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Friday, May 4, 2012


Like a few other bloggers out there lately I've been casting about for something interesting to blog about.
I sew a bit and cook a bit but not enough to fill a blog and anyhow that's not what this blog is meant to be.
My life recently has been filled with looking after elderly parents ( 3 over 90 ) and it's all a bit humdrum so today's post is about a place in Australia which I think is interesting and quite unique.

We visited it about 20 years ago during the Winter school holidays when we had an outback camping holiday with friends. Temperatures during Summer can be over 50 degrees C so it is virtually off limits then.
Some of the photos are mine ( scanned from old fashioned holiday snaps ) and some I've taken from the internet ( I'll mark these with *)



These beautiful stones are opals ... and they come from a place in Central Australia called Coober Pedy.
Coober Pedy is an opal mining town about 850 kilometres (ten hours' drive) north of  Adelaide in South Australia.

 It's a tiny outpost surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of red desert, sandstone rock formations and massive cattle stations. Aboriginal people called this place Kupa Piti which means White Man in a Hole and which sort of sums the place up !

As you approach the town you pass piles of dirt beside holes in the ground ( a bit like the holes that crabs make on the beach ). It's not a pretty town, all red dirt with little or no green to be seen anywhere and everything is covered with fine, red dust.


In fact you might wonder that a town with around three thousand inhabitants has so few houses.
Look closely, though, and you'll see chimneys sticking up from what looks like piles of red earth. These are ventilation shafts to deliver fresh air to the rooms deep underground.


The residents of Coober Pedy — for the most part a motley bunch of larrikins, opal miners, entrepreneurs and 'outback characters' — mostly beat the searing desert heat by living in underground bunkers.


 Don't be fooled by the rundown look of the place — some of the motley cave dwellers you'll meet will have millions of dollars of opal stashed away in their underground safes.

Coober Pedy has evolved in to one of the most unique places in Australia and perhaps the world. It is a cosmopolitan town with a population of  around 3,500 and over 45 different nationalities.
The relaxed and friendly lifestyle of the town has made it a breeding ground for cultural tolerance, diversity and acceptance.

Coober Pedy is probably best known for its unique style of underground living. There is a range of underground accommodation (as well as a small amount above ground if you prefer).


The above photo is a hallway in a five star under ground  hotel .

Then, for the hardy, there is this backpacker accommodation.

It's called Bedrock (shades of Fred Flintstone !)

The day we arrived the temperature outside was a searing 40 degrees C but when we walked through the glass sliding doors into this underground facility it was a very pleasant 18 degrees C.


Look comfy to you ?
Backpackers have to be a hardy lot.
four to a room, somewhere to hang your towels and a mattress when you pay !!!


Of course if you really want to spend the night in your own tent you can put it up in here where it is cool!
The next day the temperature plunged as it does in the desert and we were back to wearing jumpers but inside Bedrock it was a constant 18 degrees C.

There are authentic underground homes to explore

Inside this home is very comfortable

with all the conveniences needed to accommodate a family !
( He's only posing for a photo, I promise !!!)

Of course, when you are "building" your home you take out a Miner's Permit and you may come upon   this


or   this   in your walls and then your fortune is made !!!


Sally and Hayley making themselves at home!!!

and outside in the "garden" my friend and
I waited for our families under a rare, shady tree.

(The rooms at the front of the house are the bathrooms and toilets to save moving all the plumbing through the other rooms as the "house" goes straight back into the hill. ) 

( Told you it was 20+ years ago !!)

Around the town there are also underground museums, opal shops, art galleries, underground churches and, of course, opal mines.......

where you have to wear the required safety helmet.

What all well dressed miners wear !!

A visit to unique Coober Pedy is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 Many of my fellow Australians have never been there.

I'm so glad I had the chance to see it.



  1. Absolutely fascinating Helen. I have a little opal pendant from Australia - wonder if it came from there.

  2. Jane , most likely it did especially if it is a dark blue one with a bit of fire in it.

  3. my husband was sitting next to me when I was reading this post and he said "I'v been there!" when he did his grand tour of Aus some years back. He enjoyed the photos and remembered the underground church especially.

