Posts Tagged With: coober pedy

Day 14 – Coober Pedy to Marla

Another beautiful morning, bright and clear, but a bit cooler so I was in a long sleeve top until about lunch-time.

After packing Bertha we took a minor detour to the medical clinic.  They were very understanding and I was seen very quickly and the problem sorted.  From the medical clinic we headed back down Hutchison Road to the Stuart Highway and turned North.

The landscape leaving Coober Pedy actually changed the further we got from town.  The mullock heaps got smaller and less frequent, although there were occasional “hot spots” with a bit more activity.  We did go past a much larger dig which appeared to be more like a commercial quarry than an opal dig, but we couldn’t find any details to advise exactly what the mining activity was about.  Several kilometres out of Coober Pedy the scenery transformed into arid, flat land with low scrub.

Scenes leaving Coober Pedy

First stop was a late coffee break at a truck stop about 45 kilometres up the highway.  It was a nice big space and relatively clean, but had no facilities at all other than rubbish bins.

Lunch wasn’t long after at the Pootnoura Rest Area (442), about 79 kilometres from Coober Pedy.  This stop has an emergency ‘phone, bins and some tourist information, but no toilets.  Again, quite clean and would be a contender for an overnight stop if required.

Lunch stop at Pootnoura Rest Stop

Not long after lunch we came across a caravan pulled off the road so we stopped to offer assistance.  It was a couple, John and Betty, and their Ford Territory had a very flat rear driver-side tyre.  John was finding it difficult to unpack the Territory, and change the wheel, while still hooked up to the caravan.  In the past he had simply called the NRMA, but NSW was a long way away and there was no phone reception, so he was a bit stuck.  Betty had a stroke a few years ago and couldn’t be of much assistance.  However, with an extra pair of hands and a little bit of extra brain power, we managed to remove the spare tyre from under the vehicle, jack up the car and the front of the caravan, and replace the flat tyre with the spare tyre.  At this point we noticed that the tyres were different sizes – the wheels on the car were 18” mag wheels whereas the spare was a steel 17” wheel.  We had to assume that the different tyre profiles would offset the difference in wheel size.  I then helped John check and pump up both back wheels with my tyre compressor.  We left him to reload the Territory and continue his trip.  We suggested that the next biggish stop was at Marla and that someone there might be able to supply a new tyre, or something.

Actually we stayed slightly behind them as they headed up the highway, just in case they had any further problems.

Scenes after lunch heading to Cadney Homestead

We soon came to Cadney Roadhouse and pulled in for a quick stretch and walk around.  There is a caravan park here with a swimming pool and other facilities.  It is also on the Ghan railway line and has assorted train carriages parked behind the buildings. While we were there a huge truck loaded with cattle pulled in.  After a quick walk we decided to continue on our way to Marla.

Cadney Homestead Roadhouse and Caravan Park

For another 80 kilometres or so of we drove through a basically boring flat arid landscape.  Sometimes the road had curves instead of being perfectly straight, and sometimes there was an occasional bigger shrub, but basically it was boring!

Scenes between Cadney Homestead and Marla

Eventually we pulled into Marla Travellers Rest.  This is quite a big complex with a service station, bar, restaurant, supermarket, motel units, swimming pool and a caravan park.  They are on bore water so the grounds are lush and green, but we were told in no uncertain terms not to drink the water.  Having gum trees all around us is a big change from recent days.  They also have public telephones and a Post Office.  There are a reasonable number of powered sites, but the rule is that no vehicles can go on the grass.  Ann found us a nice, well located flat site and we set up Bertha for the night.

Marla Traveller’s Rest complex

Marla is actually a lot more than just this complex and is a small town with a population of about 70.  It is a service town for the immediate area and presumably provides services to the Ghan railway which runs through town.

I caught up with John at the caravan park and he said that the spare wheel had run well and that he had no difficulties on the way here to Marla.  He said that he had been told that there was a tyre person in town who might be able to help but that he wasn’t expected back in town until late tomorrow.  John seems to be keen to keep moving so he will be heading off tomorrow morning and will hopefully find a replacement tyre further up the highway.

Dinner was a stir fry cooked outside on our BBQ.

Ann created a delicious stir fry on the BBQ

Today has been a bit of a different day, with an unexpected start (doctor) and an adventure in the early afternoon (John & Betty).  We’ll sleep well tonight!

Tomorrow we’ll be in the Northern Territory.  The map below provides a bit of a summary of our trip from Port Augusta to here at Marla.

Map puts our travels to date into some perspective

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Day 13 – Coober Pedy

Yet another warm and sunny morning, with a little wind.  We mapped out a plan and packed up Bertha for a driving tour of some of the places we hadn’t been able to visit on foot.  First task was to top up Bertha’s water tank in the caravan park.

