We headed back west to go fossicking again. We did some gem hunting in Rubyvale and
now its time for more. We are headed to Invernell known as the Sapphire Capital (self
proclaimed). We traveled over mountains and through rain storms and passed through
Glen Innes, a town with a rich Celtic heritage. The stop here is to look at the Standing
Stones. These were raised about 10 years ago to celebrate the heritage of the settlers
in this area. The countryside is beautiful farms and ranches and would have been
very appealing to them. The expanses of arable land must have amazed them after coming
from heavily populated islands.
Each stone has a significance in the circle with the solar equinoxes being the most
important. The park had other monuments and a tea house that looked as if it had
been imported whole from Wales.
Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword was there too. It promised “The who so ever pulleth
the sword from this stone, shall be endowed with Great Knowledge and Wisdom.” Well,
I guess we’ll just have to stumble on in our ignorance because the sword is still
there! (And it looked like the same kind of epoxy one uses to repair concrete all
around the joint between the stone and sword!)
We left Glen Innes westward towards Invernell when a few kilometers down the road
I hit the brakes hard. An Echidna had just come out of the grass. I made a quick
U-turn and saw he had ducked back into the grass but was coming back out again. We
took some pictures as an oncoming car went by. He again ducked into the grass. We
U-turned again and he saw us do it and kept going into the grass. I guess he figured,
rightly, that the road was to busy to cross. The Echidna is the other egg laying
mammal in Australia. The Platypus is the other.
He is about the size of a football that has spines. When endangered he curls up and
sharp bristles poke outward.
We reached Invernell in the afternoon and set up camp. I wrote the last page in that
campground during a thunderstorm. After it quit we into town, had lunch and went
to the visitor center to got lots of information about this area and the areas we
will be visiting to the south.
We also were told of a street fair happening that day a couple of blocks away. So
of course we went. It was only one block long but was full of local produce, wine,
olives and the private club/bar on the corner was open to the public serving local
craft beers. I had an excellent American style IPA from Deepwater Brewing and Kathy
had the tasting paddle with 6 small glasses, 3 from Deepwater and 3 from New England
Brewing. Yes, New England! The fair was titled “Eat, Drink, Enjoy New England”. It
seems that this wide valley is known as New England but that has nothing to do with
the northeast corner of the US also known as New England. We had already had a filling
and good lunch at the Oxford Hotel so we didn’t eat at the fair, just drank. Then
walked around some more before heading back to the campground. That evening we were
visited with more thunder, lightning and heavy rain.
Just south of town is the “National Transport Museum”. It is not the largest by far
but is well stocked with a good variety of cars and motorcycles. It is run by the
local car club and many of the vehicles are owned by members. One I found interesting
was this 1906 Dayton Motor Buggy built in Chicago. It has an engine with opposed
cylinders like our GoldWing motorcycle. It has only two where we have six but these
are each larger than each of our cylinders. It is air cooled with a large flywheel/fan
behind the cylinders.
Another rainy night and we headed back out again to see the Heritage Village. A couple
dozen pioneer buildings have been moved onto a site around a pond. Many are filled
with things from the past; cameras, hospital equipment, furniture, pictures, tools,
clothing, war memorials, farm equipment, etc. It was a lot like our US history but
was also different too. It is a nice collection.
In Australia there has been going on for as long as we’ve been here a fund raising
drive for Leukemia. It involves the various hotel bars having an “U.G.L.Y. Bartender”
contest. That is “Understanding, Generous, Likeable, You”. The Oxford Hotel was having
their ending celebration that afternoon from 4-6. We decided to go. We had bought
two lottery tickets for the donated prizes and just had to see what we would win!
The event was held in their Beer Garden with live music from the “Richter Caddey
Duo”. They were VERY good! The “crowd” was a little under whelming for such a fine
event, only about two dozen people showed up. But everyone knew everyone except us.
And we were readily brought into the events. The most popular was the Yabbie Races.
After bets were placed, local crayfish were numbered and dropped into a 3 meter (10’)
circle. The winners were the first, second and third to cross the circle. Kathy bet
on #5 and I bet on #7. Kathy got second place and I was going to put mine in the
stewpot but they needed him for the next race. First the adults then the kids got
hold of the marking pens used on the board and the yabbies and did their own marking.
This poor guy was a very good sport about it all. The music sometimes had an unplanned
break. This is the scoreboard for flies swallowed by the duo.
There were snack foods provided by the hotel and beer at special prices.
The lottery tickets for the donated prizes were drawn and we didn’t win any of them.
But there were some lesser prizes that had no winners and they were handed out to
the non-winners of the big prizes so we did get some goodies.
In the end over $4,000 were raised for the Leukemia Foundation in this one event.
I think that was a very good turnout after all.
In the end I was given two bar mats like the bartender is holding but with different
logos. I have several mats from Europe and now two from Australia. The US seldom
uses bar mats but here they are everywhere and supplied by the beer companies as
advertising, so it costs the bar nothing.
Finally, on to fossicking! After all that is what this page is named. We did plan
on seeing the two museums also and the Yabbie Races were a bonus. But we came to
Invernell to fossick.
There are two private fossicking areas that supply the tools and “wash” (the sorted
raw dirt) for you. They are both a little over 20 k northeast of Invernell and we
drove out to them on Monday morning. We went to Billabong first and it was closed.
So we went to 7 Oaks and it was closed too! So we drove back until we had phone service
and called. Billabong didn’t answer and 7 Oaks said the recent rain had forced them
to close until it dried out. Well the rain quit two days ago (Saturday morning) but
we had no choice but to go back to Invernell and buy a 10 kilo (22 lb) bag from the
From there we headed south towards our next destination when Kathy found another
private fossicking place on her map. And it is south of Invernell so we drive to
it and find that it is an active mine that lets you dig around in their piles of
gravel for $10.00.
All the mines in this area are surface mines not tunnel mines like we found in Rubyvale.
There are four people in this picture with Kathy being the one bent over on the left
She is not provided with any tools, advice or help. We have a small shovel and a
plastic bucket and she starts digging. It’s a good thing she has experience from
Rubyvale. In Rubyvale one bought a single bucket of wash for $15.00. Here she has
a whole mine to scramble through for $10.00. That’s a good deal!
After a couple of hours scrambling over the mine’s mounds of dirt she brings her
finds to a handy, rusty, barrel and mud puddle. Here she is not limited to just what
happens to be in the bucket of sorted wash. In this mine she is free to take anything
she can carry.
The stones this time are huge compared to last time. Not many of them are sapphires
but there are some beautiful pieces of smoke quartz and other stones I don’t know.
It has been a good day.
Next we head back towards the coast going southeast to follow some more mountain
roads. And this weekend we get to meet up with Jeffrey again. He has a rally in the
town of Taree while we explore the area.