Jim, Lisa and the World
A trip of global proportions
About Us (2)
Costa Rica (2)
New Zealand (11)
* The Red Center
* Cruising and Noodling
* The Great Ocean Road
* Melbourne part II
* Up the Coast
* Capital Good Times
* Missy the Beasty
* The Seperation of Wife and Mate
* Rugby, Navigation and Magellen
* It's a small world after all!
* Free! Free Falling!
* Attack of the Sandflies!
* A Puzzling World Indeed
* Surfing with dolphins!
* The Cook Strait
* Tangariro Crossing
* From Beaches to Caves
* Miles of Surf
April 28, 2005
Cruising and Noodling
So after my triumphant return to Melbourne we made ready to journey into the heart of this dry continent. Thankfully we were heading into the desert in the relative cool of the Autumn weather (highs only in the 30's C or 90's F) and we would be missing the so-called "silly season" when the thermometer shoots up to 50 C at times (I don't dare convert that to Farenheight - ouch!).
Our party of three (Myself, Lisa and Anna) were ready for adventure: We had the element of supplies on our side. From Melbourne we headed west along the coast into South Australia (the state of) and spent two rather chilly nights camping near the water. Lisa was excited about the pelicans and some black swans that kept us company in the morning.
On the third day we headed north from Adelaide leaving behind civilization and the color green.
Of course we traded it in for a variety of outback delights: The sheer vastness of it all (you could squeeze more than one Texas into all the desert in Australia), the amazing sunsets and sunrises, the strange and quirky communities that somehow make a go of it out here, and an every conceivable shade of the color red.
Before long we pulled into the mining town of Coober Pedy about 7 hours north of Adelaide. The town has a real end-of-the-world feel to it with a lot of the buildings dug out into the hard dry ground. In fact the town has been the setting for movies such as Mad Max III. The aim of all the mining is Opals. This is the self proclaimed "Opal capital of the world" with just about everyone in town having some connection to the colorful gem. We met a guy who showed us the mine he was digging - under his house! Apparently something like 80% of the world's opals come from this area. The name Coober Pedy comes from a phrase in the local Aboriginal dialect meaning "White man's hole in the ground."
Opal mining is a tough life though. It is a lot of work, a lot of time spent underground and it is the frustration of never knowing if a big payout vein of opals is just inches or miles away from where your digging. Add that to the incredible remoteness of the place and the ready availability of dynamite and you get some pretty nutty people here.
We absolutely loved it.
For fun we spent a night in an underground hostel. We went to an old opal mine and learned about the early days of opal mining (digging shafts 30 meters deep by hand and crawling down with hand and footholds - no thanks!). We also used the opportunity to take lots of cheesy photos in our hard hats. We even did a bit of noodling. If you are not a miner in Coober Pedy you are a noodler.
Noodling (v) 1. Too sift through discarded clay from mine shafts looking for valuable opal that was missed by the miner 2. A thing that some people actually make their living doing in CP. Usually using a black light to assist the process as opals will glow when exposed.
As evening fell after our day at Coober Pedy we headed a bit north of town and camped at the Breakaways - an area of stunning cliffs that seem to "breakaway" from the otherwise falt landscape. This was a truly amazing night starting with a magnificent sunset, a delicious meal, then a canopy of the most brilliant stars I have ever seen. There was no city lights, nor anything on the horizon to diminish them. Finally the moon came up doing its best sunrise impression. It was so beautiful none of us minded that it dimmed the glow of the stars a bit. We were the only ones out here and had a peaceful rest, waking in the morning for another fantastic show by the sunrise.
Before resuming our roadtrip we visited the locally famous 'dog fence.' At its peak it was the longest man made thing in the world stretching over 5000 kilometers. It was built in a great cooperative effort in the 1940's to prevent dingoes from culling cattle that was free grazing in large tracts south east of the fence. Only about 3000km are left but there was still something eerily pleasing about a fence in the middle of the desert that stretched to each horizon.
Posted by Jim & Lisa on April 28, 2005 11:36 PM
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