Diamonds in the Runway | Travel Blog

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Published: December 27th 2021

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We’re out of our very comfy tent early for our flight back to Kununurra. Our pilot introduces himself as Blaze, and it seems that we’re his only passengers. Issy says that she thinks Blaze is a good name for a pilot “blazing” through the sky. I’m thinking more along the lines of a fire in the cockpit, which doesn’t sound quite so appealing.

We head back over the Argyle diamond mine. Blaze tells us that he’s going to make a couple of tight manoeuvres to make sure that we can both get a good view of its gaping open pit. He could have saved us all a lot of time and effort if he’d managed to notice that my beloved, the only passenger on the left hand side of the plane, is fast asleep. Blaze tells us that the mine runway was once the longest privately owned such facility in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Some of the diamonds from the mine were apparently a tad below the standard needed for them to be sold, so were used instead in the runway’s concrete. A runway made of diamonds. Hmmm. I think someone might have just a little bit too much spare

money on their hands…. We’re told that at one time the mine was producing 85% of the world’s rare pink diamonds.

I go for a late afternoon stroll around the shoreline of Lake Kununurra which borders the northern side of the town. It was created by the construction of the Ord River Diversion Dam in 1963, as part of the Ord Irrigation Scheme. It’s very attractive, and seems to be a popular haven for boating and bird watching.

I’m a bit warm after my hike so take a dip in the hotel pool. Good to see that its rules include “Do not deposit human waste in the pool”. I wonder why they’re so specific about that? Nuclear waste might be OK perhaps. This isn’t the first “interesting” sign we’ve seen around the hotel. A large board on display in a couple of places espouses the wonders of Kununurra. It says that the town is home to, amongst other things, “the world’s friendliest crocodiles”, and “Australia’s best boobs”. On closer inspection it seems that someone’s been at work with the whiteout; I think the originally wording of the latter was “Australia’s best boabs” (boabs are an iconic local tree).

I take the opportunity to read up on the rather depressing history of the Ord Irrigation Scheme. They originally started growing cotton here in the 1960s, but then quickly discovered that they had to spray it with so much DDT and other undesirable chemicals to keep down the pests that it was economically and environmentally unviable. Other crops haven’t fared much better. A fair proportion of the area was planted with sandalwood about fifteen years ago. This is a parasite crop which needs the roots of other trees to survive. I’m not a botanist, but I would have thought that that fact alone might have been enough to set alarm bells ringing. The sandalwood has now nearly matured and will be harvested in the next couple of years. It seems however that the economic returns will be a lot less than expected, so they won’t be trying it again. Hmmm. It seems the Chinese have recently taken a bit of an interest in the area and have set up shop on some massive tracts of land just down the road, where they’re apparently planning to have their own shot at trying to grow something. Am I being paranoid to

suggest that this might be just another part of their grand scheme to take us over. Uh oh, there’s another black mark against me in Premier Xi’s little book; it must be nearly filled up with them by now. Recent estimates suggest that the overall return on investment in the Ord Scheme since its inception has been a depressingly low 17 cents in the dollar. Hmmmm.

When we were in the bar at lunchtime, the Sunday lunch crowd looked like they’d settled in for the afternoon. Our room’s about as far from the bar as it’s possible to get and still be in the hotel, but that isn’t stopping the live music from vibrating our walls as we attempt a mid-afternoon nap. We head back to the bar again for dinner. There are inside and outside dining areas, and there does seem to be somewhat of a contrast between the two:

• Average age: outside: 25; inside: 65.
• Noise level: outside: live music capable of waking the dead; inside: minimal (except when the doors to outside are open).
• Wall decor: outside: TV screens showing sport on every available vertical surface; inside: elegantly framed photos of the history of

Kununurra.
• Floor covering: outside: concrete and brick paving ready to be hosed out in the morning; inside: carpet.
• Activity levels: outside: drunken dancing; inside minimal, except for frequent trips to the bathroom.
• Dress: outside: thongs, footy shorts and singlets; inside: tailored shirts, trousers and polished shoes.
• Numbers in attendance at 8.30: outside: still streaming in at a steady pace; inside: zero.

We’re inside, but when I point all this out to Issy she suggests that perhaps now might be a good idea to move on before they cart us off to the local nursing home….


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