Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Coober Pedy Outback

Coober Pedy does have more to offer than just opal mining. One possibility is to hitch a ride, for a fee of course, with the twice weekly mail run to outlying towns. The mailman has a medium size van which doubles as a taxi and tourist trip lasting about 12 hours through the real outback of the region. We will have to do that on another trip, but we talked to two ladies who had based their entire vacation on doing that ride and were not disappointed. The mailman does a good job of talking about the region as he drives the hundreds of miles from place to place.

We did do an afternoon tour into the outback with the same man who drove us to town from the airport. He is a busy guy as he also has a mine and is one of the people who guides the incoming planes to the proper resting spot. We were a bit concerned upon seeing that he would be our guide because he had been hard to understand and seemed very quiet. Fortunately, he turned out to be an excellent guide full of information and easy to talk to and understand.

We started with a tour of the town  including a stop at the Serbian Church and a visit to one of the museums. Linda and I had toured it the previous afternoon so she spent the tour time shopping for opals while I followed along on his tour. He shared a few things we had not heard the day before and told us that he had come to town to visit his uncle 20 years previous and had just stayed to become a miner. I’d say he is still looking for that big strike since he is doing all these other jobs in addition to the mine.

On our way out to our destination, Breakaways Conservation Park, he took us through one of the mining areas showing us clearly how dangerous it would be to tramp around the area on your own. Holes that are crumbling in from the edges mean the ground is very unstable and it would be easy to get too close. Apparently one very real danger is people with cameras backing into holes as they are framing that perfect shot. He also explained the noodling machine now being used by some miners to get at that 20% of opals that come up in the vacuuming process.

As we approached the Breakaways, we could see that they are appropriately named. They do appear to have simply broken away from the surrounding landscape. In reality, they are another example of hard stone harder that weathers more slowly the surrounding ground. Millions of years ago this was an inland sea so the area is also rife with fossils.

Wine and a platter of cheese and crackers
We spent about an hour in the fading light from our vantage point while our guide poured wine and we noshed on the cheese and meat plate he set out for us. Following our time there, we continued our drive through the park to the dingo fence. These wild dogs, native to Australia, wreak havoc on sheep and cattle so in the 1800s ranchers began fencing their land to keep the dingos out. In the 1880s, they decided with government help to build a longer fence that would serve the entire cattle/sheep region. It wasn’t until 1948 that it was finally completed, but now it runs 5600 kilometers enclosing parts of Queensland and South Australia and all of Victoria and New South Wales. Each local area is required now to keep the fence in good condition and repair any damage from large camels or kangaroos damaging it or other animals digging under it. Coober Pedy is responsible for about 400 kilometers of the fence. While it isn’t perfect and some still call for the complete extermination of the dingos, it works well enough to satisfy the ranchers.

Land beyond the dingo fence
We arrived back in town just before sunset, so we drove up to a panoramic hill for a few pictures there. After a short rest in our room, we crossed the street to a fabulous pizza place for dinner. I had one that had kangaroo sausage and cranberry paste big enough to finish off for breakfast the next day. The flavors melded wonderfully. I think it lived up to the hype that it is one of the best pizza places in South Australia.

And a few more pictures for your pleasure.

Don't bring your dirt to town

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