Day 6 - The Red Centre - Coober Pedy touring

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May 24th 2017
Published: May 24th 2017
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Hi everyone, big day today so i apologise now for writing so much. Today was a day of mixed speeds. We had a very slow morning. No hurry to get up. Plenty of time to shower, go for a walk to the local servo for coffees and no hurry to come back. Laying in the sun was the order of the morning. I kept blocking the sun from Tracey and she was not happy. Such a great morning. Half the park checked out and they were predominatly large vans and their work horses ( Xavier was happy because he is seeing lots of Rangers). Not seeing many Hi Lux's pulling vans. We had a very light lunch. Tracey is still complaining that she has not been able to find any cream buns. Boy she is annoying (Haha).

Ok now this is when the fun starts. We finished lunch at 12.15 pm. Now why is this time important. Well we had to go to the front reception by 12.45pm to join a Coober Pedy tour. As you might expect we were overly excited about the tour and were at reception at 12.30pm. Having said that we did not know what we
Tour BusTour BusTour Bus

Driven by Jim
were in for. At 12.55pm the Big 4 camp owner YIanni Giallopopolous and his sidekick Jim were the bus drivers. Now these two had very different backgrounds. YIanni is a restaurant owner and caravan park owner. Jim on the other hand is an ex miner who has had successes and failures since the mid 70s. We did not know who they were when we entered the bus and we got lucky with Jim at the helm. Now this tour took 5 hours, it is such a contrast to our lazy morning. The bus was an old 20 seater that had a mind of its own and handled terribly on the corrugations. There were two buses following each other. The first place we visited was the local sporting oval. Now why the hell would you go to see a sporting oval. You may remember from previous posts that there is limited water in Coober Pedy and surrounds, so finding something green growing out of the ground is rare. Well, the oval was a lush green. The point of this visit is that the town oval, donated by Oz Minerals, is watered by reclaimed sewerage water. The second and only other oval
Entrance to a new dug outEntrance to a new dug outEntrance to a new dug out

This is the dug out owned by Yiannis, the caravan park owner
is the primary school oval and it was also a lush green colour. Good to see our effluent being put to good use and that we are comfortable to allow our children to play on it. The other important resource here is power. The power is generated by two diesel generators providing power directly to the grid. This is now recently supported by 3 power wind turbines and a whole bank of solar panels. Now drinking water comes directly from a natural spring called Strawberry Spring. Now this is salty water and it is about 20km out of town on the way to Oodnadatta. We passed it on the way in and thought it strange that there was this white shed in the middle of knowhere. This water is pumped to Coober Pedy and put through a reverse osmosis plant to create very nice and clean drinking water. The locals here reckon this is the best water in Australia. Now we passed the police station which seemed quite small for 15 police. Maybe they spent all their time on the road in their Troop Carriers (with the obligatory cages in the back). We also meandered past the court house which apparently is open one week in every two months. Our driver Jim, who by now had become Grace's friend (Grace is our 5 year old Granddaughter) told us that the local youth kept the police and courts busy and that everyone had to be on their toes to reduce the crime rate. The next topic of conversation was churches. We passed one church, I forgot the denomination, and it was buried in a dug out in a hill. We passed it so quickly I missed it. Must be due to it being burried under a ton of rubble. Apparently there are six churches in Coober Pedy and two of thelse are Orthodox. Now after the church drive by we stopped at a dugout being built. Now this dugout is owned by the now famous Yianni who is the first bus driver, caravan park owner and pizza restaurant chef and owner and apparently now he is an owner builder. The dugout is simply a below ground residence. it is built out of an existing hill consisting of local Bull Shale which is basically a sandstone. This sandstone was sediment from ancient seabeds, yes the sea was this far inland. Hard to believe. Anyhow, we arrived after having visited , green grass, a police station, the courts and a church, what was next? Well we were amazed. There was this mini rock digger deep in the hill shaving off bits of this Bull Shale To make another room. The best part of it was they had this gigantic vacuum cleaner contraption attached to its backside taking the dirt out of the dugout to the front of the residence and dumping it outside. The dust outside was immeasurable and yet no dust was found inside this partially built residence. The walls were all very neatly cut and square and this digger was about three times the size of a Dingo digger. It costs about $80,000 to dig out and about 3 months although YIanni reckons it has already taken a year due to mechanical breakdowns. Again OH&S had left the building. Over half of the population of Coober Pedy live in these dugouts. The dug outs are naturally aspirated with chimneys in most of the larger rooms. There is no heating or cooling. The dugouts are a constant 23 to 25 degrees irrespective of the temperature outside.

