Coober Pedy-Australia’s Opal Capital

We thought is was funny that Coober Pedy means “white man down a hole” in the local aboriginal language. It’s the prefect name really for a place where people live underground to keep cool in the scorching summers and warm in the cold winter winds. Opals were found here in 1915 but living “underground”  it is believed started when the soldiers coming back from WW1 rushed to the Opal fields to try their luck. They were used to living in dugouts in the battle fields of France and found this to work very well here in this desert environment. The rock (sandstone) is very stable and you could turn your old mine into a house once you were finished mining it! M

coober pedy street
There is nothing pretty about this town. It is what you would expect when you take a treeless /waterless desert and then drill holes everywhere and then dump the dirt out on the ground. Interesting to see once and quickly and then move on to where man hasn’t raped the earth!
maddy at the drivein
Coober Pedy looks better at night. We were excited about going to the “drive in” cinema but it was only playing kids films unfortunately. You could have watched and heard the whole film from the footpath outside if you wanted.
dry area sign
In the arid lands towns you see these signs
amoona opal mine and museum
We had a look at the Umoona Opal museum which gave a good history of opal mining and let you have a look at a real “dugout” home and an old mine.
coober pedy church 2
We had a look at a Serbian Church
serbian church
Very nice but it felt airless to Steve and I.
coober pedy church
The entire church was tunneled out of the side of the hillside with rock drills which can be seen in the ceiling especially.
stone decoration
Nice colour streaks in the rock. There were even fossils in the walls of shell from when this was an inland sea.
air vents
Air vents. It was funny to see TV antennas sitting on the ground everywhere.


coober pedy golf course
Hole 1 on the golf course
coober pedy golf course green
The greens were dirt with old sump oil soaked into them making them look black. There is a rake and roller at each green for you to prepare it. You go around with a little square of fake turf to tee off! Who needs a lawn!
windlass and bucket church alter
Anglican Church with windlass and bucket Altar, so miners feel right at home.
steve trying to behave in a church
Steve trying to behave in church
opal in the rock
Opal how it is found in rock. This particular type is called potch and is not valuable, which is why it is still there.


catacomb church air vents
Looking up into the air vents in the church ceiling
Mine couple
Steve and I in a mine shaft dug out with a giant drill.
old miners house
This is how the miners used to live in their old mine shafts. People today tunnel into hillsides rather than living in old shafts. 50 percent of Coober Pedy residents live in dugouts.
serbian church 2
Serbian Church

In the afternoon we went out to the Breakaways. They are a colourful and beautiful escarpment and a 70km round trip from Coober Pedy. The best part of the area really. We drove out past old and current opal mines north of Coober Pedy to get there.

opal mining rubbish
The big hose is like a vacuum which sucks all the drilled rock pieces out of the hole and the bucket dumps it out into a pile some metres from the hole dug.
Love the sign
The sign that tells you not to run or walk backwards in the area! Most holes dug are 30mts deep as this is the farthest the drills can go and Opal is found no deeper than this. Would not be good fall in!
mullock heaps
This is how the earth is left after opal mining. Most mines are owned and worked by 2 or 3 people. There are no big mine companies here. No one is expected to clean up their mess!
bull dust holes
Bull dust holes that make the worst dust on the road.

breakaways kanku sign

breakaway panorama
The Breakaways from the lookout

salt and pepper

All the shapes and colours come from natural erosion over millions of years
breakaways colours
The colours of the Breakways
salt and pepper
This one is called salt and pepper or the 2 dogs
Remember when I said we had hardly had a fly in 4.5 months of travel! Well they found us. The flies were legendary here. They love black. We have been driven to wearing the fly nets which we hate to wear.

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