It was as hot as blazes in SE Queensland last week and due to the wave of heat… we are talking 40C… we have upped camp and moved south into the back plateau country of Northern New South Wales. This is beautiful country, they call it the Northern Rivers country closer to the coast but where we are is the Clarence River Catchment, otherwise known as Gold Country.
The Great Dividing Range runs down the eastern seaboard of Aus. separating the coastline and the rolling plains beyond with the hinterland regions. Then westward it sweeps across the great western farming plains. The rivers that drain west from this dividing range had the adventurers and surveyors looking for an inland sea, which the Aboriginal people said was one of stone and sand. They should have believed them.
These westward flowing rivers form huge catchments for the Murray-Darling river system and the great salt lakes of central and southern Aus. such as Lake Eyre. As the Great Dividing Range is largely volcanic in origin then gold is scattered all down the westward flow of these rivers, which have moved in this direction for eons, unlike the eastern flow of the costal rivers that drains readily into the oceans.
Gold in Aus. was first discovered way back in the 1820’s but the authorities of the day were paranoid, afraid that what was a largely convict community in its origin would down tools and go gold seeking. They feared an insurrection that would leave them labour poor. They had good reason to fear this because this is exactly what happened in the 1850’s when someone blew the whistle, the great gold rushes of Aus began.
I first discovered this wonderful corner of our world where we are now literally decades ago, in the age when hubby and I would gather up the kids, the gold pans, the dogs and head for the region we loved the best at the time. In that time it was the hinterland and we were on a mission to teach our brood that there is more to life than the trappings of commercialism.
The Rocky River tangles along the border then heads south and this drew us towards some great adventures. The river is fed by the myriad of small streaming flows that empty into the meandering Clarence River. The Rocky River is also a great place to pan for gold as it is so rocky, its very nature catches the heavier lodes of gold which have washed down from volcanic action many millions of years ago.
I have a soft spot for the Clarence too, into which the Rocky River and others the like in this region empties. It was one of the regions they opened up in the mid 1800’s when emigrants and the then grown currency kids flooded in to build a life at farming, fishing and logging. My ancestors included as well as The Mans forebear’s.
It not only has a gold history but also a tail of precious and semi-precious gems, garnets, sapphire and beautiful agates and alike, this treasure of the earth weaves its way down towards Glen Innes and is precious stone country.
This is one of the truly wonderous things about Australia, it is still a raw land, a place where man has not mined nor searched for the precious gems and metals to be found in the earth, down on through the ages. These precious stones and metals are still there to be found for those who know where to look, and how to seek.
This is an old land… the oldest land continuously settled above the ocean level and it is a truly ancient landscape worn and scarred by time with many ancient secrets. We are on our way south travelling along the old gold trails and it is lovely country, well away from surf and sand where the rest of the city slickers and tourists are not gathering along the coastline.
In the stories I tell of this ancient land and lore in The Dreaming Series, I try to paint a view of Australia, touching on the still magnificent things about this land including the precious stones and metals that are still found, and make up part of a living experience today.
In Sky Song, you step with Tom and Sean as they too discover that there a precious things to be dug from the earth, and it is that man can still earn a fine reward and living from such endeavours.
So where is my own man now as we settle into our new camp? Out there in the bush with a mate carrying around the metal detectors… the man has his training shoes on but it is promising to be an interesting life this retirement of ours. There are just simply so many adventures to be had in this land.
The quest for gold is a fascinating tale to me which a rich and diverse history, a history that stretches from coast to coast. In the travelogues I explore how a small mining camp can become a powerful city in ‘Deserts of Gold’, from the Campfire series. This is a look at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, a town even today, which sits on the frontier edge of civilization.
So what does gold in the raw look like? It isn’t always shiny and bright unless it has been polished by mother nature. It more often is dull dross that you at first can’t believe is actually a precious metal. It also comes in many forms from fine dust to great nuggets and there is little rhyme or reason to what form it takes. Alluvial gold is the easiest won but it can be found buried in quartz and the like and needs to be crushed to extract.
Once it is cleaned and buffed there is no mistaking the beauty of the find and to me, worn as a raw nugget dangling from a chain it is at its most beautiful. Gold panning is a time worn way of sifting the alluvial gold from where the rivers have run and it is often that these rivers change course, cease to flow or simply shed their heavier golden load in rock beds and small crevasses. This is why the Rocky River is such a gem.
Opal, is another fine stone, one which weaves its way into the tales told of the Shaman. Traditionally opal is a stone of lore, a tool of the Shaman or Kadaitcha, also known as the Featherfoot of an ancient tradition. It is said that this is where the creator spirits first placed their feet when they came to visit the tribes.
It is a magical and mystical stone of great beauty that carries great power for the learned men and women. They will seek out those who take the stone from their reach it is said. So the opal is a stone that people of Aboriginal descent even today are very wary about. Not wanting to bring the eye of the Kadaitcha upon themselves for fear that they may upset him and earn his ire.
It is a fascinating thing the legend of the opals and the finest of opals can only be found in this land further west inland than many people venture… another story, though other lands also offer up this precious stone.
I hope you enjoy the tales of the series and as I delve deeper into research in the writing of ‘The Spirit Children’ books I am learning that there is so much more to be discovered of this ancient land.
You can find out more on the Dreaming Series page… just follow the links.
For now though… it is back to those gold pans as we follow the tributaries and the course of the Clarence and then move on further south, onto other gold fields as did so many pioneers of the 1800’s in Australia’s pioneering history.