Downunder -  Coober Pedy

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Coober Pedy owes it's existence to a 14 yr old boy who found a gemstone in 1915 - Since then 70% of the worlds opals can be traced back to the town

Some say it owes it's name to the superstitious Aboriginal residents of the area.   Bemused by the settlers choosing to build cool sheltered homes underground it became known as Coober Pedy - loosely translated as  "white fella's hole in the ground".  Many of the first miners were soldiers returning from the trenches of WWI where they had of necessity honed their excavation skills

The somewhat unimaginatively named Underground Motel

 Carved into a hill so not totally underground or claustrophobic, we had a walkout to the veranda

Boulder Matrix

Typically cut in half to expose the center

Boulder Opal Paperweight                     

Happy Birthday To Me

Well not really, but in October I would be celebrating  my 60th birthday, birthstone opal and where better to buy one?  

We had been looking for a piece of jewellery since we arrived in December but I pretty soon decide I would rather have a chunk of boulder matrix than a piece of jewellery I would seldom wear

I saw several lovely rocks but at the back of mind was, I was thinking, what if we saw an even lovelier piece in Coober Pedy?  We spent a morning looking for the perfect piece and eventually found it

Plus a bonus,  a beautiful boulder opal paperweight in a silver setting.  Just in time too, as we were about to give up, have lunch and go on our tour

These pieces have so much of Australia within them.  To start with they are Australian rocks many millions of years old.  The rich brown colour of the earth shot with the intense blue of the sky and the greens of the Outback, so much of Australia in two small pieces

                  Silver Kangaroo Setting

Travel Karma.  When our private tour was cancelled due to lack of participants we felt we had no other option at such short notice but to take the tour offered by the Desert Sands Hotel.   It was a bog standard tour but it was our very good luck to have as our guide Gordon who is a registered opal miner,  who along with his wife live underground,  just like the Wombles.   Who better than the amiable Gordon to try to make sense of Coober Pedy, which I was coming to think of as the prototype for end of the world

  The Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Elijah the Prophet

 Built in 1993 by volunteer opal miners.  The church is 30 meters long by 5m wide and 7m high.  It is 17m below ground at its deepest point.  There is also a community hall, school and a  home for the clergy

       Stained glass is illuminated from behind


At the other end of the chapel is an above ground stained glass window with natural light

Umoona Opal Mine and Museum

Mock up of miner being lowered into a mine


This is what it's all about 

Although this like the miner above it's placed here for us to 'find'

The mines underground bunk house can house 280 visitors in 3 units.  They are mostly used for school trips.   I couldn't sleep a wink down there myself, nor would I fancy trying to get  hundreds of overexcited school children to sleep on their first night

Early Miners


Very few new underground homes are built as there are so many for sale or abandoned.  Many residents however still appreciate the benefits of living below ground

Mid Century Modern

Miners Accommodation


Water is supplied from wells and homeowners pay $10 per week for a 2 person household.  It is obvious when you stop to think, despite the arid landscape there can be no shortage of water to sustain life.  The whole area sits on a vast artesian sea.  The first European explorers assumed the westward flowing rivers were draining into an inland sea, many searched and many died looking for it but they were approximately 60 million years too late to be able to see it

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