After this we went past the Golf Course. Now my brother in law Barry will be interested in this. The golf course has no greens. The tee off points had a piece of artificial grass measuring 1 metre by 2 metres. The rest is all dirt with the greens just a patch of dirt that seems to be finely sifted. The first tee off point is on TOP of a 50 meter hill and you have to hit the ball down to the bare paddock below.

Seeing the dugout and the golf course were so far the highlight of this tour. The next was even more impressive. We went out into the mine fields. There is a 30 km zone surrounding Coober Pedy that is crown land. This land can be mined by anyone. All you really need is a digger and a claim. The claim is relatively cheap to get from the Mines Departnment. About $110 gives you 50 metres by 50 metres and $ 220 gives you 50 metres by 100 metres. If you want more then you need to go into partnership or get your family involved. Once you get this claim you put up your pegs and off you go. The money gives you twelve months of mining rights. Now in the more popular fields ( these are ones that have yielded good stones) there are vertical holes all over the field with mounds of dirt next to them. The more dirt mounds you see the more people have been digging. The problem is none of these holes are filled in even if the claim is abandoned. These paddocks are therefore littered with deep and dangerous holes with their mounds. In the more concentrated areas they get the bulldozers in to basically take all of the dirt out. The mounds are also very close to the Stuart Highway. You just need to stop the car walk 50 metres and you can fall into a hole, any hole. Note some of these holes can be 100's of metres deep.

The next stop was at the Breakaway National Park owned by the local aboriginal tribe. These formations were the backdrop to the Mad Max movies where they had the buggy scenes. Very impressive formations.

After this we stopped at the "Dog Fence". Now the dog fence is 5,500 kilometres long. This is not a typo, the fence was built to
Tee off from the grrenTee off from the grrenTee off from the grren

Find the green patch
stop dingoes from coming down from the North to eat sheep being grazed in the South. Hard to fathom the size of this fence which is always being maintained by contractors. It is the longest continuous fence in the world.

The next stop was to a mine in the heart of town. We meandered through the dugout residence on the first level of the mine then continued down to a lower level to see how the mine worked. This was impressive. There also was a museum on the ground floor as well as the obligatory opal shop. When you see the prices of these opals you can understand why there are so so many holes in the paddocks.

The next stop was the Serbian Othodox Church, it appears that Yiannis was also on the church committee. No end to this mans talents and involvement. The church was also a dugout and its internal structures were impressive to say the least. The pictures I have attached tell the tale.

The last and final stop was Boot Hill. The local cemetary. It was just getting dark so suffice to say no one wanted to get off the bus. I
Find the nine holeFind the nine holeFind the nine hole

Make sure you scrape it after you finish
was happy to coward in my bus seat after having spent five hours being driven around what I thought was just a town with an Opal mine. This town is a community of people who have a dream to find the sparkle in that Opal and you can see the passion in their eyes when they talk about their finds. Jim was one of these people who was smitten by the lure of the Opal over 40 years ago. Time for home to a good pizza cooked by the man himself Yiannis. A fitting end to a great afternoon.

Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 28


Mining holes everywhereMining holes everywhere
Mining holes everywhere

The bigger the pile the deeper the hole
Being shown a movieBeing shown a movie
Being shown a movie

Inside the mine

25th May 2017

You should be a newspaper reporter Tony.

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