Monday, July 20, 2015

19 July - Day 6 - Coober Pedy, SA

After another chilly night we woke to a brilliant sunny day, the first on our trip. We decided to check out the visitor information centre and develop a plan for our two days here. We decided the Desert Cave tour was the way to go and as it started at 2:45pm that gave us time to walk into town and get our bearings.
In the caravan park you are soon reminded that you're in the middle of a desert and that water is scarce. There are no water connections to the caravan and the showers are coin operated. We carry water in the van but you become conscious that it is a scarce commodity.
Coober Pedy is the opal capital of the world. This little desert community of about 3,500 produces 80% of the world's opals.
For miles around the town the signs of mining are everywhere. All you need is a permit to become a miner and start digging but the odds are against you - only 1 in 100 digs result in any opal and 98% of opal is pretty but worthless. Given that summer temperature can reach in excess of 50ºC here, it is a hard life. From the surface, the town doesn't look much but 60% of the population live in 'dugouts' - underground homes. There are underground homes, hotels, motels, churches everywhere and in these the temperature only varies between 21 and 25ºC.

After a walk around the town and lunch in the caravan it was time to join our tour led by a local miner Jimmy (real name Demitrious) who has lived here all his life after arriving from Greece as an 18 year old. Our tour included some local sites as well as a visit to the Breakaway (a local geological formation). First visit was a mine and an underground house right under the main street.

Then it was time to drive out into the desert to visit the Breakaways.
The tour was timed to provide the perfect late afternoon lighting for photos of the desert and we reached the Dingo fence while there was still enough light left. This fence which runs through Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia for over 5000 km, literally divides the country into a northern beef cattle area and a southern sheep grazing area by keeping the dingoes (wild native dogs) out of the southern region.
By the time we returned to Coober Pedy it was dark and we had one more place to visit, St Elias an underground Serbian Orthodox church. This was certainly an amazing sight and one of the highlights of the trip.
Tomorrow we continue our trip to Ayer's Rock and beyond.


  1. Really nice photos! I like the light in the photo...

  2. Wow. What an interesting place. It would be weird living underground, but necessary for the heat.


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