Coober Pedy (A.K.A White man Burrows)

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September 30th 2018
Published: September 30th 2018
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Coober Pedy (Aboriginal for "White man burrows")

Due to the winds I delayed my departure about an hour from the Ayers Rock resort. It was cooler but windy for the first hour or so of my ride out of Uluru back to the main road (152 miles). Once I hit the Stuart highway, I had a 304 mile trek down to Coober Pedy. Note: the Stuart highway runs from the top of the country starting in Darwin in the North to Adelaide in the south. I caught Stuart Highway at Tennant Creek and will ride about 2/3 of the length of the road by the time I reach Adelaide.

The winds died down and the last leg of the ride was relaxing. About a 100 miles from Coober Pedy I entered the state of South Australia. I actually took a picture of the clouds because I hadn’t see that many clouds together in over a week.

The pictures of the mounds are opal mines outside of Coober Pedy (CP). The name of the town comes from aboriginal people’s and it means “white man who Burrows”. Opals were discovered in CP around 1915 and at one point housed over 5,000 people mostly opal miners. The miners found that living in the caves they created gave them relief from both the heat of day and cold of night. When the Aboriginal tribes walked through they gave the land its name after seeing how the white man was living in the dugouts.

I booked a room at Lookout Cave Motel. Like most of the town the hotel is wholly built into the side of a mountain (70% of the residents live under ground still today). See the pictures the caves remain a constant 20-25 C degrees regardless of outside temps. Highs in the summer here reach 50 degrees Centigrade (C) and -1 C at night. You can buy a very nice size dwelling for $200,000 AD. No heat or AC required. The owner of Lookout Cave is a Greek named Nick. If you visit he has some nice rooms, and a great view of the city. See the Pic’s.

I asked Nick where a reputable place to buy an opal would be ? Nick referred me to the Umoona opal museum. I met the proprietor of the museum another Nick (also Greek I think). Nick and Annette gave me a crash course on opals. I also took the tour through the mine directly below the museum -Annette was our tour guide and grew up in CP, where her mum was an opal miner. Value of an opal per carat can range from $15 to 10,000 or more, depending on color and and type. See the pictures of the mine tour. It was very interesting. If you visit CP, The Umoona Museum shop is THE place to buy an Opal both variety, quality, and honesty. All the opals except for a very few which came from the lightning mine in Queensland, came from the CP mines. If you are wondering if there is a way to authenticate opals- opals Flores under UV light.

Opals exist because of sand (silica) from the great inland sea which made up much of central Australia dried up. Under pressure over time water seeped through and captured the Silica from the sand which collected in pockets. As the water eventually evaporated (over say 5 million years) opals were left behind. This is of course a very "watered down" version (pun intended) of Opal creation. On hardness scale diamonds are a 10, and pearls are a 3, and Opals are a 6. The value of opals continues to rise because there are viewer miners. I was told young people ( the other kind of minors) don’t want to work as hard as opal miners have to, so there is lesser supply of miners and thus fewer opals mined. I’m glad I decided to do two days here in Coober Pedy. If I had not, I wouldn’t have been able to do the tour of the mine, shop for opals (36th wedding anniversary Oct 9 when Karen arrives). I also had a chance to do a load of laundry at the hotel. That was my last day where I'll cover more than 350 miles in a day. So from here on I should only have half day riding max. Riding on two lane roads constantly is a lot different than the US interstate system so I would equate a 300 mile day in Oz to a 500 mile day in the US. My ride yesterday of 456 would be closer to a 700 mile day in the states.

Ended my day with dinner at Umberto's at the Desert Cave Hotel. Had one of the best Lamb Shanks in the known universe. **** Don't forget there are additonal pictures below. **** Next stop Woomera, South Australia

G'Day Mates !


Additional photos below
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