Rae Roadley, Maungatūroto resident and writer of 48 Hours' column The Country Side, continues her exploration of a different type of county
Our idea for sneaking diamonds from the Argyle Diamond Mine – that one might catch in the sole of a shoe - was never going to be a goer. That's despite that one of the biggest diamonds ever found there had been prized out from the tread of a truck tyre.
However, on our return flight our pilot shared a slick trick which reaped a cool $50 million before the scheme fell apart in spectacular fashion.
That morning we'd lifted off from the Northern Territory town of Kununurra and flown over man-made Lake Argyle which, when full, holds 21 times more water than Sydney Harbour.
Then we circled the Bungle Bungles, rock formations like giant beehives – sort of. It's the best comparison anyone's devised. The Bungles – as they're often called – were known only to local Aborigines and farmers until the 1960s. They're now a tourist destination both from the air and the ground.
In between times we flew over multi-coloured arid land which looked as if it had frozen in the pattern of a hard running sea centuries earlier.
Then we landed at the mine which is known for rare pink diamonds – which are what tripped up the diamond thief - although they are a miniscule percentage of production. Our pilot turned bus driver and reported in at every brief stop – security here is tight.
It's quite a set up: alcohol free, gym, tennis court, swimming pool, golf driving range, accommodation facing away from the mine. Staff fly in, work long hours, then fly out for a taste of the real world.
We ate at the staff cafe – no need to cook here – then visited the diamond shop where no money from our foursome changed hands.
We were served by two Kiwi women who love living in Aussie for the warm climate and friendly, happy Aussies – we liked them too.
Then we were airborne again and hearing the heist story which a week or so later proved that in Australia, as at home, there are only a few degrees of separation between people.
Some years back a police officer scored the job of chief of security at the Argyle Mine. Soon each time he flew out he'd slip a diamond – or maybe more – into a toothpaste tube which outfoxed security.
His wife and a jeweller were in on the secret and things went smoothly for quite some time – then a jeweller in Europe noticed that a pink diamond didn't have the distinctive mark every diamond should have which indicates its source.
But the source of this pink sparkler was obvious – Argyle Mine.
Our thieving security officer began an investigation which, oddly enough, failed to find a culprit, all the while continuing to nick gems each time he headed home.
Home. Well, not so much. It didn't turn out to be quite the secure nest he expected on the day he walked in and found his wife with another bloke.
Things got ugly and she reported her husband to the police – and told them about the diamond theft. He was gaoled for five years – a pretty good deal, we thought, for $50 million. The jeweller copped a lesser sentence.
Fast forward a week or so and we're in Western Australia, in the newly formed coastal town of Karratha, a port and mining and gas centre. The area earns 5 per cent of Aussie's GDP.
It's surrounded by small settlements, both new and old, including Dampier, the home of the famous Red Dog, a kelpie whose devotion to a bloke he latched onto has become a legend whose heart-wrenching story has been told in two movies, tear jerkers both.
To learn about area, we hired a local guy, an ex cop, who took us on a 7am to 5.30pm, 500km tour that incorporated a national park, a station run by a New Zealand couple, historic towns and industry.
It was a rewarding day during which we told him about our Argyle Mine visit and the diamond yarn. Had he heard it?
Sure, he replied. The crooked cop's wife had once been his neighbour and police had interviewed him as they built their case.
Not many degrees of separation here, despite the thousands of kilometres of separation that typify Australia.