Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy

posted in: Australia | 22

After our outstanding experience in the red centre of Australia it was time to continue with the rest of our trip and start heading south. Coober Pedy is a massive 750 kilometres from Uluru, which meant an entire day on the bus with our tour group. Expecting to spend the day sleeping we climbed aboard the bus in the dark of the morning, clutching our pillows and blankets. We drove steadily south as dawn broke and daylight woke us from our slumber. Our tour guide Sam, who had been driving in silence whilst we slept, decided enough was enough and it was time to rise and shine. After a quick breakfast and fuel stop he put our brains to the test with an elaborately thought out and well planned quiz. The windscreen was transformed into a score board with some washable markers and Sam queued up some music before we continued our journey in to South Australia. The quiz brought out the competitive side in all of us and lasted for several hours. After a hard fought battle we were delighted to be on the team that was crowned joint champions. Due in part, of course, to our expert knowledge of 1980’s rom-coms, power ballads and the teenage mutant ninja turtles. We spent the rest of the journey trying to solve riddles that no one seemed to know the answer to.

After much hilarity we finally arrived in Coober Pedy, the opal mining capital of the world. Opals were first found here in 1915 and a century later fortunes are still being made, not that you would know it when you arrive in town. There are discarded heaps of gravel lining the streets and dust hangs heavy in the air. Stray dogs wander freely over vast areas of waste ground covered in what looks like old building rubble. The whole town sits under the watchful glare of its famous landmark, The Giant Winch, towering overhead and adding to the post apocalyptic scene. But when you look a little closer at Coober Pedy, just below the surface in fact, there is a surprising amount of life in the town.

Temperatures soar in Coober Pedy but the residents have found a unique way of dealing with the extreme temperatures; they live underground. Yes that’s right, just like the children’s TV classics, batman and the wombles, the residents of Coober Pedy burrow underground to create their lairs. On closer inspection, the rubble covered waste ground has small metal vents dotted about it, providing air to the underground homes.

Living below the surface is quite a tradition in town and it keeps homes much cooler in summer. After touring an opal mine we journeyed underground to visit an exact replica of an early dwelling. Next we were led into what we were told was a modern underground house. Complete with wood panelling, a boxy TV and an ultra modern VHS video recorder. It was a real insight into the appalling conditions Australians had to endure in the 1980’s.

That night after a sampling the local hospitality, we channelled our inner womble by sleeping in an underground bunkhouse. Bleary eyed and a little worse for wear, the following morning we left Coober Pedy and continued on our journey to Flinders Ranges.

Our tour was Rock 2 Water with Groovy Grape, booked and arranged by Backpackers World Travel.

22 Responses

  1. We’ve had houses with the very modern (at the time) wood panelling all over the walls. It makes me shudder to think of it now. But worse than that to me is the thought of living underground, with no natural light! Not only do I hate electric lighting – all day, that is – I’m more than a little claustrophobic, and I think I’d go mad! A very eye-opening and really interesting post.

  2. […] a deep connection to the Ananagu people; We Slept underground in the post apocalyptic town of Coober Pedy; We hiked in the Flinders Ranges and sampled wines in a Jesuit Vineyard. Not bad for a six day […]

  3. Also, I am having a hell of a time getting my pictures to align and behave. Do you have any tips?

    • We use the gallery function for most of our pictures. If we want an individual picture we choose a large size, this works well in our theme. However different themes look better in different formats. It took us a long time playing around to get our current look, so keep trying!

  4. It was cool hearing about the town. It was one of the places on our to-do list we didn’t quite get to sadly.

    Did y’all stay in Alice Springs? We might have been in town at the same time. We left town on the 19th.


    • We just stayed one night in Alice, but it was a little while back now, we’re a little behind on our blogging! Too busy having adventures!

  5. No photos inside one of the under ground houses?

    • I took a couple but it was dark down there, they didn’t come out very well. There is one on our instagram feed, but it’s not the best quality.

  6. Whoa man! That’s quite adventures.

  7. ‘Straya!! And damn that wood paneling!

  8. I love the fact that your tour guide was able to make your long bus ride fun!

  9. Wonderful pictures and a great insight into something that is hard to imagine – the heat for a start …. as for the house – well it sounds exactly like a subterranean version of my first flat (being of a certain age and realising that I am rapidly becoming an historic monument)

  10. Wood panelling was ‘so’ modern in the 1980’s – and I know because my parents had it!!!! Love your photos and interesting facts.

  11. Sounds fascinating. I think that this town was featured on one of the Michael Palin programmes.
    You forgot to mention Neighbours and Home and Away when you were talking about the appalling conditions Australians had to endure in the 80s.

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