Sure didn’t disappoint . It was always going to be a quirky town when the majority of the population lives underground. Situated on the edge of a desert it makes complete sense to burrow into the earth. With a constant temperature of around 22degrees it beats the summer heat of well up into the 40’s and into the 50’s at times and in winter it can get pretty chilly outside.
I stayed at a caravan park for 4 nights and then one night in an underground motel for the novelty factor. Perhaps other motels were better but this one was a bit noisy and was not as pitch black as I had expected it to be. The fact that the rooms came off a central entry hall may have contributed to both the noise level and more light. It is a bit of a must do in Coober Pedy though.
I booked a tour (Noble Tours) here that did all the town sights, a museum (with opal shop attached of course), one of the four underground churches and a trip out to The Breakaways, past the Dog Fence and then back through a mining area and into an open cut mine. It was a good value tour. I also went on The Mail Run Tour (see seperate blog). Coober Pedy was a great little town with friendly locals. I caught up with a friend from Cairns here and we travelled up to Darwin together.
While mining is no longer allowed in the town area there are several that are open for tourists to see. Some free some paid. Faye’s Home and Mine was an interesting tour. Faye and 2 other ladies dug out an old house by hand which was no mean feat for women back in the 1960’s. At the time the town would have been a rough town dominated by men. They dug a mine beside the house and turned it into a tourist mine in the 1970’s. The house itself as been preserved the way it was and only the kitchen is used with a private room dug out for the caretaker to reside in. Well worth a visit.
Every second shop in town sells opals. The tour guide told me that only about 10% of possible opal bearing land has been searched. It’s labour intensive and not worth it for the “big players” to get involved so it’s left to the lone fossicker or sometimes a couple of mates will pool resources to try their luck. I was surprised that it is relatively cheap to get a license to peg a claim. The real cost is in the machinery needed to dig down to find the opal.
Coober Pedy is well worth putting on your list of places to see. It’s quirky. It’s remote. It’s a harsh environment but it’s easy to see the appeal of the place. The houses “Dugouts” are like cubby houses for adults. Cool in summer and warm in winter. A fun but very practical way to live.