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18: Opal town

Yulara to Coober Pedy

semi-overcast 19 °C
View Hinchinbrook and Centre on Farhorizons's travel map.

Looking over Old Timer's and other mines, Coober Pedy

Looking over Old Timer's and other mines, Coober Pedy

At Old Timers mine

At Old Timers mine

Juhn and Yurgen at our sunny breakfast table

Juhn and Yurgen at our sunny breakfast table

John and our luxurious living room

John and our luxurious living room

Fabulous underground B&B, Coober Pedy - from outside

Fabulous underground B&B, Coober Pedy - from outside

After our free breakfast of bacon and eggs and tomato and too many croissants, we left Yulara by 8.30 for the long 734k drive to Coober Pedy, catching a last glimpse of Uluru in the morning light as we left. We retraced our steps through scrubby sand dunes past Mt Connor and met the Stuart Hwy again at Erldunda where the premium unleaded was almost as expensive as at Yulara - well it comes a long way to get here.
I drove the rest of the day as John is coming down with a cold after all the temperature changes lately. We've worked out how to set up my Ipod in the Ipod compatible connector in John's car so we can play the thousands of tunes on my ipod from the radio console. Wow! Modern technology! Anyway, I love long distance driving and the vast open skies, vivid colours and possibilities of interesting wildlife to some of my favourite music. The country got flatter and flatter, and the vegetation shrank to mid calf height over the next few hours until we got to an area that seemed to have been invaded by some species of underground rodent - umpteen thousands of them - little pale conical mounds from 1-5 metres in height as far as the eye could see! This was one of the outlying opal fields of Coober Pedy - which is supposed to mean "White man in hole" translated from Aboriginal. It really must be the weirdest place in Australia. The Underground B&B we had booked was very highly recommended in tripadvisor.com, but you'd never stay here if you were choosing accommodation on outside appearance. Like many homes in Coober Pedy it looked like a couple of sheds against a dusty cliff among piles of rubble on a very dusty treeless road. Inside, our accommodation was spacious, luxurious and tastefully appointed with everything you'd expect in a luxury hotel. The bedrooms were excavated well into the cliff so that with the door closed it was hard to tell whether it was morning yet. John found this a bit disconcerting, but it was perfectly silent and dark - ideal sleeping conditions. Our bedroom opened onto a beautiful, large sitting room with enormous TV, and this in turn to an open-to the air living space which had a large, fully appointed kitchen attached. All the spaces but our bedroom were potentially to be shared with the occupants of a second bedroom, but it was all ours! We loved it so much we stayed an extra night, which gave John a chance to rest and get over his cold. We loved sitting out in the sun to eat our breakfasts, and made good use of the free bottle of wine and lovely home-laid eggs our hostess provided. John was able to watch Hawthorn triumph (again) on the biggest of our 3 TVs, and of all the places we've stayed, the wifi was not only "free", but actually worked - really well! As accommodation was fabulous and John didn't feel so well, we stayed an extra day and did lots of washing which dried quickly in the warm sun.
We had dinners at the Greek cafe and at John's. Like a lot of places here, neither of them looked up to much from the outside, but the food was pretty good. We went down the "Old Timers Mine" and quickly discovered why we had to wear hard hats! The Old Timers Mine included the long-term underground home of one of the old timers. We also met and went to visit Yurgen and Gabbie - modern opal miners, in their underground home. Extensions are just a matter of digging further into the cliff. Of course you occasionally run into an old mine shaft or something. We are told that only about 16 miners still operate at Coober Pedy, all of them over 60. "Coober Pedy" is supposed to be aboriginal for 'White man in hole".

Posted by Farhorizons 22:34 Archived in Australia Tagged hinchinbrookandcentre

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