An early start and we were soon out of the city and away from the coast. The running joke was, “So this is what the Outback looks like!” Followed by, “Nope, I thing we’re still in the bush.”
Fact is, that all of the outback is located in the bush, but not all of the bush is outback. The boundary is a very fuzzy one. In general, we figured that if you looked around and it looks like you’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere, you’re probably in the outback.
So somewhere along the road north out of Port Augusta, it happened…
We crossed into the Outback. It was so hot that the heat rising from the road obscured the road at the horizon. The heat often had the same effect on the landscape in every direction. Not many critters to be seen, but we did come across the occasional road kill, with fresh ones being devoured by eagles.
(photo to come)
It would be next to impossible to play “Behold-A-Mole” in this landscape.
In the absence of Behold-A-Mole, we had a few games we used to pass the time driving. The first was to note the odometer reading when we went around a curve, then note the difference when we went around another one. I think at one point in our trip we cleared 70km in a straight line. Funny thing was, we could never tell exactly why the road builders had bothered to bend the road at that point. There was little topographic change, and no evidence of human settlement to cause us to change direction. We came to the conclusion that the turns were for the purpose of keeping drivers alert.
Through the heat we made it to Coober Pedy.
(“Pitch Black” was filmed just outside of town, if you want a better image.)
Coober Pedy got its name from the Aboriginal peoples in the area, and roughly translates to: “White man’s hole in the ground.”
It’s a town based on opal mining. Unlike other mining, big companies aren’t willing to invest because the likelihood of a return is so unpredictable. As a result, only small time operators, mostly individuals, do the work on claims that measure 10m x 50m. The area around Coober Pedy is dotted with thousands of rock piles left over from digging for opal.
The evening came, and we stayed at an underground campsite. An old mine, converted to use as a hostel. Many homes in the area have underground portions to them because the surface is just so inhospitable. Architecturally, they aren’t that interesting, people are just using common sense to avoid the heat and keep warm on winter nights.
As part of our stay, we were given a tour of a mine, which left us with the impression that our odds of striking it rich in opal mining are probably not as good as our odds at a roulette wheel, and required a lot more work. Since they didn’t have a casino there, we decided that we’d only stay one night and headed north in the morning.