Underground Living in Coober Pedy

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:

  1. Go to an opal field.
  2. Squat, bend or sit down.
  3. 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
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5 Comments

Filed under Accommodation, Attraction, Australia, Travel

5 responses to “Underground Living in Coober Pedy

  1. Aunty Pat

    I like the underground homes. What would make me leery would be if it caved in for some reason.

  2. A. Sanj

    It reminds me of some of the underground homes in parts of Turkey where the weather can get real hot also. I’d be the first one in the poker room, LOL BTW: did your Dad tell you Uncle won $2,100 when he made a royal flush on the poker machine?

  3. Aunty Suzanne

    Underground living…wow! Wonder if they coat the walls w/something so no mo dust? Not for claustrophobics, huh? What other marvels are in store for you????!!!

  4. hemajang

    Very interesting place Coober Pedy, funny those Aussie names. After reading your blog for a while, you notice the uniquely Aussie place names and phrases, I guess it is whiteman’s bastardization of the Aboriginal language. Those underground homes, I wonder why we don’t have more basements in Hawaii? It would definitely be a lot cooler. That truck up in the air looks like it was used for opal mining and the last photo in the slide show looks familiar as in Mad Max.

  5. @A. Pat – The dugouts look pretty secure because the ground is extremely hard. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about except for your neighbor doing an extension on his home and digging into your living room or something.

    @A. Sanj – No hadn’t heard about Uncle winning. That’s great! Haven’t spoken to the folks in a few weeks.

    @A. Suzanne – The place we stayed in was actually very spacious. Also we were told that most people have all the land and can make the rooms as big as they want to. Not much demand to live out in the heat I guess.

    @hema – Yeah, the pronunciation of the native language is even worse here than at home. And the incorrect pronunciations have stuck in most cases.

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