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Oceania » Australia » South Australia » Coober Pedy
July 17th 2013
Published: July 18th 2013
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Of CourseOf CourseOf Course

You obviously don't take explosives in to the cinema. The manager does ask nicely
Hi every one,

Before you dive in to our latest blog, we just thought we would mention that this one is our 700th Blog entry.

I know you will say, so what,! you just write them and we just read them, but 700 entries, we have made.

We worked out last night that based on a 40 hour week and each blog taking about 4 hours to produce, equates to 1.35 years of blogging, now that is amazing.

Our first blog entries were made on the 30th September 2008, we initially were going to go with AOL for the blog and had published the first five entries on their site when they notified us and advised they were shutting their site down within thirty days, so we needed to go with a new blog provider and shift our first few blogs, even before we had left the UK.

It’s been fair to say that, they have been great to do, but in the early days, it put huge strain on us, looking for a place to get internet access whilst on the road, thank god for MacDonald’s and their free Wi-Fi, problem was as we always
Rare comodityRare comodityRare comodity

Water 20cents for 30 litres, we think that is fair,
used Macca's and never took anything for free, (We always made a purchase in MacDonald’s) we were either eating too much food or drinking too much Coffee, but our conscience was clean, we never took more than we were entitled to.

Then came the introduction of our Telstra Dongle, Well done Telstra, for this little Internet connection device that just plugged in to our Laptop to give us, then 3G and now 4G internet access, we had internet in some pretty remote places in Australia and are still using it.

So what now, well we will keep going, why not we have an enormous blog (Milestone) celebration in the next week or so, and beyond, well we haven’t finished travelling, so we haven’t finished blogging.

Thanks for reading our contributions, and thanks to everyone who have sent us messages on the blog, they have truly kept us going, so please don’t stop.

And finally to Caroline, who can type when we are driving down a corrugated track, upload .photo’s and so on, all whilst on the move and to her desire to provide some great pictures, also thanks to all our friends at Travel Blog, for
Caroline's dirty handsCaroline's dirty handsCaroline's dirty hands

Caroline was like a women possessed, when noodling for opals in the mullock heaps
providing an excellent platform and support, for our blogs.



William Creek to Coober Pedy

Another fine morning, it was a little on the cool side, so being spoilt we put the heater on briefly during our simple breakfast of toast and marmite.

We pack up and check the map just to confirm what we wanted to do and which direction to head today we were obviously taking our sweet time, by the time we left camp everyone else had gone!


The William Creek Road to Coober Pedy is 160 kilometres and just north of William Creek we turn off to the left and leave the Oodnadatta Track.


A small piece of information for you has a recorded population of 6 people in 2001, however nowadays it is more like 10 people and I am not sure if that is the same for the summer months.


A short distance after our turn is the turn off for the Anna Creek Station Homestead. This is recorded as the largest cattle station in the world at 6 million acres, 8 times larger than King Ranch in Texas and slightly bigger than Israel,
NoodlingNoodlingNoodling

Looking for Opals in the discarded piles of mullock (Waste diggings)
in the drought years only had 3,000 head of cattle, however following the rain and the flooding the head of cattle went up to 17,000 in August last year.

The landscape either side of us is prohibited land, not because of the cattle station, but because of Woomera, it is littered at intervals with old crashed cars, some of them look as if they are from the 1930's but we see a more modern VW Transporter that looks as if it has rolled off the track into the scrub, it is not even rusty yet and perhaps the insurance company wont even bother to collect it.


I see a Lake on my map and there is a track up to it, there are no signs to say it is prohibited so tell Andy we should go and have a look, we eventually drive over the top of a sand dune and see this most spectacular view of Lake Cadibarrawirracanna, there is water and birdlife in the lake, the water is crystal clear, there is barely a tree in sight and the landscape just stretches out ahead of us.

We considered stopping here for an overnight, but it is still too early in the day and neither of us really feels like stopping yet, so we have a cup of tea and then despite this beautiful scenery we move on.

Eventually I start picking up Telstra network so we are nearing Coober Pedy, the landscape is now dotted with little yellow wildflowers, we get out for a look, it seems to have a pungent smell in the area, but I wonder if it is the flowers.


