Published: February 26th 2011February 26th 2011
Should anybody every decide to come to Australia and do a driving/camping holiday please remember to bring with you a good selection of music. Failing to do so was one of our mistakes and it was therefore with great enthusiasm that we set our early from Port Augusta heading towards Coober Pedy!
Now, by my opening comment I'm not trying to imply that Australian radio is rubbish, it just simply does not seem to exist for large sections of the country, or at least not in the eyes or our radio. It is therefore a little boring to drive for about 6 hours straight without any music. This experience is not aided by the blistering hear in the cabin of the campervan, nor that you cheer whenever you see a corner which might happen maybe twice in an hour.
It was with some relief that we arrived in Coober Pedy, a very odd little town where about 60% of the population live underground. This town is one of the cornerstones of the Australian opal industry with Australia exporting 70% of the world's opals. Rather oddly Coober Pedy is not mined by any big mining company and still comprises small
groups of friends trying to make their fortune. These are the people who, back in the day, made their homes under the ground in their mine shafts.
Unfortunately we arrived too late in Coober Pedy to do any real sight seeing that day and instead checked ourselves into the campsite, bought some more food and then went to use the pool. This was a rather odd pool as it was made in the campsite's old water tank and was still fully enclosed by the tank. It was quite cold but that felt good after the hot day in the cab and it still was not the coldest pool we had used in Australia.
We woke early the next day with the freat joy of knowing that the drive to Yulara, the resort to Ayers Rock, was even longer than the drive to Coober Pedy. In order to put this off a bit longer we went to the Old Timers Mine. This is a museum in a previoulsy mined area in Coober Pedy. Despite the fact that it is no longer a working mine there are still some large opal veins in the mine, including one near the shop valued at over $40,000. It was very interesting to see how they used to mine the opals, as you got to go down into the miners shafts. Thankfully you went in by an entrance and not down one of the shafts as the old miners used to. The ceilings of the mine were very low, as it would just be wasted effort to make them any bigger than needed. We also got to learn how they mined in Coober Pefy today, using large cutters and blowers which we saw in action. That said, he did point out that when they find the opal vein they still have to mine it by hand.
We then set off for Yulara, driving most of the day. The only times we managed to get excited on the drive were for all the wrong reasons as the prive of diesel kept increasing on our way to Yulara, going up about 50 cents per litre between Coober Pedy and Curtin Springs, the roadhouse closest to Yulara.