Coober Pedy is possibly the weirdest town we’ve visited yet but the one I liked the most. It’s known as the opal capital of the world and for its underground homes. Yes, people live underground here because the daytime temperatures are blazing hot. It’s a completely weird way to live but so cool!
From above ground, homes range from a metal shed to a wooden structure closely resembling the conventional idea of a home. Usually, the kitchen and bathrooms on the ground level as it is expensive to install pipes and sewage lines deep underground.
Things begin to get interesting the further down you go. Most homes are equipped with all the luxuries you could want. I even heard of someone with an underground swimming pool! The only thing these homes lack are windows and natural light in some of the rooms. The temperature is consistent, unlike the outside temperature. To build an extension, people simply dig out another room. I’m not sure how they know where their property ends and their neighbor’s begins, but with so much land out there I hardly see this as a major problem.
We arrived at our underground accommodation, and hallelujah, we had our own rooms. Technically, they weren’t real rooms with four walls and a door. They were dugouts with three sides of rock and a curtain for privacy. But, there were enough of these dugouts that we all got our own space for the night. The downside was that the showers and toilets were above ground. Once we settled in, we had dinner at a local pizza joint (above ground) and went to check out an underground bar.
While in Coober Pedy, we took a tour at Umoona Opal Mine that showed us how specialists can take a rough stone and polish it into a fine gem. We saw a model of an underground home and toured through tunnels dug out by hand by the first opal miners.
We even went noodling for opals, which sounds more exciting that it was. I thought this would be something like panning for gold, where you picked up some dirt and rocks and shifted through it with water. Nope, noodling for opal is far more simple:
- Go to an opal field.
- Squat, bend or sit down.
- Pick up pebbles until you find something shiny.
Because of the unique look of the area’s landscape, Coober Pedy has been the site for movies, like “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” “Pitch Black” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.” Remnants of this silver screen fame can still be found in town, which is an eclectic mix of rock, wood and metal. There are no trees and hardly any grass in the area. The land is dry and hard and the only plants that survive are hardy scrub brushes.
|Slide Album: Coober Pedy|