Monday, September 6, 2010

Coober Pedy - Mad Max country - SA (28 May - 3 June 2010)

After leaving Woomera we continued on up the middle, next stop was Coober Pedy, where the Mel Gibson movies, of Mad Max were filmed.  Coober Pedy is famous for the wonderful colourful opal mined here, as well as for under ground homes and Churches.  The trip from Woomera to Coober Pedy is the longest stretch on the Stuart Highway without fuel stations.  A lesson was learned on this stretch - always top up with petrol when one has the opportunity!   We speak from experience; about 80kms out from Coober Pedy we noticed the fuel gauge was getting rather low, so slowly, slowly, the speedo started to descend, until we limped into the town (along with 6 other vehicles) and made a bee-line for the first petrol station.  A very strong head-wind played havoc with our fuel consumption, and as it turned out, we had 30 litres to spare.  Never again have we gone past a petrol station without topping up! The locals must have a laugh to see all the different vehicles limping into town.
When in the caravan park at Coober Pedy, I mentioned to a lady we were staying 5 days, talk about shock, horror, the response to my comment was,  "Five days in Coober Pedy, what is there to do?"  I am sure you will be able to see from our list below, there is more than enough to do for many days stay in Coober Pedy. We had a great time, and Bucko had a delicious 'Coat of Arms' pizza in the best food shop in town, 'Johhnos', spotlessly clean, incuding the front and back counter space, along with great service, food and coffee.  Coober Pedy is a very unusual town, the streets are dry and dusty, nearly all the front yards look like garbage dumps, took me a while to figure out why - doh!  No backyards to hide the unwanted cars, tyres, pipes and the general rubbish in, so, of course they all sit out the front.  General decorations around the town are old used tyres; they are used as retaining walls, garden beds, you name, the folk of Coober Pedy have come up with a way to recycle the tyres.  All in all, we enjoyed are time in this rustic town very much, a few photos from around the town are in the album below.
After a look around town and the usual visit to the Information Centre, we decided to extend our stay from 3 to 5 nights, there was so much we wanted to do! Amongst the list was:
  • Take a 4hr flight to view Lake Eyre, with water in it, and stop over for lunch at William Creek, an iconic Outback Pub, which was once a stop on the old Ghan Railway line, total population 6!  Fantastic food, prepared by the lady who started the "Road Kill" menu at Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges. 
  • Ride with the Postman (and 12 others), on the 12hr mail run to out back stations. Lunch was at William Creek, we were almost locals, 2 days in a row we had been there for lunch.  Dinner was at the Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta.  Stations we stopped at along the way included Anna Creek, at 34,000sq kms the largest in the world - and the size of Belgium!  The photo album includes a photo of the mailman, who is an very interesting man, we learnt heaps, about the area and the brave explorers who ventured into the outback.  A special stop for myself and Bucko, (we both adore anything to do with Trains), was at the old iron railway bridge; which was part of the old Ghan rail track.  The powers that be, decided to pull down the bridge, however, the locals kicked up a bit of a ruckus and the bridge still stands. No welding was used in the bridge, only steel rivets, and the bridge has withstood many very high floods, as high at the railway lines, running through it.  More info: Mailrun Tour
  • Visit Underground Churches and Fays House. Our pick of the churches is the Serbian Church, a true underground church. On opening the door, one has to walk down and down a cool corridor, with walls of sealed stone, to then turn left into the main chamber of the church.  Unfortunately, due to cost savings some of the lights were not working, so the wonderful painted windows did not show up well in the photos I took; still we liked the place.  Fays' house, is like time has stood still and we had stepped back into the 60s.  A condition of sale, when Fay sold up, was for the house to be kept as a living museum, and it is, a lovely cool house to live in.  On those extra hot days that they get in Coober Pedy, a swimming pool is just outside the underground house, clean and ready for a quick dip, all under the cover of a roof and with shade cloth walls.  Ah, the best of both worlds. 
  • Visit the Old Timers Mine, this is an old abandoned mine which was accidently  discovered when the owners decide to dig out another room, for one of their children.  Instead of digging into solid rock, suddenly a hole appeared, and there was the old mine, just as the old miners had left it, many years ago.  The good news for the new owners was, the wall they broke through actually had a good seam of opal in it. I would not have liked to have been a miner in the old days, scary stuff in those terrible cramped and dusty conditions, see the 'models' below!. Come to think of it, not much different nowadays - thinking of those miners in Sth America.  More Info: Old Timers Mine  
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  • Tour a working Opal mine, now, this was very interesting, the young women who showed us around worked in partnership with her Dad; her young son, was scampering around the mine, just like any child would do in their own back yard!  A demonstration was given on how to make the explosives, used to break up the rock - they look just like a giant firecracker.  A sad tale we were told was, when a friend of the young women turned 21yrs, there was a party up above one of the mines.  The Birthday boy went down to set up a 21 bang salute, then came back up to view the fireworks, oops, the last one did not go off, so back down the mine he went to see what had happened..... a complete NO, NO, the poor lad was killed when the explosive went off.  Talking about dust, the demonstration given to us, was all done with the miner in a very confined space, drilling with the jack hammer, type of machinery and with NO mask.  All the folk on the tour gasped, and asked about masks, the response was"yeah, I am meant to wear one, but, they get too hot etc etc."  All I could think of of was how her lungs could be sucking in all that damaging dust.  Us city folk are so conscious of work safety, and out in some of the bush areas it seems it is all to hard.     
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  • Visit The Breakaways, most people who come to Coober Pedy do so, to see the opal mines, a few dugouts and usually only stay a night or two.  What a wonderful landscape they are missing out on, The Breakaways.  See for yourself.                                                          IMG_7740              IMG_7741 
  • Take a trip to the Dog Fence, a fence of legend, which is really just a fence, but, we had to see it.  For my  international readers, you may be asking, "What is the Dog Fence?  "The Dog Fence is a pest-exclusion fence that was built in Australia during the 1880s and finished in 1885, to keep dingoes out of the relatively fertile south-east part of the continent (where they had largely been exterminated) and protect the sheep flocks of southern Queensland. It is one of the longest structures in the world and is the world's longest fence. It stretches 5,614 km (3,488 mi). (Ref: Wikipedia). The only native dog in Australia is the Dingo, who just loves to hunt sheep.
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  • Purchase a book 'The Last of The Nomads' which is about Warri and Yatungka who were believed to be the last members of the LASTNOMADSMandildjara tribe, of the desert nomads to live permanently in the traditional way. This book is a real eye-opener on how strong and resilient the Aboriginal people were, to be able to live and survive for thousands of years in such a hostile and harsh land.  Do yourself a favour and borrow the book from your local library, or better still, purchase it for yourself, this book is a 'keeper.'  To purchase follow this link The Last of The Nomads.
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