Glendambo, Coober Pedy & Arkaringa in South Australia - 16-18 November 2916

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Oceania » Australia » South Australia » Coober Pedy
November 18th 2016
Published: December 9th 2016
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Wed and Thursday, 16 & 17 November 2016

The name of the town was approved by the Geographical Names Board on 13 May 1982 and was derived from the Glendambo Homestead.

Glendambo is a comprehensive roadside stopping point with a caravan park, a hotel-motel, a licensed restaurant, roadhouse and general store. The hotel was certainly worth stopping for as it has extensive memorabilia from the wool industry.

It was then onto Coober Pedy, the town which is sometimes referred to as the "opal capital of the world" because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined there. Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called "dugouts", which are built in this fashion due to the scorching daytime heat. The name "Coober Pedy" comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means "boys’ waterhole" or “whiteman’s mining” depending on who you are talking to.

Opal was found in Coober Pedy on 1 February 1915; since then the town has been supplying most of the world's gem-quality opal. Coober Pedy today relies as much on tourism as the opal mining industry to provide the community with employment and sustainability. Coober Pedy has over seventy opal fields and is the largest opal mining area in the world.

The first European explorer to pass near the site of Coober Pedy was Scottish-born John McDouall Stuart in 1858, but the town was not established until after 1915, when opal was discovered by Wille Hutchison. Miners first moved in about 1916. By 1999, there were more than 250,000 mine shafts entrances in the area and a law discouraged large-scale mining by allowing each prospector a 15.3 m2 claim. Now there are millions of holes.

The harsh summer desert temperatures mean that many residents prefer to live in dugouts bored into the hillsides. A standard three-bedroom cave home with lounge, kitchen, and bathroom can be excavated out of the rock in the hillside for a similar price to building a house on the surface. However, dugouts remain at a constant temperature, while surface buildings need air conditioning, especially during the summer months, when temperatures often exceed 40 °C.

We saw many of the attractions in Coober Pedy include the mines, the graveyard and the underground churches (the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Catacomb Church and the Catholic Church).

The first tree ever seen in the town was welded together from scrap iron and sits on a hillside overlooking the town. It still sits on a hilltop overlooking the town.

The first evening there we went to the Desert Cave Hotel Museum, where there are exhibitions about opal mining and Coober Pedy's history and landscapes. We also had a very cold beer there which was very refreshing in the 36 degree heat.

For the sunset, we drove up to The Big Winch which provided us with a 360 degree view of the town. We certainly saw the extent of the mining around the town with 1000s of piles of white stones dug out from the underground mining.

We decided to do a tour with Aaron who is the owner of Noble Tours Australia. He was fantastic and full of knowledge which he shared as we drove around in his 4x4 bus. We saw:

Josephine's Gallery & Kangaroo Orphanage was where we saw Aboriginal art, especially dot paintings, also boomerangs, didgeridoos and other artefacts. The owners also take care of orphaned kangaroos.

Umoona Opal Museum, included an old opal mine and opal exhibition and shop, dugouts, and Aboriginal interpretive centre.

Faye’s Underground home which includes a swimming pool built underground. Faye was a Queenslander who was a cook and miner and did extraordinary charitable work for the town.Moon Plains which we saw on the way out to the Breakaways. The Breakaways were incredible. The multi coloured landscape which had been moulded and layered over the millions of years was certainly a sight to be seen. It was beautiful.On the way out we also stopped to look at the Dingo Fence which protects south-eastern Australia’s sheep industry from losing one third of its sheep per year to dingos. The government spends $10 million per year to maintain it.

As we drove and walked around Coober Pedy, we saw many shops selling opal jewellery and single stones. Many were very interesting to enter as they all were a little quirky.

The town of Coober Pedy has also been the setting for films such as Opal Dream (2005) which tells the story of a young girl and her imaginary friends. The countryside around Coober Pedy has also featured as a backdrop to some movies including Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Some of the film props from Mad Max are still to be seen in town.

We stayed at Coober Pedy for 2 nights parked in the back yard of a local with shower and toilets provided. He was a very informative guy as he had lived in the town for many years.

Friday 18 November 2016

After deflating our tires to 32psi we headed for the dirt road to Mt Barry where we veered left to Arckaringa Station. The 140 km road had recently been graded so travelling was very easy.

We arrived at the Station, greeted by Katie and her young son. It was hot but there was a nice wind which kept things cool(ish). We hooked up to power which lasted only when the Station’s generators were working (ie not at night). We parked next to the shelter and BBQ which was close to the toilet and showers and cabin accommodation.

That afternoon we drove 10-13kms out to the Painted Desert. Wow, and wow again. We though the Breakaways were spectacular. The Painted Desert was that and more. With a fine white wine and cheese in our car fridge plus chairs, we went out for the sunset. Ah, this is the life.!!!!

We did a 30 minute walk all over the ridge tops of the Painted Desert Hills. The path was marked with big arrows made of the dark red rock found in the area. The mesas were a rainbow of colours ranging from white to red. We sat in the strong wind, which was very cooling, sipping our wine, watching the sun go down.

Driving back to Arckaringa Homestead, the sun continued to throw beautiful colours around us. It was magical. It was as good as the sunsets over the Bolivian saltpans and the sunsets over the sand dunes in Namibia. I know you shouldn’t compare but thinking of the 3 experiences, my ‘magical cup’ runneth over!!!!!

Returning to the Homestead, we found that the managers had left the plant drippers on so there was no water in the tanks to pump for showers. Sponge bath was in order to hold us over until the morning!!!!

Additional photos below
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19th February 2019
144 Coober Pedy - Orthodox Church

Orthodox church
Hi there, I am a video director and was looking for regional churches and stumbled across your blog post with the Orthodox Church. Could be a great location - love the photo! The only thing is I can't seem to find any info or photos on the church anywhere else! Would you be able to point me in the right direction - even a number to call to ask if it's still there and if it's possible to access the inside etc. Thanks for your time and hope you are still travelling! All the best, Jeremy Koren
19th February 2019
144 Coober Pedy - Orthodox Church

Old Timers Mine and Museum Cooper Pedy
Hi Jeremy Thanks for making contact. Yes the curch is still there. I would suggest to get in touch with the Old Timers Mine and Museum in Cooper Pedy. They are full of knowledge etc and they should point you in the right direction as they are very community minded. Hope this works for you. Regards Pam Usher

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