Replenishing Bertha’s water supply – $1 for 40 litres

Starting point was “Boot Hill” – the cemetery.  It had a special feel about it with chairs next to some of the graves, lots of flowers and overall was well maintained.  Some of the headstones were very ornate whereas others were very simple and sometimes had only minimal information.

Boot Hill Cemetery with Crocodile Harry’s grave.

Boot Hill Cemetery

Nearby was the wind turbine which is apparently going to be closed down and a new solar and wind generation plant commissioned soon.  All surrounded by an interesting landscape.

Scenery near Boot Hill

From there we went to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was truly amazing!

Serbian Orthodox Church – St Elijah’s

Coober Pedy has a massive number of underground mine tours, visits to underground houses, and so on.  We decided to visit The Old Timers Mine, which has a truly interesting story.  The mine was originally started in 1916, but for some reason it was filled in and not rediscovered until 1968 when an underground home extension broke through revealing precious opal.  The mine was dug out and a new walk in entrance added, but essentially the mine is as it was so long ago.  We took a self-guided tour, hard hats and all.  The search for wealth was sure a great motivator for men prepared to work in terrible conditions.  We were able to scramble around through the tunnels, and also through the family home.  Truly fascinating!  But we both commented that we couldn’t live underground like so many do.

Start of the Old Timers’ Mine Tour

Scenes inside the Old Timers’ Mine

Looks good in a hard hat!

Scenes from a display area

Opals on display

Some of the underground house rooms

By now it was lunchtime so we drove Bertha out to Seventeen Mile Road, near the speedway and shooting club where we found a nice big flat area to stop.  After lunch in Bertha we made a start at heading out to Crocodile Harry’s but the conditions were just a little too rugged for non-4WD Bertha – we needed the old BT50!

Lunch Stop

Catacomb Church

Which Galaxy did this come from?

The last major stop for the day was Coober Pedy’s oldest cemetery, which just seemed sad and eerie compared to Boot Hill.  Oz Minerals have funded the identification of all of the graves and there were markers had been made for those graves that didn’t already have them.  Some seemed really sad, for example Jim Hobbs died 2 October 1925 “At Rest” – I wonder if his family knows he’s there? Sad.

Cooper Pedy’s Oldest Cemetery

After all that activity we returned to the Opal Inn caravan park to absorb the day over a cup of coffee.

We really had a great day and as the Outback Bar & Grill had a wood-fired pizza night we decided to celebrate with pizza and beer.

We have really enjoyed our time in Coober Pedy!  The weather has been perfect, the people friendly and overall the place is very interesting.

Rather than a sunset to finish off with, here’s a Sturt’s Pea instead!

Sturt’s Pea

We’re looking forward to the next stage of our adventure and will be heading further north tomorrow.

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Days 11 & 12 – Coober Pedy


Once again we woke to a beautiful day and decided that we had been driving enough and that we were due for a “rest day”.

We caught up on ‘phone calls to family plus various odd jobs that always seem to add up.

For lunch, and a few extra meals as well, I prepared an “Outback Cook-up” and tastily charred the rest of the meat we had purchased at Burra.  Ann made salads and after a delicious lunch we spent the better part of the afternoon sitting out under the awning to read and chat with other travellers in this friendly park.

Outback Cook-Up

I’ve included a photo from the showers, as our grand-daughters didn’t believe us when we told them that we had to pay for our showers.  I might add that this is an environmentally friendly park that strives to conserve resources.  Other than paying for water for showers (not a huge financial burden), they have a coin operated water bowser, and all bathrooms, laundry, etc have timer switches so that lights aren’t left on unnecessarily.

Coin in the slot showers – water is scarce.

It was great to have a lazy non-driving day today.


Yet another glorious day ! Clear blue skies and temperature about 22 degrees.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Re-energised after our lazy Sunday, we donned our walking shoes and got going early.

We walked from one end of town to the other, and saw many interesting sites along the way.  Coober Pedy is clearly an opal town.  Nearly every second shop sells opals, and most of them will buy them as well.  Most have great displays of raw opal and/or cut and polished opals in many different jewellery settings.

There are many accommodation options, from budget and backpacker places to some very up-market establishments.  Many places offer underground rooms, and almost inevitably also have displays of opal.  There’s no escaping opals in this town.

Some underground accommodation

The Desert Cave – upmarket accommodation

Morning coffee was at an underground café which sold opals and didgeridoos.  The proprietor showed us some of his opals and explained the different types and what makes some opals more valuable than others.  He had some exquisite pieces, at ridiculous prices.

Underground Cafe

We visited an underground bookshop and got talking with the proprietor.  She had some interesting items for sale but our main topic of conversation was the constant temperature she experienced working underground.  She told us that regardless of the outside temperature it was between 23 and 25 degrees in the shop. Oh what a problem!

Underground Bookshop

A quick visit to the St Peter and Paul Catholic underground church resulted in another photo opportunity.

St Peter & Paul underground Catholic church

At various points in time we passed the Opal Beetle, the Cooper Pedy Drive-In, various old bits of old mining equipment, the Big Miner and the Big Winch, and many more interesting sights.

