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UNIQUE OUTBACK ATTRACTION

KARRAGARRA’S GARY AND SONIA BERRY NOW OWN UNIQUE OUTBACK ATTRACTION: THE CHAMBERS OF THE BLACK HAND!! Karragarra Islander Gary Berry is a man of many parts. He and wife SonIa have lived on Karragarra for many years, running a considerable business portfolio from our island shores. His latest endeavour, however, is one for the books, and is definitely worthy of a feature story. Gary and Sonia are now the proud owners of a famous Opal mine in the extraordinary location of Lightning Ridge. In fact it is so famous, it is regarded as one of Australia’s premier Outback tourist attractions. And how’s this for the most imaginative name just about ever! It is called: The Chambers of the Black Hand. What a name! So how did all this come about? Well, during the darkest days of the state Covid lockdowns, Gary and SonIa were stranded in Lightning Ridge for several months, attempting to first get to Sonja’s mother in Adelaide, and then trying to get back into Queensland. And we all know how long that went on for!! Gary and SonIa took a real interest in Lightning Ridge, and it took them on an adventure and direction they could never previously foreseen or imagined. “I got to get a close look at the tourist potential of the Outback, and this mine in particular. “It is the best known tourist attraction in Lightning Ridge and it is way more than just a former opal mine,” Gary explained. As the brochure says:”Expect to see . . . Native animals, Lord of the Rings characters, biblical entities and dinosaurs like you have never seen them before. Carved on the wall of an opal cave, these captivating images have been created by local opal miner Ron Canlin. Ron has transformed a number of drives (tunnels) of an old opal mine into an interactive work of art. Countless carvings are set in sandstone on the walls. A highlight is a scene of the Last Supper carved into the unique and pliable rock.” The mine was originally converted into a privately managed tourist attraction which offers guided tours, interactive display and underground shop. All of this is 40 feet underground and Gary and SonIa recognised it was something very special. “With Australians not travelling overseas and changes in the way we do things, I saw that The Chambers of the Black Hand has enormous tourism potential,” Gary said. It has taken miner Ron Carlin 18 years to complete the carvings and the evolving process that Gary is now putting in place, will see even more sculptures and chambers added to the tour. Central to these changes is the first ever underground lift for tourists that will provide faster and more convenient access to the mine below. The project has become so large, that Gary and SonIa have now appointed a project manager to the major works now being carried out to the Chambers of the Black Hand. Currently they are back in Lightning Ridge to continue to oversee the changes and will be coming back-and-forth regularly from now on. The good news from The Friendly Bay Islander’s point of view is that Gary has invited us out to visit Lightning Ridge and the unique tourist attraction. We intend to go during the cooler winter months to check it out and report on our adventure. Watch this space! Find out more at https://www.chambersoftheblackhand.com.au

• Extending the mine