Nostradamus and the Archangel Gabrielle emerge eerily from the walls. The sandstone is perfect for this kind of work – it’s stable, but very malleable.

Lightning Ridge

Lightning Ridge is a town in north-western New South Wales near the southern border of Queensland. The Lightning Ridge area is the world-renowned centre of the mining of black opals, found nowhere else in the world. The name Lightning Ridge is said to have originated when in the 1870’s some passers by found the bodies of a farmer, his dog and 200 sheep which had been struck by lightning.

They have an interesting way of showing visitors around the place – the car door tours. Basically, you look for a coloured car door and then follow the numbers for that colour. So the red car door tour will have red car doors numbered 1 to 9 and each car door is next to an item of interest. Same for the green, blue and yellow car door tours.

It is a crazy place with things like ‘Lunatic Ridge’, where only the crazy miners mined because it was so deep to get to the opals, houses made of beer cans and bottles, 50 metre high metal emus … and much more.


Coonabarabran is the best base to view the Warrumbungle National Park. This is our third time of trying to see the Warrumbungles. 3 years ago we were stopped by large bushfires. 2 years ago we were stopped by the remnants of a cyclone. And, yes, we didn’t make it this year either because it rained constantly for 2 days and the bush tracks were impassable. We did meet some ‘nice’ bikie campers though. Better luck next time.


Next stop is Gunnedah which claims the title “Koala Capital of World”. We reckon they were all hibernating somewhere – got sore necks from looking up all the time. Other interesting sites were some sandstone sculptures, aboriginal carved totem poles and a brass sculpture of Dorothea MacKellar, Australian poet most famous for ‘My Country’ … I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains ….

Aspley Falls

The Aspley Falls are two waterfalls on the Aspley River in the Northern Tablelands region of New South Wales. The falls are located about 20 Kms east of Walcha in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. They are the first falls in a succession of dramatic drops in an area that has some of the most remarkable scenery in Eastern Australia. The first drop of the falls is about 65 metres  in depth, and the second, which is about 800 metres  further on, plummets 58 metres to the bottom of the gorge. Aboriginal people tell the story of how the Rainbow Serpent created the gorge at Apsley Falls in the Dreamtime. The Rainbow Serpent is said to travel underground from the base of the falls to reappear 20 km upstream at the Mill Hole on the Apsley River in Walcha. The site is now marked at the Mill Hole by the Rainbow Serpent mosaic made with the help of the local Aboriginal community. We free camp in the forest right next to the falls – fantastic.