Signs of My Time in the GemFields

Funny Australian Signs from Outback Queensland

There can’t be too many places you go on holiday, or for a break, where your destination appears so intent on ensuring you’re left wanting for nothing, as on my recent visit to the Gemfields in central Queensland’s outback.

The Willy Wash

The Willy Wash

First port of call – “The Willy Wash”, which comes decked out with south pacific umbrellas so you don’t get hot and bothered when shaking out the dust and putting your rocks through the willoughby.

Then on to the Big Spanner should you need a little readjustment to Get Your Nuts Tightened.

Get your nuts tightened at... The Big Spanner

Get your nuts tightened at The Big Spanner


All spruced up – It would be perfect to now head down to the Grave Hill Nudist Colony…


Funny Australian Sign Nudist Colony

Grave Hill Nudist Colony


But, slow down… not too fast there!


Funny Sign, slow down

Slow Down This is not a race track. Let our Grandkidz live


Wouldn’t want you following this Gemfield Hot Rod


Funny australian sign on an old wrecked car

Gemfields Hot Rod


And in case you had any thoughts of deviating along the way


Australian Funny Sign - You will be shot

If you dig on this claim you will be shot!!


But once you’re done digging


Funny australian sign - Done Digging

Dundiggin Rd


If you haven’t made your fortune, you could always try your hand at some other profession?


Dundiggin to Pole Dancing

Trying my hand at pole dancing ;)


But on the other hand…
You may now be able to afford to buy Buckingham Palace.
Which on face value, looking at it front on gives a first impression of it all being hunky dory…


Funny australian sign of Buckingham Palace in the Gemfields

Buckingham Palace


But with a secondary sideways glance
The Leaning Palace of Buckingham may be more apt?


Roundabout in outback Australia at rush hour

Be sure you don’t get caught up in the rush hour at the Rubyvale roundabout.

Before you head up to enjoy the sunset atop of Policeman’s Knob.

Viewing the sunset from Policemans Knob near Rubyvale

View from Policeman’s Knob


And the final sign that I was here in the Central Highlands of Queensland was the 25 meter high easel sporting a reproduction of Van Gough’s Sunflowers in the township of Emerald (900km NW of Brisbane, 300km inland from the coast at Rockhampton)


Big Easel Project Emerald Van Gough Sunflowers

Emerald’s Big Easel (for scale, do you see me at the bottom of the left leg?)


The Emerald Easel is part of the Big Easel Project
A project initiated by Cameron Cross, which he hopes will eventually see seven such constructions across the world each portraying one of Van Gough’s seven Sunflower paintings.
The first was made by the artist in Altona, Canada in October 1998.
Emerald’s was the second to be constructed in 1999.
The third was completed in 2001 in Goodland, Kansas, USA.


Map of Gemfields

Map of the Gemfields in Queensland’s Central Highlands where you can dig the tropics


And if this has tickled your fancy – Here’s a link to find out more about how you too can…

Dig the Tropics

What funny Australian signs have you seen on your travels?

Or for that matter, across the world?

Do tell in the comments below :D

What a Gem! The Fun of Fossicking

“All the buckets had been taken except for one” John recounted.

“‘Lucky Last’
I called it” and his eyes crinkled up and his cheeks reddened as he chuckled to himself.

Having paid the princely sum of $8 for a bucket of wash, (many places here in the gemfields of central outback Queensland sell pre-dug wash to the visitors) he’d been shown the technique of sieving and dunking in a willoughby, which jiggles the heavy stones to the bottom and when he turned his sieve over - there, among the gravel was…

“A 16.5 carat yellow sapphire!”

“It’s worth over $10,000!”

And he roared with laughter ;)

Finding a yellow sapphire in the queensland gemfields

John showing me his wonderful yellow sapphire find

Gem Fossicking Find

What a story -

Made all the more amazing by the fact this wasn’t some distant hand-me-down story of hearsay.
I was standing in Anakie Caravan Park, in the Gemfields of central Queensland, not only hearing it from the horse’s mouth, but I was seeing the proof of the pudding with my very own eyes right on the site where he’d bought his fabled bucket of wash just a few days prior, and where he was currently camping on his RV trip in outback Australia.

Yellow sapphire found fossicking in queensland

John and his yellow 16.5 carat sapphire gem

Gem Fossicking in Central Outback Queensland

Enthused by his luck, and with a glint of gem-fever in my eyes, I had to give it a go!

Not having a clue what buckets of wash were, where to find them or what to do with them I teamed up with the Little House of Gems in Rubyvale and headed bush with Michael to show me and our group the ropes.

Fossicking for sapphires in the gemfields of Queensland

Michael from the Little House of Gems demonstrating how fossicking is done

He made it look as clear as clear as he explained how the story started at Mt Hoy - a big volcano that erupted millions of years ago (there are over 70 volcanic plugs not 50km apart in this region) and it was from these extensive lava flows of basalt that formed the nucleolus for the sapphires and zircons that are now to be found in a layer of wash below the earth’s surface, but above the granite.

