Voice of Real Australia: Fortune favours the risk-takers

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Jaymin Sullivan and James Caruana in their opal mine at White Cliffs in far western NSW. Picture: Dion Georgopolous

Jaymin Sullivan and James Caruana in their opal mine at White Cliffs in far western NSW. Picture: Dion Georgopolous

It's not the kind of start-up you would naturally associate with twentysomething lads. No play pods here, no e-scooters and certainly no smashed avo on toast or spiced chai - or any of the other stereotypes dumped on millennials by Boomers. No hours on a screen, crunching code for a sparkly new app.

Jaymin Sullivan and James Caruana are seeking their fortunes in the hard-baked dirt and dust of far western NSW, deep in an opal mine in the remote town of White Cliffs. And after two-and-a-half years, they're doing OK. In fact, they seem to be thriving.

They started with a couple of cheap jackhammers and now have mining equipment worth more than $100,000, all paid for by the opals they've unearthed.

It's a life many of their locked down peers on the central coast of NSW simply don't understand. But these unlikely young men wouldn't swap it for anything. As they see it, they're living the adventure vibe, "totally jacked" when they find buried treasure and happy to endure hardship, isolation, risk and danger in pursuit of it.

This pair was one of many surprises on a recent road trip to the back of Bourke.

We'd headed west via Griffith, Hay and Wentworth. Where crushing monotony was expected, there was ever-changing colour. Even the Hay Plain turned on almost cinematic vistas of emptiness. Recent rain had invigorated the landscape. What the locals call "green pick" was everywhere.

Rising a small crest near Menindee, the lake stretched as far as the eye could see - an incredible inland sea that took the breath away as it was bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. Some of the birds had returned but not all. Seagulls, pelicans, magpie larks and curlews were in abundance.

But the other migratory visitors - the grey nomads - were not. They'd either fled back home or across state borders as the COVID storm threatened from the south and the east.

As always, it was the people who made the trip truly memorable. The Bhutanese cafe operator in Wentworth, who served us Nepalese dumplings for breakfast. The eccentric man in Pooncarie who bailed us up with his plan to fix the water issue out west (hemp, bamboo and another bleeding pipeline). The kids in Wilcannia, who were painting cars in their respective team colours for the upcoming grand final.

And, of course, the young fortune hunters chasing riches underground in a world of weather beaten old-timers.

The magic is out there. All you have to do is look for it.

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