The flat green and yellow landscape suddenly becomes very hilly as we start to see the spoil from the Opal mines in the distance, our minds slip back to Andamooka and wonder how Coober Pedy compares, we slide out onto the bitumen and head toward the town centre, we drive round scoping out the area and seeing what caravan parks are around and then pop into Tourist Information.

Suitably armed with leaflets and brochures on Coober Pedy we head off to find a caravan park, on the way passing something that looks like a petrol pump, we stop and see that it is a water pump, you put 20 cents in and can put 30 litres of water in your trailer/caravan tanks.

We head off to the Stuart Range Caravan Park, the prices are all roughly the same around here, but this one looks either brand new or it's had a refurbishment. We drive round the site twice to scope it out and find a suitable site and power pole to hook up to and commence set up.

Late afternoon we take a drive out to see what's around town and scope it for what we want to do tomorrow, we find a hairdresser, but it appears to be closed, the guy in the jewellers shop next door tells me that she only appears to work when she has bookings and suggest we try tomorrow at 10.

One thing that we notice in particular is how much waste is around, I am not talking about general household rubbish, but it seems that there are stacks of tyres, old vehicles, old computers, vdu's, washing machines in various places outside peoples house or yards and it made me wonder if anything leaves Coober Pedy once it arrives apart from people that is.

There are 45 different nationalities living and working in Coober Pedy, perhaps I should not be surprised with Opal in the ground, but the same problem exists here with many other parts of Australia, there are local indigenous that sit around drinking all day, best not to feel intimidated, but that is not easy as they seem to congregate when you pull up somewhere, it makes me wary but Andy just makes sure that everything is properly locked away.

We head toward a scenic lookout and it really directs you to an opal shop that has a high vantage point and then a sign says "stand here to see a view of the town" I obliged by standing on a cement block on a milk crate expecting a great view of the town, but is really obscured by next doors land so it is a bit disappointing really. Then the little Chinese guy comes out and tries to encourage you to go in the shop, but when I went in I could not see a shop, but there is a little dark ante room which he lights up and there you can see all the opal jeweller

A lot of it is quite expensive, but I have been learning about how precious opal actually is and some of the expensive jewellery has tiny slivers of opal. It got me wondering, about buying it from a reputable store, who do you trust is going to sell you a precious opal that is worth what you paid for it?

I leave the shop, but this guy then encourages me to have a look in this bucket where he starts showing me these stones washed with water. I look at the stones, they are all very lovely but nothing that I have not seen before on the very ground that I walk on and I am not paying $1 for something that I can pick up of the ground, I will let you know more about that tomorrow.

We drive on and have more of a look around, an interesting little town, but I think not quite like what either of us expected. It is not as clean and new as Roxby Downs, but then there is money here but the money is probably personal as opposed to belonging to large corporations who help subsidise the town by bringing its wealth and thus accommodation and facilities improve, new homes are built. Here the only thing that looks new is the caravan park we are staying in.

We find that once again as we are in a town our dinner of choice is pizza! Fortunately for us there is a pizza restaurant as part of the caravan park, so off we set order our pizza and sit and wait along with the other people. I listen and hear the orders being called out "pizza for Smith" etc. then eventually it is our turn and she shouts "2 pizza's for Caroline!" Well that makes me sound greedy as everyone turns around to look.

Again pizza goes down well, we sit in Gypsy to eat as the evening is quite cool, leftovers will make up our lunch for tomorrow and we watch a bit of catch up tv online then it is time for bed, the evening has turned warm, so once again we have to open the windows, such a relief following the really cold nights we had earlier in this trip.


Wednesday.


It is blowing a really hooley here in Coober Pedy, most unlike the hot weather we enjoyed yesterday when we arrived and most certainly the warmest yet. I have been grubbing around in the dirt today, something a girl has to do when precious stones are involved, trouble is if I am grubbing around in the dirt, so does Andy! Well I gave him a choice and he was happy to partake.

Our day started fairly easy, it was windy in the night so we had to make some adjustments to the awning before breakfast and after breakfast, but undeterred by the weather, we had plans so we headed out of the caravan park and on the way out I paid for another night.

While we are in Coober Pedy, it would be the right thing to do a mine tour, so we decided to do a self guided tour around the Old Timers Museum which is next door to the Comfort Inn Coober Pedy experience. The hotel is underground, it doesn't look much from the outside, but I am sure that it will be comfortable on the inside.

