Thursday, November 15, 2012
Down Under While Down Under in Coober Pedy, Austraila
Let's just start by saying that this is not your normal living room. This is part of the legendary town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. Once known as the Stuart Range Opal Mine, this town of currently around 3,500 people sits in the middle of nowhere over 800 miles north of Adelaide. It's a rugged place, where most things are housed in dugouts, just like the house pictured here.
Even the hotels are underground. Even the Comfort Inn is underground. But that's the nature of this off beat community. They have many things to do. They have shopping, restaurants, several churches, and so many activities which surprisingly include swimming and golf. But there's one thing that the hardy desert town of Coober Pedy is known for more than anything.
That's right, the name of the game is Opals and Opal Mines. This is what Coober Pedy is world famous for. It's called the Opal capital of the world and for good reason. There are opals everywhere here. You can even go noodling for them in piles of rocks that are above ground. But most of the mines are for work.
There is an old timer's mine and some others that you can tour for a fee, but you will have to find a miner that will take you into his working mine to see what it's really like. That's the safety rules and you need to follow them.
Coober Pedy is famous for it's dugouts. A lot of people think that it's because they used the old mines for shelter or because they didn't have much wood in the area. Well, it should come as no shock that it's actually because of the weather. It's so hot in Coober Pedy that the residents find it far more comfortable to live underground. It's as hot as Death Valley in that area, only getting down to the 80's for highs during the summer months ( remember, that's winter down there) and getting as high as 118 degrees on average in the winter months (once again, summer down there). Even the golf course is mostly used at night with glow in the dark golf balls. The heat is a serious factor here.
Warning signs are not unusual in the area either. Mining is a dangerous business, and no one wants a bunch of tourists to get hurt or killed because they decided to step outside the box and have a little adventure in their lives. Make sure you follow the rules and the warnings in this beautiful desert area and you will have a really good time.
There's so much about this town that is amazing. It's shopping as well as it's living are underground. It's beautiful in a surreal way.
There used to be an underground highway, but now it's just an exhibit. It is a fascinating concept though.
You can even go to a Serbian Orthodox service underground in Coober Pedy. It's just one of several different kinds of churches that operate underground in town.
But once you're out in the light for a little while, you may notice that the barren completely desert landscape that is the area around Coober Pedy might remind you of something that you've seen on TV or in a movie. Well, that's right. Mad Maxx Beyond Thunderdome was filmed in the areas outside of Coober Pedy. So it has that little bit of cinematic history to go with the millions of dollars in opals that come from there every year and the wonderfully friendly people that make an underground city a truly memorable experience.
So remember, if you want something really different to do while in Australia, come and visit the town of Coober Pedy, and stay in the only Comfort Inn in the world that's underground and shares its dugout with a church. Come and shop underground, eat underground, play golf at night and noodle for opals. It's all well worth the trip from Alice Springs or Adelaide. If you want, you can even pretend you're Mad Maxx.
Who knows? You could get rich if you do a little mining on your adventure. Enjoy!