Crawling into a hole

Trip Start Nov 22, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Monday, April 2, 2012

That's what I felt like doing when we got into Coober Pedy. After spending the night camping out at some roadhouse along the way, we got into 'town' around noon. Coober Pedy, known as the opal capital of the world, is famous for it's underground houses. Since the environment is particularly uninviting with it's extreme heat, wind and dust, people prefer to live underground. In these 'dugouts' as they are called it's nice and cool during summer and warm during winter. Most dugouts are formed from deserted opal mines; makes it easy, as the big hole is already there, just gotta transform it into a house... Back in the day even the postoffice, general store and other facilities were housed underground. Nowadays you can still find underground churches, hotels/motels, houses and some shops, but since the invention of air conditioning, more and more has moved above ground. Economically speaking, the town heavily relies on Opal; there are opal shops everywhere you go and everyone living in town seems to do some 'noodling' (searching for opal) next to their day job. This is also what gives the town its rap and gets the tourists over.

After having checked into the self-proclaimed only underground hostel in the world (run by a right lunatic) and getting settled in the underground dorm, I went for a walk through town, after a nice steak sandwich (needed that), and straightaway understood why not a lot of people want to live here. Next to the a fore mentioned harsh natural conditions, there is a constant group of Native Australians (also referred to as 'Aboriginals') knocking about on the streets, seemingly intoxicated and screaming profanities to all who would or would not want to listen to it. All in all not a very inviting town and I can see how some folks use the town of Coober Pedy to define dreadful.

Anyway, enough slagging off done; there is some interesting stuff to see as well. I went to the underground opal mining museum (a mine from the early 20th century) and saw some underground churches. Had a bit of a wander through town, careful to not fall into some deserted mineshaft (which are everywhere), and went into a few opal shops. I'd love to be able to say that there is more interesting things in town, but I really couldn't find them... In the end I think Coober Pedy is one of those places that is interesting to be for a bit, have a look around and then move on, not somewhere to stay for a prolonged period of time. So that's also what I did; by 9 AM the next morning we were driving again...

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