Gem Fields

Emerald, Queensland Travel Blog

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Noel panning for sapphires at Rubvale - despite all his best efforts we have not become instant millionaires!
We left pretty early today for the big drive to Emerald.  En route via the highway, we passed through Childers, which is unfortunately famous for being the site of a fire a couple of years ago that killed several backpackers.  The hostel has now been restored - it is a lovely old building - and has a memorial to those who died.  One somewhat down-point of the restoration is the large Subway outlet which has opened on the bottom floor of the building.  I guess the owners need to maximise their returns, but it is a bit odd to be looking at this building and the memorial which has been done very nicely and then be hit with a garish yellow and green take-away food outlet within the same few metres.  A pity that such a glaringly obvious shop was included in the original building.
Once we got to Rockhampton, we turned to head west to Emerald.  This country certainly becomes much more stark and dry, you begin to feel that you're heading towards the Outback.  We stopped for lunch at Duaringa - it had a little park with picnic tables anad a "lagoon and waterfall" but as there is very little water around, the lagoon looked a bit sad and the waterfall not flowing.  The park was lovely though and well looked-after.  They even had showers for public use - the idea was that you left a donation for the use of the facilities, but there did not appear to be anywhere to leave your money.  No doubt the showers are greatly appreciated by truckies and backpackers.
The whole area along this road is dedicated to coal mining, the train line is constantly busy with huge coal trains - at Bluff we saw a train with 4 engines that we measured at 1.2km long - great for train buffs!  We stopped at Blackwater to see what's left of the explorer Leichhardt's "Dig Tree".  He left his diaries and provisions under the tree and etched "Dig" into it so that the next person could find it.  All that's left of the tree is a bit of trunk upon which the etching is no longer able to be made out, and the whole thing is so heavily fortified with heavy mesh that you can barely see it anyway.  They do have a replica of it next door, but I guess when the carving was done in 1844 you can't expect too much!
There is not much in Emerald itself, it is essentially a town which exists for the mines with accommdation, food and the usual facilities.  We're glad we pre-booked our accommodation, though, because the man at the hotel said that the mining companies bulk book accommodation and if you don't book at least 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time you will not get a room - the town currently has 25 hotels and all are booked constantly!
Our main reason for coming to Emerald was to go to the gemfields about 50kms away at Rubyvale and Sapphire.  We went to the Miners Heritage Centre in Rubyvale and got a tour of an underground sapphire mine and then panned some wash above ground to find our fortune!  We did find little slivers of sapphire, which made it all worthwhile, not enough to retire on though.  The whole area is a very popular mining/fossicking place during the winter (Mar-Oct) and people have found some huge gems, but at this time of year it is incredibly hot and therefore not much activity.  After panning for a couple of hours we decided to head back to the air-conditioned comfort of our hotel room for a rest!  We did go for a walk around Emerald later in the evening - it's pretty big and obviously quite prosperous - real estate is quite basic and costs a fortune and rents are high.  It's all dependant on the mines, so just have to hope the minerals don't run out.
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Noel panning for sapphires at Rubv…
Noel panning for sapphires at Rub…
Emerald, Queensland
photo by: sissanoel