By Ken Ellis

In January 1861, the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition through central Australia reached a creek that Burke named Cloncurry, after his aunt, Lady Elizabeth Cloncurry of County Galway. I very much doubt the good lady even knew where it was let alone visited the place but if she was alive today she might have wished Burke had pegged a mineral claim for her instead of just naming it after her.

Cattle and mining have contributed to the economy of Cloncurry for more than a hundred years but it has been mineral exploration that has brought to light the numerous gemstone localities we enjoy visiting today The Cloncurry area covers all of my favourite gemstones, as I mainly like hard crystals, and my favourite colours, in order, are purple, red, black and yellow. I had already been down to Kuridala and got a little purple amethyst (although a little was disappointing), so red coming next meant garnet and there was no better place to hunt them than at Fullarton River.

Cloncurry in October has always guaranteed us hot weather somewhere around the 40-degree mark, and this trip was no exception. As we travel north each year we acclimatise as we go and 40-degrees in Cloncurry is far better than 10 degrees, windy and raining, in Melbourne.

The garnet site is on Maronan Station and one of the main things the station owners insist on is no travelling on the station roads in wet weather.

We don’t bother with TV while we’re travelling, so we don’t get any weather reports and while I was filling up with fuel the day before our planned trip, I asked the garage attendant whether there was any chance of rain the next day. He gave me a look that said ‘You must be an idiot’, before answering me with, “If you run into some bring it back with you."

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