A lot of nothing was between us and Coober Pedy. We left Ceduna at 4:30 PM anxious
to get on the road. There are 1000 km. between us and the next part of our story.
But first a little about the new engine. It is 10% bigger, 2.2 vs. 2 liters. It
is running smoothly and has considerably more power. That could be just the bigger
size but I think much of it is that this one is not worn out. The mechanic said
that the distributor was cranked all the way over to make up for the looseness in
the timing chain. It cost us AUD $4.400 (USD $3,300) plus another AUD $600 for the
motel. But we plan to now raise the selling price by a couple thousand dollars.
The higher value will be there when we sell it. We are now in Alice Springs waiting
out a rainy day. Tomorrow we have the break-in oil change on the new engine and
then we should be good to go at regular intervals.
Now back to your regularly scheduled travelogue.
We traveled for a couple hours and did a bush camp at a rest area. (Think wide dirt
area alongside the highway for stopping and stretching, not a nice paved, with toilets,
stopping area like in the USA.) Early the next day we are again on the road and
we arrive in Coober Pedy late that afternoon after fighting another head wind. (We
were able to add 20-30 kph to our traveling speed because of the new engine.) We
checked in at the campground and went to the bar for a beer and snacks. It was a
The town is famous for its Opals. 80 or 90% of the worlds opals come from here (how
much depends on which tourist pamphlet you read). The first ones were discovered
in 1915 and the town has had it ups and downs since then. This is an actual mine,
now a tourist site, that was started by hand digging in the 20’s. The tunnels go
any old way depending on the indicators for opals, left, right, up, down, and at
different slopes and levels.
Then access was by notches cut into the side walls of the pit. That is a manikin
and not a real person. Also visible is another level of tunnels with a fence to
keep tourists from harm.
There was also a home underground as part of the tour. This home was lived in from
1918 until 1990 when the mine owner/home owner turned it all into a tourist attraction.
Today the access is by horizontal tunnel into the souvenir shop and then down a set
of stairs. And they loan you a hard hat, which was much needed as the tunnels were
no bigger than necessary to get the opals out. More digging meant more hauling out
of waste. It was easily worth the $15 entrance fee.
A lot of the town is underground. A hotel is on the right and a museum/opal store/tourist
mine is on the left.
The tourist booklet even says one can “camp” underground but it consists of a room
to lay your sleeping bag, not a place to set up our campervan.
The countryside all the way around Coober Pedy is riddled with 10’s of thousands
of these mounds. This stretches for many kilometers, and Coober Pedy is only the
first of three major fields of opals. Each mound is a prospector’s try at riches.
Some of today’s operations are surface mines where they use large equipment to move
masses of dirt at a time.
We spent only one day, two nights, here and then it was back on the road headed to
Uluru. And yes we did buy Kathy an opal pendent!