Wednesday, January 9, 2008

DATELINE: Coober Pedy, Australia                                                    

(Click map for more useful detail)

Author: Andy

We spent last night in port augusta, which is a major crossroads town in the middle of the southern coast. As we drove along this morning, we came to the intersection where A37 splits off from A1. One goes to Darwin, the other to Perth, each over a thousand miles away, in different directions. The intersection was marked with just a couple simple signs, not even a traffic light. And so we broke north into the outback.

The greenery began to rapidly dissipate, until all we were left with was vast flat fields of dry shrubs (think west texas but hotter). The highlight of the drive was when we saw two big kangaroos hopping across the horizon at full speed. It was a scene right out of the discovery channel.

Nick took over driving the second half of the trip here. We stopped at a "Roadhouse" which was basically a pub with gas pumps. Out front was a "Road Train", which is basically a series of 2-4 full size trailers hooked up in a chain to the same truck. En route to coober pedy, nick was able to cut our fuel usage when we realized that perhaps running the a/c full blast was diminishing our gas faster than we estimated.

Coober pedy is a weird town. The nearest human settlement is over 100 miles away. They mine opals here, and are glad to sell you some. we went to the Old Timer's Mine, where you walk through a real opal mine and learn about how these guys dug stuff up using only pick axes and cowhide buckets.

After the mine we drove by this sculpture garden which was amazing. It's just sitting there on this dusty hilltop in a nowhere town in the outback. This guy basically cobbled together a large series of clever sculptures using junk, largely discarded automotive and technology parts. There's a totem pole made of old keyboards and a junked car hoisted onto twisted railroad tracks. He has tv's and computer monitors in various states of disrepair integrated into dusty monoliths. I took lots of pictures and will try to upload a few next time I have wifi.

The people here mostly live in "Dugouts" which are basically homes they carve out of mountainsides or build into old mines. It is, simply put, way too hot to live above ground here. Our hotel is even mostly underground. Our room is a cave about 6 meters down. Cool stuff.

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