ALICE SPRINGS to HAWKER (Flinders Ranges)

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October 6th 2010
Published: October 6th 2010
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Coober Pedy Underground HouseCoober Pedy Underground HouseCoober Pedy Underground House

Nice Facade! Each room underground has a breather pipe. A couple here poking out of the hill.
We spent our last day in Alice Springs around the town centre and, among other things, walked to the top of Anzac Hill to look down on Alice Central and the surrounding landscape. It was a bit rainy and overcast.

It had always been our intention to go back to Alice since we first visited in the early ‘Nineties. We enjoyed the stay and feel we know the area very well now. It is amazing though how the recent rains have turned what is widely known as the ‘Red Centre’ into a ‘Green Centre’. The desert was lush with green grass and the creeks were flowing.


Kulgera was a substituted stopover for Erldunda Roadhouse (turnoff to Ayers Rock, King’s Canyon and the Olgas). The extra 76 klms doesn’t sound much but it made the next day’s travel to Coober Pedie much easier. There wasn’t water to hook up to, but we did have power.

Kulgera is a Roadhouse with Hotel and we did enjoy a nice counter lunch at the pub. There was a bit of rain overnight but that didn’t affect us as we left the van hitched and ready to travel the next day.
Central Alice SpringsCentral Alice SpringsCentral Alice Springs

From Anzac Hill looking over the town towards The Gap in the McDonnell Ranges


We were not sure what to expect of Coober Pedy. There is an awe of mystery surrounding the town where some people live under the ground and dig for opals. There was an expectation of seeing lots of people moving about the minefields, lots of active workings with someone winching diggings to the surface and a busy shopping centre. That is not really the case.

Whilst the mining scene is largely companies these days and although small prospectors are still around, they are not so evident. As you enter the region it is staggering to see conical mounds of spoil for kilometers around the town and right up to the town itself. It is very impressive to see.

On arrival, we went to our Caravan Park (Stuart Range) and found that again we could not hook up to water but you were able to purchase potable water for the van at 20c for 40 litres. We still had plenty of water on board so we happily showered in the amenities block. The park was very well maintained and the amenities quite modern and very clean. The four night (three day) stay went quickly.
Mining RubbleMining RubbleMining Rubble

These conicle hills surround Coober Pedy for miles.

Janni pronounced Yani (John), the owner of the park, has been in Coober Pedy for more than 30 years. He has mined, built his caravan park from scratch, established and sold a Pizza restaurant in town and now conducts tours from the park for his ‘guests’. We loved it! The tour runs for four hours and costs $50. Janni’s very Greek outback Aussie humour was most amusing and easy to enjoy. The tour gave a very comprehensive look at the town that included the viewing of underground homes and churches, detailed inspection and explanation of modern mining techniques and a visit to the Breakaways Mountain Range. We drove along part of the Dingo Fence (it stretches for over 5000 klms) and also part of the Oodnadatta Track.

These days there is a Pizza Shop (set up by Janni) at the Caravan Park and we were so impressed with the pizza that we had it for two nights running! Maybe it had been so long since we had pizza that we couldn’t get enough.

On booking our site, we had asked for an additional night so that we could go on a flight over Lake Eyre. Obviously, there were
Opal SeamOpal SeamOpal Seam

Opal in its natural state.
plenty of takers because although the lady at the park rang them (Wright Airlines who we spoke to at the Melbourne Caravan Show) and they promised to call back, we heard nothing! As a result we missed out.

The rest of our time in Coober Pedy was spent nosing around opal shops and doing our own drive around as a follow up to Yanni’s tour. The big disappointment was the central town! It was disconcerting to be surrounded by itinerant indigenous folk, some of whom had been somewhat inebriated. Others laying around and still others yelling. It was not threatening, just annoying and disappointing. In spite of that we really enjoyed the different life style that Coober Pedy has.


When we were in school, Woomera Rocket Range was probably at its peak. Called Woomera after the aboriginal spear launcher, there were many launches to test rockets, missiles and unmanned weapons among other things.

We really needed to stay in Woomera because the trip would have been too long to bypass it. So it suited us to see the area and do an overnight stopover. We had time to visit two local museums whilst we are
Woomera RocketWoomera RocketWoomera Rocket

Rocket lauched from earlier days in Woomera.
there. We were impressed by the displays and interested to learn that the Americans still have a presence and that the range is still being used today.

HAWKER (Flinders Ranges)

Flinders Ranges = Wildflowers, or so we thought! After such a profuse number of wildflowers along the way, we did not realize that the year had been so extraordinary for them. As a consequence, our expectations were not met in this area. That does not detract from the beauty of the area.

