Monday, August 29, 2016

The underground town of Coober Pedy

Before we left for Australia, John learned from his solar partner Herman about an "underground mining town" called Coober Pedy.  We had never heard of it, but we were very curious.  Turns out it's right on the way from Adelaide to Alice Springs and the perfect stopping point to break up the long drive.  Campsite booked, let's go see this thing.

Jucy in the Outback (or maybe in "the bush", not quite sure about the terminology, but we had certainly left civilization and found the flat plains):

The only stopping places in between huge swaths of ranchland were roadhouses - convenient outposts with gas, food (most had a grill and cooked meals to order), little stores, and campsites.  One had license plates on the wall, including Texas and Hawaii and California side-by-side, so that was worth a photo:

Jucy at the roadhouse:

Some big distances across the flatlands.  At least it's in kilometers and not miles... but still:

A plaque for John McDouall Stuart, explorer and eponym of the highway we were driving (side note - I just learned the difference between namesake and eponym, hopefully I got it right):

South side of Coober Pedy, a distant view of opal mining piles amid colorful terrain:

Time for a walk around town to find out how much is actually underground.  Apparently these underground apartments have a "desert view" - we didn't try to find out if that view might entail simply the inside wall of an underground room, but it was funny to imagine:

Many buildings were dug into the sides of hills, some partially coming out from there.  Someone had the genius idea of escaping the heat of summer (and sometimes chill of winter) by living underground.  Temperature regulation inside is much easier and comfortable.  My only question is why this is a curious anomaly and why more places aren't built like this?  The composition of Coober Pedy rock seems well-suited for it, in any case.

An underground church:

Inside the dug-out church:

An opal mining machine, one of those things responsible for the piles of dirt all around the outskirts of town:

Checking out an opal-like rock that is obviously not worth anything or it wouldn't be sitting here:

A fun newspaper article in the visitor center that compares Mars to an area near Coober Pedy:

An underground bookstore, neat!  Our friend Kathy would get a kick out of this:

Not a huge collection of books, but you could certainly find something to read:

A spaceship prop from the movie Pitch Black, just lying around to add to the surrealness of it all (so apparently Vin Diesel has been here too):

Old mining equipment, including an adorably-shaped "bogger".  The apparatus on the left - not sure if that is another piece of the movie spaceship or something actually used in a mine:

View down to a dwelling built back into a hill, with solar water heating on the roof:

"and free speel check!"

A lone tree!  sort of...

Sculpture of a giant winch:

We went underground on a short tour of the Old Timer's Mine.  There are still veins of valuable opal that they left as part of the displays:

Hard hat on and ready to tour:

The life-size figures added to the quirkiness of the day's adventure:

Crouching around through tunnels to find more miner figures and explanations on how the mines and eventually the underground buildings were dug out:

Looking up through an access shaft and a dude perched across the narrow part:

And... a camel sculpture, because why not?  Actually, camels were a big part of Outback history, as they were used for transport and hauling goods on expeditions.

An example of an underground home (still in the Old Timer's Mine as a display):

I like the concept of "hey I need a place to put something, can you dig out a cubbyhole over there?"

The actual restroom for the museum - underground, of course:

Trying a bit of fossicking for opals:

The underground Comfort Inn:

The hotel goes way back into the hillside - here's the underground hallway:

We peeked into one of the rooms with an open door - yes, people actually stay here overnight, too cool!

What happens when you turn out the light... very dark, nice and cool, and totally quiet:

We didn't get an underground campsite because we would have needed a tent.  But if we could have driven the Jucy in, we would have  :)

Super fun day in a very interesting place!

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