- Encounters with locals
- Place or Religious Monument
Coober Pedy remains one of my favourite memories from my trip to Australia. I stopped there during my 17,000km road trip and I loved its atmosphere.
The town seemed a bit inhospitable at first, but in fact its residents are really welcoming! To avoid the scorching heat of the day, its buildings are constructed underground! When touring Coober Pedy, make sure you visit its churches, the basement of the Desert Cave Hotel, as well as the local library. The cinema is one of the few attractions that's open air.
After having spent a great day looking around, I pitched my tent in an underground campsite. An unusual adventure, but normal for Coober Pedy, which is full of surprises!
From the road that leads to Coober Pedy, you can see the mounds of stones and drilling machinery. At first glance, the city did not seem very hospitable: there were wrecked cars abandoned under a blazing sun and I felt a little uncomfortable under the aimless stare of a few aborigines. But what would you expect of a mining town in the Australian desert?!
Yet, it is such a unique place that it is certainly worth a visit! If you enter the shops, museums or churches, you will discover the reasons for visiting this city, while benefiting from a little bit of cool. The museum will inform you on the origins of the city, but also on the ancestral traditions of the aborigines, and of course on the opal mines. I learned a lot about the region, such as the fact that it was located below the level of the sea during the secondary era and that they have discovered fossils of marine dinosaurs there, including one called Eric, which is encrusted with opals.
The main street is crammed with opal shops run by people from around the world trying to make it rich (Croatian, Polish, etc.). Chatting with an Australian tradesman in one of the shops, I learned that he was the owner, that he manufactures his own jewellery, and that he had just returned from 9 months of prospecting, during which he had found nothing. He had been a miner for 25 years. One day, he fell on a lode that brought him 50,000 dollars! Talk about a lucky strike! Today, opals do not sell well. At the museum, I learned that the main problem in Coober Pedy is the water supply. At the very beginning, it was transported on camel back. According to the shopkeeper, the problem today is electricity, which remains the most expensive in Australia. That is why, as you leave the underground Catholic church, there is a sign that says: "Please turn out the lights".
For a journey in Australia that will be full of new encounters, don't hesitate to go to Coober Pedy and talk with the shopkeepers to learn about the life of an opal minor. Personally, I found the experience rewarding, not thanks to the opals, but from the human point of view.