Last night I wrote that I thought the Heartbreak caravan park might be a good place to have a rest day, but not so. A very noisy boring plant drilling for water began work on the campground so we decided to move on. When on the road and you think you might stay more than one night it is best to pay for only the first night just in case annoyances crop up and you decide to pull out. Paying for one night only means you do not have to negotiate a refund.
Between Cape Crawford and Borroloola there is a lot of mining activity. The two big ones are McArthur River Mine and the Merlin Mine, the former is one of the world’s largest zinc, lead and silver mines. Although discovered in the 1950s, when it was originally called the HYC (“Here’s Your Chance”) deposit, it only opened as a mine in 1995. Initially an underground mining operation, the mine has been converted to an open cut operation. The change from underground to open cut mining caused controversy in the surrounding communities who were concerned with heavy metal pollution and the disruption of the McArthur river itself. The main ore body lies directly beneath the river, so the conversion to open pit necessitated the diversion of the river around the facility to the east.
The Merlin diamond mine is located adjacent to the McArthur River Mine and has an unusually high proportion of quality diamonds: 65% of production is gem-quality, and 35% is classified as near-gem or industrial quality. This compares to a worldwide average of just 20% gem-quality diamond production at diamond mines worldwide; in other words, the chunk of country at present being worked is one mighty big golden goose. The Merlin diamond mine is one of only three diamond mines in Australia. During the period 2000 to 2004 it produced about 100 kg of high quality diamonds; that’s a lot of diamond rings! The largest diamond dug up at the mine weighed 104.73 carats (20.946 g), the largest ever found in Australia, and has been valued at over $500,000 USD. Can you imagine the exclamations when this one turned up in the sieve!
Borroloola is located on the McArthur River about 50 km upstream from the Gulf of Carpentaria. At the 2006 census, Borroloola had a population of 773, of whom 579 declared themselves indigenous. We rather like Borroloola, mainly because of the friendly locals and during Backtrack Tour days the pub was one lively place. Although the town is located in the tropics the nights were sometimes cold, the colder the night the more pallets went onto the campfire; four pallets was a cold night!
The sign NO HUMBUG NO TAXI is suggesting the night patrol has other business to attend to. Humbug is a word used frequently in the top end and it refers to persistent annoyances. The term humbug was first described in 1751 as student slang but there are many other suggested origins.
Tonight we are camped in the Borroloola caravan park. We arrived early enough to attend to the domestics such as the washing and giving the car a check over. Not long after we set up camp a big rig arrived and set up next to us. The owner explained that he and his wife were staying for about four months to avoid the southern winter. I thought we were carrying too much stuff but compared to their rig we have very little. Many people, including us, migrate from the south to the north every year, some staying in the one spot for the whole of the dry season. This is our fifth migration to the warmer winter weather.
A rig like this including the bus is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Spending the kids inheritance?
Tomorrow we are going to visit a couple of friends in town and push on west to the Stuart Highway, which will lead us to Darwin.
The good traveller is on the spot, alive with curiosity and eager to bathe in what’s on offer.