Tags: Tourism, travel, Queensland. Australia. Coober Pedy
Hi there, here is just a quick rehash in case you have missed the latest episodes from ‘The Bribie Islander’. My short stories are all about our family, Richard my hubby, Ginger our daughter and myself, going on a 15 month trip of misadventure in a “big rig” around Australia, on a mission to find the place to call home. After nearly 5 weeks in Adelaide and surrounds, we finally got our skates on and with one overnight stop at Port Augusta, we were on the way to the red centre. Shrubs started to make way to a desert landscape, the mobile network stopped working and the waves of passing motorists added to the feeling of isolation and comradery.
It’s a titillating sensation when for the first time you leave your suburban securities behind and head to the barren dusty desert not knowing what to expect. I was worried the drive would be boring but the surrounding space grew on us and we found the minimal changes in the landscape entertaining and fascinating. After a couple of days, our new destination, Coober Pedy, announced itself with endless white gravel mounds contrasting the red dusty sand. The gravel is the leftover from the mining of the Opal shafts, which can be around 20 meters deep and a death trap if you fall in.
But that was not the only outback experience, as there was no free water at the caravan park, costing five dollars to connect your van to water and 20 cents for a 30-second shower at the amenities. Even when it comes to your bottle of wine, fluid is restricted in this part of the desert, and one can only buy two bottles per day and not without getting your driving licence scanned (regardless of age) and your consumption recorded. Needless to say, we missed out on getting stocked up properly for our further travels up North.
At least this will keep anyone from going to work drunk in a mine, and opal mines there are plenty of at Coober Pedy. Richard and Ginger went on a couple of hands-on tours, including some serious ‘Noodling ‘, that is when you scratch around in the gravel hoping to strike it big, finding a ‘pineapple’. To make those mines as safe as the drinking water, the council employed mining Inspectors, however in the old days they seemed to get knocked off the perch and now there is only a fully bomb proof police station left.
Although you can’t buy dynamite any more at the supermarket, blowing up things is a number one past time in Coober Pedy, and how otherwise do you settle a dust-up with a fellow miner or get a decent hole in the ground to find a vein of opal …if not with a big bang? And imagine digging out your own home …by hand? When you drive around town you often see a little tin shack on the edge of a sand hill, surrounded by lots of scrap metal and car carcasses.
This tin shack is actually the entrance to a much bigger underground home, hidden from plain view. Some dugouts are big enough to put a whole church underground, to keep the praying community cool at their gatherings. With 60 per cent of homes being underground, often obsolete mine shafts are converted into homes, not just by tough males but also by females like famous Faye, who’s house includes a swimming pool and is now one of the top tourist attractions.
To keep the lights on in Coober Pedy with a current population of 3500 people, we were told by a local that they run 61 generators using 45.000 litres of diesel a week. The sun and wind were only recently discovered in this dry place and solar is slowly making its way into the electricity supply with a few hiccups including blackouts for hours at night time. But who needs light after being worn out by a long day of tourist attractions and outings. There was so much more to do at Coober Pedy and three days was barely enough to cover the grounds.
Watching the sunset over rock formations along the 9600km dog fence, or from the lookout over town, was the icing on the cake and set us up for the ‘desert vibe’. Although this is the end of this episode, I hope you can join me in the next edition of ‘The Bribie Islander’, when we head to Uluru on the ‘The Long Way Round to Bribie’! [email protected] Logo: This logo was inspired by the numerous hand converted trucks, (made from the car bodies mentioned earlier) building up extracted gravel into white stone hills, which can be seen all around Coober Pedy.