About 500 km. north of Port Augusta there is a kind of strange town called Coober Pedy. The name is supposed to be taken from the aboriginal word kupa piti which should be translated to white mans hole. The town only exist on the very reasons that a boy found an opal here in 1915. Of the population 60% in the town are born overseas; they all come here in hope of making a fortune. Nothing else you may ask? Well, the landscape consists of sand dunes and bushes and more dunes. The night is freezing cold because there’s nothing that keep the heat to the ground, and during the summer the temperature could soar up to 50 degrees Celcius, the sky totally free of clouds. Hence people lives in dugout homes for to escape the heat.
Martin down in the dugout hotel. The walls only varnished.
There’s no water around. The very first miners here had to leave just after a few weeks because of the water was running out, and to get it transported was heavy duty. Today clear water is made by pumping it out from a bore 24 kilometers away and then processed through a reverse osmosis plant as the bore water is too saline. So far the best water you’ve tasted in Australia.
The town is surrounded by more than 250 000 holes in the ground made by fortune seeking miners -and so the main street consist of opal shops where you can get your own opal bargain.
In between the opal shops there is plenty of pubs where you can listen to outrageous stories from old timers, life stories and of people’s fortune made and lost. But still no aboriginal people. The only aboriginals you’ll see in Coober Pedy are ragged, standing outside the bottle shop at night, not many of them sober.
You take your car and visit one of the old timers dug out home, the home of the now past away Crocodile Harry. Originated from Latvia, he fled from the world war and spent 13 years of hunting crocodiles up North Australia, for to finally end up digging in Coober Pedy.
Crocodile Harrys garage?
In the evening you continue out to the breakaways to see the two hills called salt and pepper by the aboriginals and it’s totally quiet and lonely. You see a kangaroo.
You want to go to Ayers Rock the next day. 700km. Maybe you drive through a sandstorm. For a couple of hours.
You arrive just in time for sunset and find it strange. Out in the middle of bush land, far away from most things, there’s a holy Rock. The people who keep the stone for sacred and had it for that for about 4000 years don’t come here anymore. There is a village here. But a village for tourists and you has to pay for to get in. You are not aloud to be outside the village at night. In the middle of nowhere, pitch black five o clock in the morning, you and your car join the caravan of cars, coaches and buses going in the same direction for lining up around the stone. 20 minutes after sunrise and they are all gone again.
Hurry, you might miss it…
You find it difficult to find those inspiring pictures among the crowd and you think of the aboriginals who don’t even come here anymore. Even though they can. For a couple of years ago they actually were by the government prohibited to, because the Rock was a national heritage.
400 km later and you wake up in Australia, in the Red Center in Alice Springs and its raining. Perhaps you want to buy a didgeridoo here even though they don’t come from here originally. They are made and played only at the very top end of northern Australia. But if you don’t have the time to go all the way up to Darwin and further –make sure you buy an original didgeridoo carved out by termites, cut and painted by aboriginals. Because there are many fakes and mass-produced ones. Did you knew the word didgeridoo is not aboriginal? And don’t forget to stop over at the Kangaroo Rescue Center and listen to the people saving kangaroo babies from dying when their mothers are hit and killed by cars. At every tenth dead kangaroo the Cangaroo rescuers stop for, along the road they find a kangaroo baby alive in the pouch. The people doing this wish that everyone that hits a kangaroo should stop to look for babies and to take them with them to one of these rescue centers.
Hey you, you smells like goat
The journey continues and you head towards Mount Isa. You stop on the way to have a look at the Devil’s Marbles.
You continue and suddenly your car starts to vibrate and it doesn’t feel comfortable at all. You have to stop somewhere! In Tenneant Creek you talk to a mechanic. “The tire is worn out, you have to change it or it’ll blow up”. And he tells you a story of four backpacker girls and one tire blowing up and they lost control over the car, hit a road train, only one of four survived. Hm. This wasn’t in your budget really. During the night you stay at one of the filthiest hostels you’ve ever been to. Before stepping into the shower ingrained with dirt, you kill three cockroaches and frighten a frog before showering in cold water. While getting the tires fixed –it turned out they where all bad and all four of diffrent type and brand, you go for a walk. You see only aboriginal people sitting around in groups, mostly doing nothing. You pay for two new tires, let the mechanic put the spare tire on the third wheel and you pray for the forth one to last to Sydney.
On the road again.
Termites are you home?
On the way under our car
You pass an old man and his van -converted into a cart -pulled by his camel on the side of the road. You’ll pass hundreds of termite homes and your first shy Dingo, tries some mango ice cream made on a farm where aboriginal people could come for work and training. You compare how Australia treats their aboriginals and Sweden their Sami people. You reach Mount Isa and it starts to get hot and humid. You’re closer to the coast now.
Your boyfriend has been here for a month. It’s November and you have been here for two. Driven 5000 km. on three weeks. You’re halfway through your journey. Queensland is next and the east coast down to Sydney. So far all good. Your doing Australia! And Magnetic Island tomorrow for some snorkeling and Koala spotting.