One of the many underground churches in Coober Pedy
Day 15 - Kulgera to Coober Pedy
Back on the road, we started the long drive to today’s destination, Coober Pedy. The countryside around Kulgera was surprisingly hilly and the vegetation was not as sparse as I had imagined it would be in this part of Central Australia. However, about an hour outside of Coober Pedy the scenery started to look more like something you’d see on Mars and sure enough, we started to see signs that warned of deep mine shafts around the area.
This was a long and boring drive and we made sure the kids were well prepared with MP4 players and handheld video games for this part of the trip. I had wanted to stay in an underground house in Coober Pedy ever since I was a child so I had booked us a night at The Underground Motel and we were looking forward to escaping the searing heat there. Surprisingly though, it rained instead and we found out just how cold Central Australia can get. The underground room was just as good at keeping us warm and cosy though. You could literally feel the difference not more than 3 steps into the room from
The Underground Motel at Coober Pedy - very nice
the front door - outside was freezing, inside was a balmy 22-23 degrees C.
The only downside was that there were no laundry facilities at the hotel and Kevin had to make a trip to the Laundromat.
Day 16 - Coober Pedy to Port Augusta
Whilst the rain had cleared overnight, the wind had sprung up and it was surprisingly cold. Consequently, it was hard to leave our cosy little motel room and brave the outside elements but we had another long drive ahead of us and we wanted to see a few of the underground buildings in Coober Pedy that are free and open to the public. These include several churches and the international hotel in the middle of town which has a walk through museum downstairs. We also went to a couple of shops and eventually ended up at Tom’s Working Mine, a privately run museum which was originally an old mine that the family turned into a home. It’s quite amazing to see how they manage to get natural light and ventilation into a lot of the rooms although not all the rooms have windows. Being a little bit prone to claustrophobia, I thought
Driving South to Port Augusta
I would have trouble with that, particularly when our bedroom at the hotel didn’t have a window but there was so much natural light filtering in from the windows at the front that I didn’t feel closed in at all.
We finally left Coober Pedy around lunch time and headed for Port Augusta. Once again, there’s nothing much to see although an interesting feature on the way is Island Lagoon which is a small salt lake very close to Lake Gairdiner. You’d have to look at a map to know what I mean when I say small because in actual fact it’s huge but when compared to Lake Eyre, Torrens or Gairdiner (which are the “big” salt lakes in South Australia), it really is quite small. The vegetation around here is very much saltbush plains and so the glimpses that you catch of Island Lagoon are a quite welcome relief from the monotony. You can also see the Flinders Ranges from here and they are spectacular although it was still overcast when we went through and so we didn’t get to see the afternoon sun lighting up the walls of the Ranges like I’ve seen in numerous photographs.
Sturts Desert Pea
Although I had a campsite booked, I was hoping that we might have been able to get a cabin in the caravan park but unfortunately it was the start of the Labour Day weekend in South Australia and everywhere was booked out. We put up the tent reluctantly and rugged up against the cold wind then headed for Kmart in the hope of purchasing a better air mattress as we were fed up with sleeping on the thin mattresses that came with the car. Alas, the only store that was open was Woolworths and there were no air-mattresses but there was a quilted mattress protector which we bought for $20 - one of the best purchases we made all trip!! We put two of the crap mattresses together then lay the quilted mattress protector over them, then laid one of the double sleeping bags over the top of that which made quite a soft, warm surface to lie on. Plus, the wind eased up overnight so we actually ended up having a good night’s sleep.
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