Driving through the town centre we see sheets of red dust blowing across the road at intervals, everyone looks fairly wrapped up to protect themselves from the harsh winds today, I guess if
Opal MineOpal MineOpal Mine

An old under ground Opal mine
you want anything sandblasted, today is the day to do it.

Andy was still hoping for a haircut but the hairdresser is still not open.

At the Old Timers Mine, we pay our $15 entry fee (each) grab our hard hats and a pamphlet each which gives numbered explanations as you walk through. The self guided tour explains how the mine shafts are formed, why some of them are so small (i.e. it depends on the size of the person digging it, put it this way the important part was to dig to find opal so they did not really want to spend time digging anything unnecessary, I think that I would have hated it being so small.

We see visible seams of opal still ingrained in the underground mine, no chance of having a dig though as there are cameras trained on your every move and put it this way I think there is no chance of making of with a $50,000 piece of opal.

There is plenty of potch or common opal to be seen, it is colourless and therefore worthless. The walls sparkle with gypsum, some areas are quite large yet others have a small vein running through the sandstone. You can very easily tell the difference between, the sandstone, opal, potch and gypsum.

The museum also takes us through an underground house which belonged to one of the first mining families in Coober Pedy, extremely fascinating to see how they would have lived, the temperature in the underground seemed almost perfect, it must be cool in the summer, there are air vents drilled into each room which allow light and air in. We did read that a snake dropped onto the bed one day after falling through one of the vents.

We search town to find a decent coffee, I am going to say at first look it is really hard to find, there are no lovely quaint little street cafe's here, we eventually find one and drive into the car park, even though it says it is open, the doors are locked, so we move on to the Desert Cave Hotel, which is Coober Pedy's first hotel and is also built underground, at least we find a decent coffee here.

The best bit of the day for me was what came next, "Noodling!" Andy promised that we would and so we drove round to the Mullock heaps on the edge of town that you are allowed to noodle through or in other words "Fossick" for Opal.

If there is precious stone involved then I want a slice of the action, I don't hold out much hope but it is just the fun of the search, which you have to control before the obsession takes hold and you do nothing else in life but look for precious stones in this vast land.


We ate our lunch and then Andy got the shovel out. There are large piles of mullock on both sides of the road, this is left from some of the original mines, there is a huge hole to the centre of the piles, but looking at the dirt piled up on the high edges and the fact this is a huge hole that already has a pile of dirt which has land slipped into the hole this would be a Health and Safety disaster waiting to happen and in this wind you can see some of the dirt already slipping so we choose a big pile of mullock that is off to one side and looks as if it has not already been rummaged through. You would really need to be careful where you are stepping too, if someone has left a hole you don't want to fall into it!

The wind has really got up now, it was much much stronger than it was this morning when we left camp, but we try and use this to our advantage, Andy shovels the dirt in the sieve which I then hold into the wind so the sand blows out, then you can look through the rock that remains.

The wind makes the temperature deceptive, I think the sun is very hot so we don't do any more than half hour which gives us several shovels of dirt and of course the thrill of the search, we unearth some pretty fine specimens of gypsum and I also find two tiny pieces of opal, they could be potch or at the very least one of them is and the other one is debatable, it does shimmer, but it has stone on both sides, so I cannot tell, it was exciting searching nonetheless. We pack away and my, ok "our" find is tucked away in the truck for later analysis, along with some rock specimens that I saw when the Chinese gentleman showed us his bucket of rocks yesterday, so I really did not need to pay $1 after all.

Fully sandblasted and covered in dirt, the wind has blown it through our hair and my black t-shirt is a healthy shade of off white we head back to camp, I cannot wait to jump in the shower.

When we arrive, we cannot see the awning and panic runs through us that the wind has shredded the awning and most of it has blown away, but as we get parked we realise that someone has taken it down, folded it and tied it up to our camping chairs with the poles neatly stacked underneath!

We are both relieved to see it is still there and of course having realised that the wind has really become quite bad, someone must have seen fit to rescue it before it either blew away or caused any damage. We have no idea who helped us out, but we are grateful.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the showers here are 20 cents for 3 minutes, so armed with plenty of 20cents off I went and spent $1 on a shower to get rid of all the dust and grime of the noodling. I know, I was just being extravagant.

When I got back Andy said that a gentleman popped around and knocked on the door, he explained that it was him who took the awning down and secured it for us because the wind got so bad. Andy thanked him for doing so, this guy was glad that we were grateful because he was pretty sure that some people would not have been so happy. Well we were happy because it was what we would have had to do anyway!

