It's part of the human condition, for most, to desire something
. We desire well-paid or comfortable jobs. We desire the caress of a loved one or the warmth of a family. We desire more play time or more material possessions.
Desire is a very powerful feeling. It can change a person's life. It may be a simple concept to grasp but it wasn't until recently that I became fully cognisant of the power of desire. Welcome to Outback Australia. Here, in a small town hundreds upon hundreds of miles from the nearest coastline, lies a settlement of somewhat eccentric and peculiar creatures.
In their spare time they build stone castles and various strange monuments that I don't understand the use of. They live in caravans, iron shacks, trucks, mansions...
For over one hundred years, they have dug in this area. They desire opals, a precious stone, and the riches associated with the luck of finding a rare one. I don't know whether many of them do strike rich but there are hundreds of people out here trying their luck.
Until the seventies most hopeful miners dug by hand, sinking holes up to 30 metres deep with just a pick and a shovel. They would be confined in a shaft with a diameter not much wider than their waist whilst they dug farther and farther until they hit the 'layer'. Upon reaching the layer, the miner would dig outwards, following the seam of opal with the hope of finding something that would make him rich. A friend and trusted colleague would remain at the surface to haul buckets of dirt that the miner would fill whilst digging.
Whilst a handful still do that today (as I found out whilst skulking around the mine fields), it is more common to drill to the depth required for the precious stones and extract large quantities of dirt for sorting and washing above ground until an opal is found. Boring...
I will point out now that you do NOT want to be going down opal mines. Whilst they aren't as dangerous as shale oil or coal mines (i.e. they won't blow up or render you unconscious with toxic gasses), the people that live above them are
. If you piss off a miner by walking on his claim, you're gonna have a dog calling your leg dinner. Don't be a fucking tourist. Get friendly with someone. Or take a tour. Safety should always come first. Well... staying out of trouble with the law should come first. Safety second! Actually... getting a decent photo should come second. Safety third!
Whilst in town, go down to the artesian bore baths and listen to a local's stories - they'll be glad to share them with you. And you'll be amazed at what they'll have to say. In 5°C night time temps, hop into the naturally constant 42°C of the fresh mineral-laden water. The experience is a must.