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Into the Outback - Lightning Ridge

blog-0910664001396646389.jpgThe next morning we departed Katoomba just after the office opened and we had paid our bill. We planned to drive to Lightning Ridge which was over 600 kilometers away. The Western Expressway gave way to two lane highway and this then entered the Blue Mountains. Travel became slower, the road was rougher and traffic was slower. We were among the slowest traffic most of time. We stopped occasionally to let traffic pass and pulled off at scenic overlooks. The weather was cloudy, hazy and we were getting occasional rain so the scenic stops weren’t as photogenic as they could have been. Still it was an interesting landscape.

After another hour, the road started to improve. We came out of the mountains and the road became better. There were still curves and hills but the condition of the road improved. Slowly, the hills became smaller and the road straightened out. We passed through towns that now were farther and farther apart. As the day passed, the road became almost straight with only a slight turn from time to time. We worked our way further west and north in steps. Towns were usually the place where changes in direction occurred. The condition of the road now started to deteriorate. The road was good in the center but the edges were sunken and broken in places. I resorted to driving the way I had in Nova Scotia several years before when I encountered roads like these. With good visibility I could see traffic so I drove in the center of the road, straddling the center line unless traffic was in sight.

We had now outdistanced the rain and things looked better for a while but soon we were running parallel to a large storm system. We could see dramatic clouds and rain shafts across a significant portion of the western horizon. As it go closer it became more menacing. I stopped to photograph the storm and then we continued on our way. We were headed north on the final leg toward Lightning Ridge so the storm was approaching from a right angle. It wasn’t too much longer that we outflanked the storm.

Approaching Lightning Ridge, the road condition deteriorated more. In addition, we were now seeing emus and kangaroos in increasing numbers. In the final 40 kilometers we also faced open range with cows and sheep roaming the roadsides and crossing the road. I slowed to about 60 kilometers per hour (about 35 MPH) to allow time to stop if necessary. We reached Lightning Ridge at 6:30 p.m. pulling into the Opal Caravan Park shortly after. We were warmly welcomed and given an orientation to the park and the community. We even were given a CD which promoted the community. The park was one of the finest we have stayed at anywhere on this trip. It was built in 2011 so it is modern in every way. Located on the fringes of town, it is near the bore baths, the Australian term for artesian wells that bring hot water from deep underground. We hooked up the electric and turned on the gas. Louise started dinner and we opened a bottle of wine, glad to be at home in Lightning Ridge. This is the Australian Outback.


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