With a cup of tea in hand we spent the rest of the afternoon tapping away and publishing blogs that we are behind on and then there was a knock at the door. We looked at each other as if to say "who's that?" It is a rare occurrence to have people knock at the door, but that is primarily because usually we spend all our time outdoors and not shut away from the wind.

Andy shouts "hold on!" as if its
The Michelmore FamilyThe Michelmore FamilyThe Michelmore Family

Mitch, Leeanne, Holly and Daniel
going to take us ages to get to the door, but a nano second later the door is open and who do we see standing there? The Michelmore Family who we met whilst filling with diesel in Marree nearly 3 days ago!

I cannot believe they caught up with us let alone find us! (we weren't trying to hide!) Leeanne and Mitch went on to explain that they got to Dalhousie and now they are on their way home again via Coober Pedy. It also turns out that they stayed the night at William Creek the same night as us, but we cannot believe we did not bump into them until we find out that they stayed in the accommodation on the opposite side of the road to us. William Creek is so tiny we really should have bumped into one another there!

Of course quite by coincidence they are now staying at the same caravan park as us, we recommend the pizza to them. It was great to see them all again, we have a quick catch up, discuss the finer points of what we have been up to in Coober Pedy and I glean some information from them on Dalhousie and just as we are about to say goodbye's, someone wanders over to us to "say hello to the other Vista RV owner!"

So we say our goodbyes to the Michelmore's and introduce ourselves to Steve, who explains that he was towed in this afternoon, he was driving across the Anne Beadell highway when he had car trouble, it appeared that his Toyota Prado had a piece broken off and punctured the radiator, he limped back this way as far as he could and then had to call a tow truck, he noticed us when he was being towed onto site this afternoon and felt he had to come and say hello to us.

Steve's Vista is only 5 months old, slightly newer than ours and they too are pleased with it, he said the Vista performed beautifully on the Anne Beadell highway it was just the Prado that let him down, if he had a different tow vehicle then he perhaps would have been fine. The track was in very poor condition and despite being popular with outback tourists it would seem that the track has not been graded since Len Beadell created the track in the 1960's, the corrugations are really deep and thus you cannot go fast on this track and going slowly just rattles everything that is loose including the fillings in your teeth!

We are glad for this information because we would very much like to take this road across to Western Australia (not sure when) and wanted to know if it was feasible for us. The only thing that Andy was worried about was the limitations on fuel, there is only one fuel station on the way to Laverton in a journey of approximately 1300k's.


Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


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The Willaim Creek RoadThe Willaim Creek Road
The Willaim Creek Road

It was excellent


19th July 2013

Kudos to you
Congratulations on your 700th blog. : )
19th July 2013

Congratulations!
What a great achievement, 700 blogs! We all know the time and effort that goes into producing a blog, so well done. You've certainly covered a massive amount of Australia in that time. I look forward to reading many more.
19th July 2013
Caroline's dirty hands

EXPECTING A PRIZE
Congratulations...700 blogs...your substantial prize is in the mail...c/- Beyond the Black Stump Post Office...well done...and have a cool ale or two on me.
19th July 2013

Congratulations
Congratulations on a tremendous 700 blogs. Thank you for the reminiscences and for educating us on new destinations. We have withdrawal symptoms whenever there is a delay in the posting of the next blog. We look forward to many hundreds more. Keith & Jan xx
19th July 2013

Woohoo! Congratulations!
Incredible! 700 blogs!! You certainly are to be lauded. I liked that you stated it takes about 4+ hours to write one blog. Most readers have no clue- they think you (and I) are just naturally and casually writing all the info we present. In fact, it takes a lot of time to decide what to write about and make it into a concise essay that is both informative and fun. Thank you! Carolyn (I write as 'gunga') and am about to embark on a trip to Russia, Estonia, Finland and Ireland.
20th July 2013
The Willaim Creek Road

FOLLOW THAT ROAD
Great road
8th August 2013

Pizza
Hi Guys, thought I would spend some time reading your blog this morning since my walking partner decided to sleep in this morning. Am enjoying all your stories, especially on Cooper Pedy as it reminds me of our time there last year. We too enjoyed the pizza there. Also thought the common kitchen area there was great as it was all relatively new.

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