The journey to Coober Pedy was long and along a straight, boring road - lucky we had to play games to keep entertained!! The desert landscape changed from red dunes to salt pans and gibber plains. We drove alongside the Dog Fence which is literally a fence to keep the dingos in the north out of the farmedland in the south. Originally sections of fence were erected by individual farmers and it stretched 9600Km until the Government took it over in 1946 and streamlined it to 5300Km, still making it 1.5 times the length of the Great Wall of China and the longest man-made structure inthe world!! (not that it is anything to actually look at).
Cooper Pedy meaning White Mans' Boroughs in Aboriginal - an extremely wierd place, where 70% of its 3500 inhabitants (700 are Native but as they receive a grant from the Governmentthey live in a separate area) actually live underground. So driving into the town, it is difficult to see where anyone might live exceptfor the drainpipes / air vents sticking out of the ground. In the middle of nowhere temperatures often reach 50 degrees,so the underground living regulates the indoor temperatures to 20-24 degrees without the need for air-conditioning. And the only reason why anyone might even think to live in such a remote and dusty places, is in the hope of mining some opal. 80% of the world's precious opalhave been mined here, originally found when goldminers were searching for water. Water here is scarce and pumped miles from the Murrey River in a pipe which we drove alongside for a while. 8 cents it costs to flush the toilet! We also followed the line of the Ghan Railway - running north to south,which it turns out I could have taken to return back to Adelaide, taking only about 30 hours.
Crocodile Freddie is a famous odd character who lives out here. Approaching his 80's he lets tourists visit his house which he's decked out with all sorts of weird things - statues, womens' underwear, baseball hats etc...A little creepy but fun to look around.
The heat was high, so we found a much needed swimming pool to cool off in after our educational tour around the opal museum. Here we watched a video of how opal was first discovered in Coober Pedy and how it was formed millions of years ago in the earth and is now used in jewellry. We saw an underground mine, and living quaters, the living area being similar to the Underground Backpackers we stayted in - really just an excuse for the ceiling to be falling down and walls being left bare. Did get some amazing sleep though and the whole place was completely silent from outside noise.
From Coober Pedy we continued north into the colourful Breakaways site of Mad Max III before devouring 700Km of hot bitumen on the Stuart and Lasseter Highways, via Marlaand Erlunda. This land has now been handed back, after much dispute, to the Aboriginals of the Pitjantjatjara Nation. By special invitation, we visited the Iwantja Arts Centre, an initiative where natives learn to paint / sculpt / create and sell their products to allow for further education of the Aboriginal art to the youngsters.
Going further north the vegetation started to increase again as we entered the Northern Territory, though the mosquitos also incresed dramatically in number.