Coober Pedy (South Australia)

Adelaide - Alice Springs via Coober Pedy (1693 km)

Opinions differ strongly as far as Coober Pedy is concerned. I met people who were totally amazed by this place - and others who couldn't wait to escape (I'm somewhere in between). A very simple way to make sure you will enjoy your stay, won't suffer from depression and keep good memories of it is to not extend it to more than one day (and one night).

To give some little information: Coober Pedy is a small town (estimated 3500 residents) in the Northern Outback of South Australia and a common overnight stay for many people travelling from Adelaide to Alice Springs and vice versa. This is however not the main reason why Coober Pedy is visited by loads of tourists each year. Within Australia and overseas it is famous for two very unique features: due to the extreme temperatures out there (0-50 degrees), more than 70% of all homes and accomodation in general are located underground (up to 10m deep). Although we had been informed about our 'underground accomodation' in advance, we were still marvelling at the amount of stairs we had to climb down until we finally reached our dorm. Next surprise: it had no door and resembled very much a cave. The stony walls however reduced the temperature significantly and I never heard anyone complaining about missing doors! Secondly, Coober Pedy is known for Opal. Around 75% of the nationwide production are mined in and around the little town and the main road therefore mainly consists of Opal shops. (The name Coober Pedy is by the way the English spelling for an originally Aboriginal word (kupa piti), roughly meaning 'white man digging in a hole'.)

I arrived very, very early in Coober Pedy (again after an overnight ride), together with a few other people from Germany an Belgium. We were kindly picked up by the receptionist of our hostel who managed to sell all of us a tour 'around the town and region' before we could finally go to bed. How else were we supposed to get around??

The tour was guided by an elderly, very experienced local who has spent all his life in Coober Pedy (which is a miracle by itself). The most bizarre places we visited were an underground Catacomb Church, the golf course (which looked like everything else to me) and the cemetery. We were told that many locals had picked up the habit of going there regularly in order to have a drink with their deceased mates and family members (which perfectly explained the many beer bottles on the graves). An amazing place as well was 'Crocodile Harry's Nest', the home of a man who had spent most of his life hunting for crocodiles (and women) and who had lived in Coober Pedy during the last years of his life. Every nook and cranny of his cave home is still crammed with the most unbelievable stuff he had collected by himself or which had been left by visitors and tourists.

After a less than 10 min drive out of town we found ourselves in the complete middle of nowhere, surrounded by either nothing or mining fields (where we were not allowed to leave the bus because of the many mining holes you could accidentally fall into). The so-called Breakaways however form a fantastic landscape out there and the gleaming colours of the rocks were simply beautiful. A few kilometres further on and we were standing in front of the 'Mars field', an endless range of bleak desert where films like the 'Red Planet' had been shot. We also passed the 'dog fence' (with a length of 5320 km the longest in the world) which was built to keep Dingos away from livestock.

Exhausted after a long and hot day, our small travel group was sitting together in the courtyard of our hostel, drinking cold beer and looking at the starry sky. In this moment I arrived at the following conclusion: Yes, it is definitely possible to enjoy your stay in Coober Pedy. Just keep in mind: one day is enough.

 View the pics to get a visual impression of this unique place!

21.3.08 13:00

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