We are in Coober Pedy and today we will learn a bit more about opals and the area around this town. And the best way to do all this is by having a guide. So, we ended up with Gunther. As the name suggest he is from Germany and came to Coober Pedy a long time ago to search for opals. So he is an expert now and stopped digging holes in the ground to find these stones. Nowadays Gunther organises bustours to show people like us around.
We started our tour in one of the opal shops in our hotel. Gunther explained a lot about the different opals and how they are turned into all sorts of jewelery. After that it was time to hit the road. On to our first stop: a church build into the wall of a hill. As I already stated in a previous post: there are some faboulous diggers here and this church is a good example. Just look at the pictures…
Then we were off to see the surroundings of this town. On our way out of town Gunther showed us several interesting places. Look at this sign:
On our way we passed a road train. As you can see we are on a dirt road and these big trucks go fast.
Our next stop was at the dingo fence. This is world’s longest fence and it was build to keep the dingos away from the sheep.
The next stop was at the breakaway hills. Initially I thought this was manmade. Since they love to dig in the ground here, they must have a place to dump all the stuff that they dig up. But I was wrong: this is an untouched area. It’s beautiful; just look at the pictures.
We spent quite a bit of time looking at the amazing views, but then it was time to move on. We were on our way to the opal mines. And again: they love digging here! You are not allowed to go into this area unless you have a permit. And I understand why. There are holes everywhere. Their diameter is not big (a few meters), but they are deep (hundreds of meters), so when you fall in: tough luck… The two vehicles in the pictures are used to: transport the dirt and rocks out the hole they are working in and the other one is used to go through the piles to find opals that may still be in there.
One of the things I have learned over the last few weeks is that Ausies have a great sense of humor. A good example is the Coober Pedy golf club. This is a very hot and desert like area. But when you want to play golf, that’s not a problem. You just redefine the definition of the “green”…
The next stop was the local opal museum. This is also build into the side of a hill and shows all the aspects of digging for opals. Furthermore it shows a house build into a hill. Nicely cool, but the views are poor…
After the tour it was time to go back to the hotel and just relax. It’s too hot here to be outside the whole day. We finished the day with a very nice diner. Tomorrow we will move on to our next destination: Ayers Rock.
Monday 23 March 2009
We are about to leave Alice Springs for Boulia and I don’t expect that I will have access to the Internet for the next 3 to 4 days. So just a quick update: the picture library holds all pictures up to and including Friday 27 March. This includes: Coober Pedy, the flight from Coober Pedy to Ayers Rock, Ayers Rock, the flight from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs and Alice Springs. I will add the stories when I have time (hey, I am on holiday and this blog is a time consuming thing). I have added Google Map’s to the blogs about the flying trips. So scroll down and back in time to see where we have been.
That’s it for now. CU later.
On to our next stop: Coober Pedy. This place is all about opals. But first we need to get there and thus we need to fuel up and say goodbye to Birdsville.
As you may have heart there were some flooding and rain problems in Australia some time ago. Today we will see the results as we will see water in rivers and lakes that most of the times are dry. Just look at the pictures and see what I mean.
We landed at William Creek to take on some fuel and have some lunch. This is our first landing on a dirt strip or in this case: a gravel strip. Not all that exciting, but you will need to be careful not to damage the plane by rocks that are blown against it. This is a place in the middle of nowhere.
After all that, it was time to move on to our destination: Coober Pedy. And look at the fabulous terminal building they have here 😉
As stated before this place is all about opals and therefore mining. And there are some great diggers here (or at least they used to be here), since our hotel room is actually a cave in a hill. So the views are a bit poor, but there is no need for an air conditioner, since the temperature in the room is a nice 23 degrees.
It was a nice flying day again and we finalized it with the best dinner so far. This hotel has a really nice restaurant.
The track of today:
Sunday 22 March 2009
Today we will not fly, but will have a look around in the world famous town of Birdsville. Since it can be very hot here, we decided to have an early walk, have breakfast and then on to the local museum. And so we did. Here’s an impression:
The local museum is for sale by the way. So if you are thinking about leaving the big city and move to a place where there live only about 60 – 80 people and run a museum: this is your change!
Oh, by the way did I mention that there are a lot of flies out here? Well, there are. Look at the shirt of Janice after about 5 minutes walking outside:
In the afternoon we didn’t do much. It was too hot, so I decided to do some work on my website. Well, it turned out to be a very frustrating afternoon. I paid about 16.50 Australian dollars (that’s about 8.25 euro) for each hour of Internet connectivity, but most of the time the connection was so poor that nothing seemed to work. During the 4 hours that I had access to the Internet, I managed to get 6 mails out.
And I promised I would come back with some reference of where we are. Well here it is:
For the evening Clare organized a visit to the “Big Reds” to watch sunset and enjoy a glass of wine. This turned out to be a very pleasant evening. We had good fun in the dunes and the views were spectacular. The pictures don’t do justice to the real thing, so again: you have to come out here and see for yourself.
We finished the day with a nice meal and then all went to bed. Tomorrow we move on to the next place to visit: Coober Pedy, the opal centre of the world (well at least of Australia).
Saturday 21 March 2009
Yesterday we flew to Charleville and today we will move on to Birdsville via Windorah where we will have lunch and fuel up the aircraft. This is a much longer track than that of yesterday. Now we are really going to enter the outback.
The day started by fueling up the planes, keeping the flies away and of course cleaning the windows.
And then on to Windorah. Once you have passed Birdsville, you enter the outback. There are not a lot of towns anymore, but you will find grouped houses either being part of a single farm or several families living closer together. This is cattle land.
Here’s the team in VH-JCU: Ray and myself upfront and our navigator/host/caterer/tour guide Clare in the back.
Well as you can see there is a lot of space out there. The colors are great and changing constantly. I have tried to take some nice pictures of it, but they are by far not as nice as the real thing. You should come out here and see for yourself!
On our way, we have passed several airfields. All the towns (or at least those of some size) will make sure that they have a decent airstrip, allowing the Royal Flying Doctors to come in when they need help.
Today I also could take a picture of a so called “road train”; this is a big truck with several trailers hauling cargo over longer distances.
There has been a lot of rain lately in this region, so besides a lot of relatively dry areas you will also see green and rivers containing water. This is a relatively flat area, so the rivers are not very deep, but when they get a lot of water, they will become very wide and cause flooding.
We could not make it directly to Birdsville and therefore landed at Windorah to refuel our planes and have lunch. Windorah is a really small place; there’s nothing on the airport except for an air conditioned cabin to have lunch and wait for the person who can fill up the planes. And then there are even more flies here then we had before in Charleville.
Windorah is a small town, but with a high tech solar station to generate the power they need here. And they must consume a lot of power with their air conditioners otherwise it’s just too hot. Today is a “not too bad” day according to the locals; it’s only about 40 degrees.
On our way over from Windorah to Birdsville you can find these amazing views. These are formed by water streams that resulted in vegetation and the dry areas cause this great contrast.
Again we started last, but arrived first at Birdsville. And again it’s hot (about 40 degrees) and the moment you get out of the plane, you are covered with flies. Great…
We are going to stay in the world famous Birdsville hotel for the next two nights. It’s been very pleasant day again. We saw some amazing views of the enormous country. Here you can fly or drive for hours before getting close to a town. I will have to take a picture of some of the road signs to show you how far away this place is from anything “nearby”. More on that in a later post. For now: time to have a bear and mingle with the locals.
The track of today:
Friday 20 March 2009