Looking for Sapphires in Inverell and chasing snow in Guyra.

June 2020

A few hours west of Tenterfield is a fairly big place called Inverell. This was the next stop on our post covid travels. (Yep post covid travels is a thing now) Our plan was to make our way slowly towards Lightning Ridge, and Inverell seemed like a good place to stay for a few nights. We have been fossicking for sapphires before in Rubyvale, Qld and we all loved it and Inverell is known as ‘The Sapphire City’ so we figured while we were here we’d give it another crack. All 4 of us really enjoy fossicking, Archie and I get sick of it usually before Ashton and Joel do but we love finding treasures.

We stayed at the Inverell Caravan Park which we found central to everything, and I’m calling it, they have the best amenities of any caravan park in Aus. They even have heated floors for goodness sake! You know what I loved about the heated floors more then the warm feet? The fact that it means the floor drys extremely fast and you don’t go into a completely drenched shower every time! It was such luxury! Usually we don’t actually use the showers in the parks because we have an amazing shower in our van, but it just so happens that the first night there our hot water system decided to stop working and it’s the middle of winter!!!! So the amazing bathrooms were a life saver!

The only place open for fossicking due to the covid shutdowns was the Billabong Blue Fossicking Park which is about 40 minutes drive from Inverell, and it was only open Saturday and Sundays, luckily we arrived on the Saturday so were able to go on the Sunday. We arrived at Billabong Blue by 9 and were the first ones to be set up and shown what to do. It cost us $50 for all four of us and the owner took us down set us up and showed us the ropes before he left us to our own devices. We happily searched for sapphires for a couple of hours, finding no quite a few small ones. It was so cold though, the wind was cutting through our clothes so we all ended up with our rain jackets on to try to stop the chill. We made it through to about 11.30am before it started to rain and everything turned to mud! We’d had our fun though so we packed up and called it a day taking our findings with us.

We had heard whisperings of snow possibly falling in the higher hills near us over the course of the following days so when we heard that the weather people were saying Guyra was likely to get snow we decided on a whim to backtrack a little and head to Guyra, so we backtracked back to Glen Innes, stopped for a quick lunch at the pub and then a even quicker stop at the Australian Standing Stones that we found while there. It was freezing in Glen Innes, like below 5 degrees and the wind was icey! Us far Northerners think it’s cold if it’s below 15 degrees so this below 5 business was a bit hard to take, so we took a quick look around, and then headed back to the warmth of the car.

Anyway up the hill to Guyra we went, to set up at the Highest Caravan Park in Australia (woohoo tick that one off the list!) ready for the predicted snow that night. I’d love to say we set off and explored Guyra but I’d be lying…… when I said we were cold in Tenterfield, little did I know that was just the practice run, coz we were about to get a whole lot colder!! We pretty much hung at the van, did some school work and tried to stay warm. Thank goodness we have air conditioning and a diesel heater in the van, we honestly would have been lost without heat of some kind! But the kids were the most excited I had seen them in quite a while, the prospect of seeing snow fall was enough to make us kinda happy to be cold! And it did not disappoint, at about 9pm we were looking out the window of the caravan discussing if that was just rain falling outside or if it was in fact snow. Turns out it was snow, and we all went a bit crazy with excitement, I missed catching the boys on video or even a photo but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ashton more excited, that I’m itself made the whole trip completely worth it.

We all went to bed with high hopes that we’d wake in the morning to everything outside covered in snow given that it was so early in the night we had seen our first flakes! We woke to freezing temperatures but no visible snow, so after a bit of a conversation we decided we would go looking for snow because we figured it was so cold it had to have snowed somewhere! So off we toddled to Ben Lomond, NSW which is about 20 minutes drive from Guyra. Well we started to see some ice on logs and things on the side of the road about 5 minutes out of Ben Lomond but when we got to the town itself we could see none. Joel spotted a lot of white stuff on top of a mountain so we decided to head that way and see how far up we could get and what we could find. It was a great decision because 2 minutes later we were all out of the car touching the ice that had been left from falling snow on a pile of logs and fences on the side of the road. But more exciting then that all of a sudden it actually started to snow!!! It started quite light and quickly turned into a lot of flakes falling all around us! None of us have ever seen snow falling before, all four of us have seen snow on the ground but never actually falling from the sky, so we were pretty darn excited, although we all also got pretty cold pretty quick and retreated back to the warmth of the car. Turns out the excitement was too much though and the kids wanted to go back out in the snow, so off we went again until everyone got more cold and wet and had to retreat to the warmth again.

We ended up staying 2 nights in Guyra hoping we may have seen some more snow but it just didn’t happen, it didn’t get over 4 degrees all day and we were all freezing, pretty much hiding away in the air conditioned (or heated as the case may have been) van. We did manage to get some school work done, and the kids went outside and played with some other kids that were staying in the park until they turned into icicles and came back inside to get warm. Alas no more snow though. After 2 nights in Guyra we headed to Moree. We stayed at the Gwydir Hot Springs Carapark, which have their own hot artesian swimming baths. Let me tell you, getting into that hot water was such a relief after being cold for the previous 48 plus hours! Although getting out and walking back to the van in the cold proved to be a little difficult! Moree was only another quick stopover and we didn’t get to see much as we were trying to knock over some more schoolwork which we managed, and thawing out in the hot springs a couple of times a day was just an added bonus! All in all a pretty exciting week this one has been, it feels so good to be on the road again!

Sunset from the van in Moree, NSW.

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