Saturday, May 13, 2006

New Scenery, Still the Middle of Nowhere

I am currently in Coober Pedy, quite probably the wierdest "city" I've ever been to in my entire life ("city"=4000 people and one main street; no street lights that I can see). Coober Pedy is the "Opal Capital of the World," and the industry here consists of opal mining, and tourism surrounding the opal mining industry.

Driving into town, the barren landscape is interrupted by huge white piles of dust, all the excess from the mines. They filmed the movie "Pitch Black" here (one of the worst movies ever) because it looks like another planet.

75% of the people here live underground because of the heat (it gets up to 50 Celsius in the summer, which is "really freakin' hot" in Farenheit). I took a tour of an underground house (pictured right), and was surprised to learn that not only do they live in these caves, they actually can carve them out themselves. You buy a plot of land and start drilling or pick axe-ing. They explained that rooms are often misshapen because someone will find opals and just keep digging, so their bedroom or something ends up being huge. Also, there are no major mining companies, so everyone just sort of mines on their own. This means that local shops sell the ingredients for homemade explosives and the local notice boards are all advertising stuff like drills and whatnot. It's all very surreal, to the say the least.

Tomorrow is a 10-hour drive down to Adelaide, after the 7 hours we already did today. The driving is surreal as well. We are travelling on the Stuart Highway, the "highway" that cuts north-south down the center of Australia. I thought I had driven through the middle of nowhere last year when I drove through places like Texas and North Dakota, but that was nothing. Those were at least 4-lane highways with places to stop more than once every 2-3 hours. And you could see buildings from the road at least some of the time. The Stuart Highway is basically just one long two-lane road. Signs point north to Alice Springs or south to Adelaide--and that's about it. At least it's hard to get lost.


beth said...

If you had to spend any more time in that town I'd suggest changing your blog name to Beyond Thunderdome.

I think that's where they filmed parts of Mad Max too:)

esl said...

the underground housing sounds so cool! well, at least to see...maybe not to live.

Jaya said...

It's not SO weird--I live underground too. But the Somerville opals still elude me.

Jen said...

Boy, that sounds like a great setting for a story. I hope you're going to some writing about all of this. I'm sitting in ZouZou's in Chelsea as I type this, surrounded by Pewabic pottery and "art" photos. I feel very rooted in Michigan and would prefer to be surrounded by red earth and opals. At least for an hour or two.