Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Half-Lap Day 15: Coober Pedy

LiAM and I were up before the sun and saw the gorgeous red clouds above the white rock piles. LiAM had a shower while I sat and watched the changing sky, then we climbed to the top of the hill above the TV room to get a larger view. It was cool to see the sun hitting the hillsides and the doors to the dugouts. The rocks on the hill were quite sharp and almost too much even for LiAM’s very tough feet.

our tent nestled among the scrap heaps
We spent much of the morning in the underground room, I had lots of blogging, email, photos, audio books and money stuff to catch up on so was happy to sit and use the power and wifi provided. LiAM and Millie watched Minecraft videos and Caitlin played with her Music.ly app. It was warming up outside so Tony put the roof of the annex on – at first we thought we might just attach it to the fence around our camping bay, then decided it would be safer to put the poles up. We did it quite quickly and easily, and then put the front wall on to provide shade to the tent. It was warm in the annex and lovely and cool in the tent. There were a lot of flies and Tony was grateful for the fly nets we’d bought at Spuds Roadhouse the day before, it gave him some relief.

This caravan park offers a mine tour, and the first night of camping is free if you do the mine tour. When we figured out the price though it still seemed to be more than we wanted to pay for a tour for the 5 of us, so we skipped the local tour and went in to town to Umoona Mine and Museum. On the way we stopped to fill up our gas bottle for the stove – the guy weighed it and said that it’s still half full, so it’s good to know we can get 3 or 4 weeks out of a bottle.

We arrived at the mine just before 2, in time for the 2pm tour. It started with a little movie about the history of opal in general and in Coober Pedy in particular. The movie explained how they used to get opal out by hand and how the machines help now – it explains the function of the machines we see everywhere here, they vacuum the rocks and dust out of the mine and dump it outside. Much easier than carting it out in a bullock skin bag like they used to. The tour then went into an old dugout, very basic and dug by hand, then into a more modern dugout, well furnished, dug by machine. It felt like a very pleasant place to live, although it did smell slightly musty. The tour guide was very funny and friendly and we really enjoyed her stories. We then went down into the mine below the dugouts and saw where they’d dug tunnels, where they’d found opal, and tried to imagine being down in the mine for hours and hours at a time. The guide said not to feel sorry for the guys who dug this mine – they are now millionaires! There were orange lines on the walls of the mine - apparently these are where the worms made their way through the rocks in ancient times.

An old opal mine
One of the machines they use to suck the dirt and rock out of the mines
Back in the shop we browsed the opals and LiAM bought a small stud, and Caitlin bought a beautiful ring. We chatted to the women behind the counter about the different types of opal and jewellery and overall we learned a lot. On the way out we took our time through the museum (also underground), especially the bit about the dinosaurs – this part of Australia used to be an inland sea and there were ichthyosaurs here – one of my favourite dinosaurs. Also a lot of other marine dinosaurs, and several fossils have been found here. The museum also had lots of information on how the area was settled and some of the history of this part of the world.

Once outside, Tony took Millie and LiAM to the playground, and Caitlin and I wandered up and down the street looking at the shops. We explored another underground opal, arts and crafts shop, and saw beautiful paintings and bowls and opals, and Caitlin met a very friendly cat. We got Caitlin some swimming shorts which she desperately needed at the local sports store, and spent quite a bit of time browsing the underground bookstore – full of books and maps and stationery and it had a wonderful feel to it. The lady at the counter gave us some activity books for the kids to use in the car and we chatted to her about her life in the outback since she left Sydney in her early twenties.

We went to the IGA to pick up some groceries and spent ages browsing in there too, it was also a hardware and camping store and was very well set out. Tony picked us up from the IGA and on the way out of town we stopped to get some photos of the warning signs and the large machine mounted on the Coober Pedy sign. Our car is now coated in a light red dust - Millie's feet were as well after walking around without shoes.

Back at the caravan park the kids went back to the underground room and Tony and I relaxed a little before starting dinner. I did my puzzle book and we chatted while he cooked in the kitchen. We also talked to some of the other campers, trying to figure out the best place to stop between here and Uluru – it seems everyone here has either just come from Uluru or is heading there next. We also saw a few people who camped near us at Pimba a couple of nights ago. Sunset was gorgeous again, very red and constantly changing.

After dinner the kids watched some more videos and Millie had a shower, I got a few things packed up so that the morning will be easier. Millie hung out on our chair for a while under the stars, really enjoying the pleasant night air. Once we were all ready we jumped in to bed and read Brisingr.

No comments:

Post a Comment