Diagram showing the process for fossicking for gems

Summary of my day in the Gemfields where I Fossicked for sapphires, visited an underground mine at Miners Heritage, watched a commercial plant in operation and finally saw a jeweller cut some gems.

With picks, and buckets and sieves we set to work extracting (as technically as our beginners eye would allow) the whitish talc like wash from (as instructed) below the surface dirt, but above the redder looking pug clay.

Picking out the wash in search of sapphires

We then sieved it to remove the dust, jiggled it in the willoughby – a very simple but nifty device that bounces the remaining wash up and down in water allowing the heavier rocks to wiggle their way to the bottom so when we swung and flipped our sieves out upside-down on the table – technically – our ‘finds’ would be near the top… or maybe around the edges where as the sieve is removed they could potentially roll down the sides… or maybe just in case you hadn’t quite jiggled it sufficiently and it was lurking just below the surface and you fear you may have missed it entirely, you pick and sift your way through the entire heap
And if you’re lucky…

You find a little treasure :)

Sieving for Gems in Outback Queensland

My little find in outback Queensland

Not quite as impressive as John’s yellow sapphire –
But it was my very own little gem find from my day out in the sapphire fields of Central Queensland –
I’ve been told it’s big enough to cut a single stud earring from it, so it looks as though I’ll have to go back to find another, so I can make a pair ;)

Have you ever tried gem fossicking?
How was your luck… and if good, do you care to tell us exactly where?

Please share in the comments below :D

WooHoo! I’ve Won a Holiday to the Northern Territory, Australia

It was nearly midnight.

I went to flick the switch on my computer for the night, and yawning took one last look at my twitter stream.

Dream Drive NT

I love the Territory -

The Territory is where I first landed in Australia, and was all I saw of the Antipodes on that initial trip Down Under. Working (and saving) for nearly two years in the Top End  I never ventured beyond its borders – And then my travels took me overland back to Europe.

But for a ‘Dream Drive’ adventure holiday in the Northern Territory now…
Where would I go?

Dream Drive NT

The NT occupies one sixth of the Australian continent, being Australia’s third largest State/Territory covering over 1.35 million sq km (520,902 sq mi) equivalent to the combined totals of France, Spain and Italy.
Or, if you’re more familiar with the UK – John O’Groats to Lands End would drop neatly in between Darwin and Tennant Creek (about half way down the NT!), with plenty of space around the edges to spare.

So there’s a fair bit of country to see!

Kata Tjuta

And there’s plenty of space!
The Northern Territory is the least populated with less than a quarter of a million residents (233,300), which is less than half the population of Tasmania!

Where would you go?

Fishing for barramundi (a Top End fishing favourite)?
Cruising up the Gorge at Katherine?
Or clambering up Gunloom Falls to admire the view over the Top End plains from a natural infinity pool that featured in Crocodile Dundee?

The Northern Territory is not only a huge area to explore, it hosts a stunning array of contrasting landscapes from the tropical north wetlands…

Crocodile Top End

 …to the dry red Centre -

Kata Tjuta

Because of its size and scope, a trip to the Territory isn’t a ‘been there, done that’ kind of a holiday destination, where you quickly tick off this and mark off that -

Its more about the experience.

I wanted to experience the power of the NT ~

Its spiritual power at places like Nourlangie and Ubirr…


The power of its timeless landscapes in the Centre…

Kata Tjuta

and the escarpment country at Twin Falls in the north…

Twin Falls

And feel the magic of pulsating sounds emanating from around a billabong at night – to experience that timeless sensation of being at one with nature – biophilia.


And so (in less than 140 characters, as is Twitter’s mode) and including the hashtag: #DreamDriveNT I said…

Holiday in the Northern Territory

I hit the send button.
And went to bed.

Ten days later, as another long hard working day came to a close, I checked into Twitter to see what had been happening, and my jaw dropped -

Holiday in the Northern Territory

I’d WON!

I couldn’t really believe it –
Who would?!
But a few days later on a very wet and miserable Queensland morning, the hard-core proof arrived.

Holiday in the Northern Territory

$5,000 to spend on an adventure of my choosing, wherever I wanted to go on holiday in the Northern Territory.

So, with the essentials packed…

  • Purple walking/hiking boots - Check
  • Heeled horse-riding bootsCheck
  • Marine kayaking/canoeing water bootsCheck
  • Sandals for kicking back and relaxing – Check…

 Holiday to the Northern Territory

I was set for my Dream Drive holiday to the Northern Territory.

And if you want to come along for the ride?
To follow my adventure as I hike stunning National Parks, go horse-riding overnight on an outback station sleeping in a swag under the stars, go kayaking for 3 days down the Katherine River, and sip icy cold drinks in the infinity pool at Wildman Wilderness Retreat…

Simply enter your email address in the box below and I’ll give you a whistle (about once a week) of my latest escapade -

Where to first off?
Learning about bush tucker from a local Warumungu Aboriginal, traditional owner and experienced stockman, Jerry Kelly who took me horse riding across the spinifex plains of the Barkly Tablelands near Tennant Creek. :)


Photo credits: All photos in this post were taken by me on my fantabulous holiday in the Northern Territory – Sign up for the emails if you want to see more! 

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