The Opal Beetle

Coober Pedy Drive-In

The Big Miner

The Big Winch

Sites around town

Sites around town

Coober Pedy Mining Equipment

Somewhere along the way we decided to visit the Cooper Pedy Outback Bar & Grill for lunch.  They had the expected steak options but this bright and cheery restaurant has a distinctively Greek feel so we ordered lamb and kangaroo gyros (guess who had what) washed down by a refreshing light beer.  Delicious, and definitely the way to go.

Coober Pedy Outback Bar & Grill

By the end of the day we had both achieved over 12,000 steps on our counters and settled in for a light dinner in Bertha and some TV.

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Day 10 – Glendambo to Coober Pedy

We woke to another lovely day – cold first thing but the sun soon warms things up.  There seem to be a lot of very small birds here and they sound very happy.  Before we left for the day’s journey I got out the tyre compressor and gave the tyres a bit of a top up – we constantly monitor our tyres with a TPMS and the tyres had lost a little pressure so it seemed a worthwhile effort to get them all a bit more consistent.

Once on the road and heading North-West pretty much the first thing we encountered on the highway was a “Prohibited Area” sign reminding us that we are in the Woomera Prohibited Area.  Honestly we don’t intend straying off the main highway at all!

We’re driving through the Woomera Prohibited Zone

Our stop for morning coffee was at the Bon Bon Rest Area (433) – this is a “super” rest area and there aren’t too many like this one!  Not only does it have sheltered chairs and tables, it has toilets, water for birds and pets, and an emergency telephone.  Most rest areas are full of puddles and you’re lucky if there is a table, so this was a good find.  Apart from occasional traffic noise, it was almost silent and amazingly peaceful.  It would be a very good contender for an overnight stay.

Bon Bon “Super” Rest Area

Continuing along A87 we soon came to a spot where the highway doubles as a RFDS landing strip – the road is wider and there are various markings, plus a side area where presumably road vehicles can wait for the airplane to arrive. You don’t see these every day!

Emergency RFDS Landing Strip

We were soon confronted by a pilot vehicle warning of an approaching ‘oversize vehicle’.  It was oversize too – in fact it was an army tank!  And a minute later came another one.

Oversize Load

Lunch stop was at the Ingomar Rest Area (435) – not as flash as the previous one but it was a nice open flat spot with some shelter.  Disappointingly there was a lot of rubbish around the place despite there being ample rubbish bins available.

Rest Area for lunch

Today has mostly been a drive along flat and arid plains, with occasional variations in the scenery. The road surface has, overall, been excellent, which has made the driving easier.  Despite being in a Prohibited Area there are a number of pastoral stations operating here and there are various signs along the highway advising station names plus the fact that most of the area is unfenced and that there may be livestock on the road.  Fortunately we didn’t meet anything on the road, but we didn’t see any live stock in the paddocks, or very little road kill on the side of the road.

Watch out for animals on the road!

At various places we saw small buildings and large aerial towers obviously powered by solar – makes total sense!

There were also various excavations and roads to mines and opal diggings.  In particular there seemed to be a particular patch of opal diggings about 40 kilometres from Coober Pedy.

Excavations, opals diggings, underground houses

Some interesting signs welcomed us to Coober Pedy and we couldn’t resist taking Bertha’s photo under the welcoming opal “blower” truck on the outskirts of town (it has just been refurbished as hasn’t been sign-written as yet).

Welcome to Coober Pedy

Bertha at Coober Pedy

Before going to the caravan park we made an obligatory stop at the town “dump point” for obvious reasons.  At the dump point there are also some water bowsers where you can fill up your water tanks for a fee.  One thing you learn about travelling in remote areas is that you need to keep your fresh water tank full and your grey water tank and your toilet cassette empty.  Places to fill and/or empty can be hard to find, so this place in Coober Pedy is a godsend to travellers.

Water bowser at Coober Pedy

We then made our way to the Opal Inn Caravan Park, and the first thing we did was to fill up our water tank – it was cheaper here than in the council facility.  The first site allocated by the caravan park didn’t suit so we found another and did a decent set-up with power, sullage (onto the garden) and put out the awning.  There is no water to individual sites and as a further reflection of the scarcity of water, the showers cost 20c for 4 minutes.

After setting up Bertha we went for a quick walk into town, but late on a Saturday afternoon isn’t ideal so we headed back to Bertha to relax.  We went to the Opal Inn Motel Bistro for dinner tonight and had wonderful vegetarian pizza and some delicious deserts (we’ll go for a long walk tomorrow to work it off!).

Bertha comfortable at Coober Pedy

Once again, nature treated us to a brilliant sun-set.  Hopefully you can make out the silhouette of a miner in the photo.

Sunset at Coober Pedy

We’ll be in Coober Pedy for at least a couple of days, so we’ll update this blog once we have more to report.

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