Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Melbourne to Alice Springs Roadtrip: Day 5 Coober Pedy

This post continues the series on our two week roadtrip from Melbourne to Alice Springs and back during the July school holidays.

Today was the day for our 4WD Arid Area tour. We booked the 4hr Coober Pedy town and Breakways tour prior to leaving Melbourne. Wayne arrived at 9:30am and we headed off round town. There's a few things that set Coober Pedy apart from other towns ... the first being that a large portion of the town is underground to escape the heat. There are homes, shops, motels and churches, including the Catacomb Church

and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

There are plenty of local characters. We visited Faye's Underground home ... dug out of the ground by three women using picks and shovels.
Faye's Underground House Coober Pedy

Also Crocodile Harry's Nest. Harry spent 13 years hunting crocodiles before settling in Coober Pedy to try some opal mining. His home became a place for backpackers to hang out for free ... as long as they left something behind. The walls and ceiling are plastered with mementos from all over the world, and inside and outside is furnished with re-purposed junk.
Crocodile Harry's Nest Coober Pedy
Crocodile Harry's Nest Coober Pedy

What Coober Pedy is famous for of course are opals and mines are dotted all over the town and surrounds. For that reason you need to be extremely careful. Do not walk off the paths alone and avoid disturbed ground.

In the middle of town is the Old timer's Mine. Rediscovered in 1968, the original mine dates back to 1925 and it is the place to get a good feel for what mining opal originally involved.
Blower Coober Pedy
Blower Old Timers Mine Coober Pedy

We had a good time perusing the highly inappropriate ads in some old newspaper clippings including this one ...

These days, a lot of the miners use large excavating machinery to dig down to opal level and then hollow out massive tunnels through the rock.
Opal Mine Coober Pedy



We also did some noodling. There was a fair bit of opal, we even found some with colour.

The Boy had a good time bashing this rock to reveal the fossilized shells within.

North of town are the Breakways with flat topped mesas and stony gibber planes, they have been the setting for films including Max Max.

We stopped at the dog fence. Built to keep dingoes out of sheep country (north is cattle) it stretches 5614km from Jimbour to the Eyre Peninsula.
The Dog Fence

You may have guessed that all this took longer than the 4hrs advertised. It was a fantastic way to get a good overview of Coober Pedy and get out in the opal fields.

After our tour we relaxed in our apartment ... 

before heading back into town for some opal shopping, kangaroo feeding and dinner at Tom and Mary's Greek Taverna.

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