From Port Agusta, we decided to take a last minute trip to Coober Pedy (a 1080
Km detour). We camped at Riba’s Underground Campsite. At Riba’s, you can camp (in or out of a tent) in a big purpose mined camping area. It was a little eerie walking down the narrow ramp to the campsite for the first time. Outside it was very hot and sunny, with millions of flies everywhere. But as you walk down the darkening path, you begin to feel cooler. Before you know it, you find yourself fumbling around in the dark. At which point you remember to take off your shades! Ah, that’s better – you can kind of see where you are going now!
In Coober, the temperature can vary wildly. It often hits 50 Degrees Celsius in the Summer months, but during Winter, the temp can drop below 0. Last year Coober reached it’s highest temperature in thirty years – 63 Degrees (75 Degree ground temperature). Apparently it was possible to cook food on the ground outside. As a result of the varying temperatures, 50% of the population live underground where the temperature varies little.
Coober supplies 80% of the worlds Opals (Australia supplies 93% of all Opals). They reckon there are about two million open shafts in or around Coober – better watch where you put your feet!!
We were only going to stay for a day, but when we got there, we had to see it all! Apart from looking at the various different Opals all day, we had a walk around town and checked out a lot of the underground shops and churches. The most impressive of which, in my opinion, is the Serbian Orthodox church with it’s has a tall shaped ceiling.
We also drove out to the breakaways – on the way, we saw a very long dog fence that runs from Surfers Paradise on the East Coast all the way over to Western Australia. Just to keep a damn dog out!!! (I’ve always said that’s why they built the great wall of China too!)
Coober is also famous for some of the movies filmed there – Mad Max 3, Red Planet, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Pitch Black. There are various pieces from the sets of the movies around town. We saw the blue bus from Mad Max 3 and a space ship from Pitch Black.
It’s hard to describe Coober Pedy – it has a post apocalyptic feel to it… it’s not pretty at all (except out around the Breakaways)! It is a rough mining town – by rough, I mean rough rough!! With such easy access to explosives, you wouldn’t want to annoy anyone. In recent times, the police station was bombed twice, the post office and many other places have also been bombed! That said, the locals are friendly. I liked Coober, definitely worth the 1080Km detour!