  4. This is quite amazing! I would think it could be depressing spending much time indoors without benefit of windows and natural light, though. People always manage to find the most ingenious methods of dealing with difficult environments! Thanks for sharing.

    I almost pulled the plug on my blog a while back. I really don't blog "about" anything...but it is my little corner of the "web" and I enjoy it for what it is! Also, I discovered that the posts I enjoy the most are the ones where someone like me has lived an ordinary day (like me!) and has found one little interesting moment to photograph or comment on...so keep blogging and don't think what you do isn't interesting to others!

    Nice post today!!

  5. What a great place! I told My Guy it goes on our travel list to be included as part of our trip to Australia, once I convince him to spend another 24 hours on a plane. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Kate, If you are going to Ayers Rock (Uluru ) it's just down the road a bit!

  7. Wow...this is very unique!!! My Mom's birthstone is opal. I especially liked your photos from earlier years. How interesting...an underground town. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I live relatively close but havent ever been . I hear its really worth a visit.

    Thanks for the tour. You havent changed a bit by the way!

  9. I saw some of that gorgeous opal at a gem show in March - the man from Australia is making a bundle. Thanks for showing a very unique place in Australia.

  10. I loved Cooper Pedy (don't forget Lightening Ridge for opals too). The underground houses are amazing and I have the new hotel is fantastic!!
    Opals have always been a favourite stone, especially white and black opals with the beautiful red fire flash through it. I did have a white opal ring, but it was stolen.
    Hints to hubby for a beautiful, but expensive black opal to replace it ;-)

    And the opal is DD3's birthstone

  11. Well well! I don't think I would like to live like that but I can see it would be cool for them, out of the sun. White man in a hole indeed.
    20 years on and you look just the same today!
    There's a place in Italy with underground homes, isn't there? Somewhere in the south. But it isn't as extreme as this. Wowee!

  12. I really enjoyed this well-illustrated post Helen. I had never heard of Coober Pedy. Where do its residents and visitors get their water from?

  13. They use bore water YP.

    "Coober Pedy produces and reticulates its own water.

    The water is bought in from a bore 25km North East of Coober Pedy on the Oodnadatta road via a pipeline.

    The water is then processed through a Desalination/Reverse Osmosis Plant. The water quality is of an outstanding level. This means that the water can be consumed without more consumer intervention."

    Australia has a huge reservoir of underground water called The Great Artesian Basin which sometimes comes to the surface naturally and sometimes is pumped to the surface using the iconic Southern Cross windmills. It is the reason that people as well as cattle and sheep can survive in the dry outback.

  14. Well, Professor Helen, I never realised that you were so well-versed in the mechanics of artesian wells and de-salination. Thank you for the lecture.

  15. As always late to the party. Wow. I don't think I've told you this one. I actually have an Austrailian Opal that my Mom brought back for me from her trip over there about 10 years ago. I love it and get so many compliments all the time. Unfortunately, her was stolen when her house was burglarized right through her alarm system a while back. They were in and out in 90 second with the police in the drive at 3 minutes. Kind of a crazy thing. This was fun to read and know someone who has actually been to the mines.

  16. Well, another fantastic post. I knew the name of the place, and the association with opals, but nothing else!

    I want to live in a Hobbit-hole, but not so much for the coolth.
    It's a very sensible choice when it's so warm outside.

  17. http://arbroath.blogspot.fr/2012/05/wallaby-spotted-in-kent-field.html

  18. kas_chat@yahoo.com.auMay 15, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    I loved reading this and really enjoyed the photos ... You have made me want even more to take my kids and husband for some time there. Reminds me on some level of watching the leyland brothers when I was a kid.

  19. A very informative blog about a little town that no one really knows about. They know about opals and money of course, but the living underground, thats really unique and I will do some investigating and see what else there is and do a blog about it as well . Great blog. Keep up the good work