Jarvis Lookout

Just a few klms out of town there is a lookout on the range near to Hawker called Jarvis Lookout. We were able to see far and wide from it and get a birdseye view of the town.

Yourambulla Caves

A little further out along the Port Augusta road there is an indigenous reserve that recognises a traditional area for initiation rites. In the vicinity there are caves that are adorned with drawings and paintings. There is a round trip of an hour to see them and it involves a bit of climbing. Not too strenuous but well worth the visit.

Kanyaka Sheep Station

And further on along
Coober Pedy SunsetCoober Pedy SunsetCoober Pedy Sunset

Taken from the Stuart Range Caravan Park.
the same road, there are a number ruins. These are relics left from early settlement in the area. One of these was a sheep farm that at its peak (1860’s) was shearing up to 40,000 sheep in a year. Needless to say the buildings of the Kanyaka Station were extensive and the main construction was local stone. The walls of the structures still stand and could be habitable if renovated but, of course, not up to today’s standards.

The real problem with the enterprise was that when drought kicked in for long periods the pastures could not sustain the sheep numbers and the stations in the area eventually failed. So often the case in this country in the outback.

Flinders Ranges

Our main trip in this area was into the Flinders Ranges with Derek’s 4WD Tours. It was an all day tour visiting several gorges and numerous visual vantage points. Derek was very knowledgeable about the geology, flora and fauna of the region and made an exceptional effort to impart his knowledge. The most significant landmark in the area is Wilpena Sound and the day entailed extensive touring around it. The Flinders Ranges actually start in the
Golf AnyoneGolf AnyoneGolf Anyone

Only $10 a round!
Adelaide region and reach over towards the Coober Pedy area.

Whilst called the Flinders Ranges, there are in fact, a significant number of different ranges in the area so our visit only covered a small segment of the total thing. As we said earlier, our expectations were very high and it did leave us a little flat. We were expecting wildflowers in abundance and infinite variety but it paled compared to the West. Perhaps we were so overwhelmed with the bold reds, oranges and yellows that are so spectacular in the north and west that we were expecting too much. We may feel differently next time!


On the way across to the West we actually bypassed Whyalla on the basis that it ‘is an industrial town and not really worth a look’. What a lot of rubbish! From Hawker we decided to slip down to Port Augusta and on the way thought ‘it’s only another 76 klm so why not whip down there too?’. So we did. The weather was a little cool but, even so, we firmly agreed that there is a visit in the making in Whyalla.

The forshore caravan park looked
Opal MiningOpal MiningOpal Mining

The rig vacuums the finely crushed rock from 30 metres down and dumps it automatically .
good. The foreshore itself was nice and the town centre offers plenty of ‘retail therapy’ options. We were so sorry we had bypassed in favour of Cowell on the way through. Never mind, we live and learn!


Port Augusta, like Whyalla is a pleasant seaside town with perhaps slightly less appeal with respect to the seafront options. Fishing and shopping are well catered to but lazing in the sun whilst doable does look a little scant for options.

Port Augusta is the go through town of the area as it is the gateway to the Eyre Peninsula as well as the Nullabor if you are bypassing the Peninsula. Again it was well worth the visit and it does make sense to stay there if heading straight over to the west. We thought Whyalla if going to the Peninsula.

Next Port of call ... Broken Hill.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Going DownGoing Down
Going Down

Electronic winch used to lower the miners 30 metres. No risk!
Woomera MissileWoomera Missile
Woomera Missile

Missile. One of many types launched in Woomera.
Salt & PepperSalt & Pepper
Salt & Pepper

Natural colours of two hills in the Breakaways near Coober Pedy.
Dingo FenceDingo Fence
Dingo Fence

Runs for 5000 klm. Used to be 9600 klm.
Underground LivingUnderground Living
Underground Living

Part of the lounge. Temperature always 22-24 deg.
Underground ChurchUnderground Church
Underground Church

Facade of the Serbian Orthodox church.
Underground AlterUnderground Alter
Underground Alter

Alter, ceiling and rock carvings of the Serbian Orthodox church.
Flinders Ranges from HawkerFlinders Ranges from Hawker
Flinders Ranges from Hawker

Taken from Jarvis Hill lookout.

The town from Jarvis Hill lookout.
Kanyaka Station ruinsKanyaka Station ruins
Kanyaka Station ruins

15klm south of Hawker.
Yuorambulla CavesYuorambulla Caves
Yuorambulla Caves

Aboriginal paintings depicting initiation rites.

6th October 2010

All your blogs have been wonderful reading and very interesting. When are you expected home "if at all"?
7th October 2010

Up to your usual standard Peter, can't tell you how much we have enjoyed them all. You should hire yourself out as a tourist guide, as you have really got me personally excited about doing this trip next year.

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