The next stop in our northward journey was Coober Pedy, were we would spend the night. Fortunately, we had most of the afternoon to explore this remarkable town. Sometimes called the opal capital of the world, Coober Pedy is indeed a mining town, and many of the not quite 2,000 people who make this there home are occupied by mining opals, cutting opals, creating opal jewelry, selling opals, and often all of the above.
The thing that makes Coober Pedy remarkable is the way in which people live—pretty much all underground. Unlike the mud dugouts of Burra, these are rock-walled homes that are often quite spacious and comfortable. But they are underground. If you look at the photo below, which is of the bustling center of town, you’ll see that there are electrical wires and water tanks, but not much sign of buildings. Homes, stores, and even a church are carved into the tan rock. In some cases, digging out your home can pay off in more than just a place to live, because veins of opal run all through the area, and finding it wherever you dig is a possibility.
Aside from avoiding the expense of having to ship in building materials, this approach to creating living spaces has the added advantage of helping folks avoid the heat. Summers can be brutal here, but the temperature is considerably cooler underground. We were delighted that our accommodations were also underground.
Worth noting in the photo below is that the lovely mares’ tale clouds from earlier in the day had come together in a soft, billowing, ominous covering of clouds. It was hard to imagine rain in the outback, but we thought we just might see some.