Australia and the blue mountains
Traveling to far-flung places provides great opportunities. One is to feed the natural curiosity about the unknown. “When planning a trip, one starts to imagine the things that might be ahead of you. It creates a mental picture. This will spark curiosity and a drive for exploration”, recalls Alexander Kreis, a Gemologist at KREIS. It is an expression of an innate first for knowledge.
Australia is a country of many extremes. “You have areas similar to the savanna, steep cliffs at the coasts, and a lush vegetation similar to rainforests”, says Stefan Kreis. A contrast that will be exemplified on the route to Lightning Ridge, the mining capital for Black Opal.
The eucalyptus forests of the blue mountains
Driving up northwest from Sydney, mountains, and forests await. In 1788 originally named Carmarthen Hills and Landsdowne Hills, the Blue Mountains received their current name due to the blue appearance, looked at from afar. This appearance is due to a unique natural phenomenon. “The predominant tree in this area is the eucalyptus tree. It is rich in natural oils. These terpenoids are volatile and get dispersed from the leafs. Once the water component evaporates, the interaction with the short-wave light causes the valley to nestle into a hue of a subtle blue”, explains Alexander Kreis.
Characterized by steep mountain cliffs of 980ft. (300m) and wide-ranging plateaus, the waterfalls, and lush vegetation provide for unforgettable views. The foundation for the majestic scenery began 470mln years ago. Back then, Coral reefs formed. These were transformed into limestone later on. Around 170mln years ago, forces started to push the rock strata upwards and form the plateaus we see today.
A natural heritage
The ensuing valleys caused a natural habitat for animals and provide’s excellent conditions for rare trees. “The most noteworthy of which is the Wollemi Pine. Thought to be extinct several million years ago, they are the only surviving specimens in the world. Given this national treasure, the location of the existing Wollemi Pine’s is kept secret”, says Stefan Kreis.
The occurrence of this pine was also a decisive factor in granting the Blue Mountain the attribute of a UNESCO World Heritage location in the year 2000. Comprising an area of 1.03 million ha.
With such a vast area of protected land, it is not surprising that a great variety of wild animals found a home in these valleys. “We were able to get some pictures of Australia’s wildlife during our travel. The one that impressed us the most was a group of Kangaroos. They are usually nocturnal. So we got lucky, I guess,” recalls Alexander Kreis. Luck, unbeknown to them, should set the stage for Lightning Ridge.