Saturday, 14 July 2018

And off we go

Days 1 - 3 :  It’s been a long time coming, but the WA leg of our around Australia trip is finally underway. 

Packed up ready to head north

The days have been mainly driving, as the start of each big trip seems to be. It gets us out of the cold as quickly as possible.  The first day saw us leave Canberra and head westward towards our first stop in Mildura. We did this same leg coming home in a single day at the completion of our Central Australia trip so we thought it should be ok to do again! Turns out leaving at 7:30am still means a long day covering over 800 kms.  We headed for a free camp called Kings Billabong Wildlife Reserve (Wiki camps : http://wikicamps.com.au/site/57867/34216069) on the banks of the Murrumbidgee river. 

Trickiest part of the day was finding the Philpots, as they had left the Berra at 5:30am the same morning so were the first ones at camp around 4:00pm. We finally arrived at 5:30pm after some end of the day crankiness between navigator and driver to figure out the best way to find them. Once arrived though saw a quick setup for an overnight camp followed by dinner of a fairly warm evening. 

The next day we rose to a beautiful morning.  We had the fish jumping and the birds singing. 

View from camp 1 


We broke camp at 9:30am, like usual, and a quick stop at the  pump house just down the round saw us meet the first challenge of the day. 

The Philpot’s truck had a flat main battery whilst we checked out the pump house, not sure what was causing it and more importantly it happened relatively quickly.  Still haven’t solved the problems with this one. 

We continued our trip towards Renmark, about 10 minutes from the border when Jamie mentioned over the radio that a tyre on the trailer looked a little flat. 







Resembling a pancake, the tyre didn’t have much air left. On closer inspection a repair was possible. So a tyre repair was in order, first time for us doing a plug on a tyre not at a 4wd show! Although taking 40 minutes, it seemed to work and a quick trip through the fruit and vegetables inspection station and we were South Australia bound. 

The obligatory picture of border crossings was in order. 




A stop at the lovely Renmark saw the boys rattling off to the information centre staff a range of questions.  The info centre were great and the information they shared I am sure will be remembered! (Note to Nana - we’ve already picked up some more blanket badges!) A play on the paddle steamer PS. Industry released a bit of energy for the kids 







Of course the morning yoga/gym session in the street was a must. Lucky we are tourists!





Renmark was a lovely place, but onwards we must press to a free camp called Camp Lawrie near Port Pirie some 3 1/2 hours down the road. With device time not yet allocated for the day, the boys plugged in and we travelled on and arrived at dusk. 

There is sea in the background if you squint!


Camp 2, it was going to be a chilly night so we weren’t up much past night fall. Think we were all in bed by 8pm.

Nice camp, clean loos and amenities were good, can’t complain for a free camp.

Before we broke camp, we did a quick tyre switch as we noticed the repaired spare had deflated again, the other trailer did some break adjustment. Jobs done, we were back on the road making our way due north for the first time, making tracks for Coober Pedy.

Interesting things on the way included the SolarFarm using solar and sea water to grow fruit and vegetable with hydroponics! Very smart SA! Apart from the large light that seems to be able to seen from miles away and a small sign as you go past, you wouldn't know its there.

A quick fuel stop at Port Augusta saw a lucky break in that the tyre deflator which was left between the jerry cans on the trailer was still there! 100kms of highway and somehow it didn’t fall off!  Chalk that one up to good luck.

Filling a few Jerry cans in addition to the tank to make sure we got to Coober Pedy without refill and we were off, heading to Woomera for lunch before making the final stretch into Coober Pedy that afternoon/evening.

Woomera was a funny town, amazing history but very quiet and it seemingly doesn’t get busy from speaking to some locals. Although signage says there are permanent 200 residents, we didn’t see many of them or the 5000 - 6000 personnel that supposedly transit it through it. Still a unique place!

We arrived at Coober Pedy around 5:30pm as the sunset. Arriving at Jam B&B, we were greeted by Julie and Michael.  As we had the whole place to ourselves we took the campers down into the car parks below.  Equipment had a lovely frost free sleep for the night.




Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Western Australia 2018

Well its not long now before we kick off the last of our around Australia trips, whisking ourselves out of the depths of Canberra winter to somewhat more pleasant temperatures.

We aren't alone either with the adventures of going round Western Australia in 14 weeks to be shared with another family, the Philpots (their more organised FaceBook page).  Like us Ross's they have two kids as well, they are at either end of ours age wise, so should make a happy group of camp kids.  Some warm up trips together over the years bodes us in good stead to survive each other. 

With two families with campers in tow we head off into the wide blue yonder just after the school holidays and come back just before the next set finish up.  We think it's long enough but only time will tell.

The plan is to make our way up the centre to start with, doing long days down south to get out of the cold as quickly as possibly.  A few familiar kilometres to travel here.  A quick side trip for the Philpots to Uluru and Kata Tjuta with ourselves making news tracks into the east McDonald ranges.  We then rejoin forces at Alice and make our way towards Halls Creek via the Tanami Track, our first taste of long range dusty roads for a while.  Once we have defrosted we then head towards Kunnanurra before turning left down the Gibb and clockwise from there till we hit the south west corner around September.  From there weather permitting its a few days down south and the long trip across the Nullabor back to Canberra around mid October.

As we head off look forward to posting stories of our adventures, come along and join us for the ride.


Monday, 15 August 2016

Summary of our Central Australia trip

Well we have ticked off stage two of our three stage journey around Australia, the latest being a good appetite wetter for the next and final big instalment, the trip to Western Australia in 2018.

We kept pretty much to the original high level plan of going through western Queensland including Mount Isa and Lawn Hill NP then across the top on the Savanna Way stopping in at Lorella Springs before joining the Stuart Highway at Mataranka then heading north to Darwin visiting Litchfield NP on the way.  After Darwin we headed south down, stopping into Kakadu and then headed for the Alice.  A restock saw us head west to West McDonnell ranges and Finke Gorge NP before making our way round to Kings Canyon and the Rock/Kata-Tjuta.  Our final dash south is via Coober Pedy and then across the Oodnadatta Track coming out near the Flinders Ranges.  From there the temperature dictated a hasty retreat back to bricks and mortar back in Canberra.

We only booked into Adel's Grove and Coober Pedy before we left, the rest was left to about 4 or 5 days out at best, usually it was the next night or even just drive-ups in some circumstances.  This ease of planning meant we were able to switch the number of days at certain locations so that we can see others.  For example we reduced the number of days at Kings Canyon so that we could visit  Palm Valley and that was well worth the visit.

Picking highlights for the trip, like the Cape York trip, was very hard as there were so many great places we visited on this trip.  Forcing ourselves to pick a few, from the parents perspective the highlight places or events were

  • Uluru and Kata-Tjuta
  • West McDonnell ranges
  • The Big blue skies everywhere
  • Ubirr tour and tour guide Annie; and
  • going places without crowds
The boys however picked these places and events straight away:
  • Darwin and catching up with Alice and Scott
  • Mindil Markets
  • Coober Pedy and
  • Mataranka / Bitter Springs
As per our Cape York trip there were a number of things that we thought went really well on this trip, and some that could still be improved. There are also some delightful moments that should be recorded for prosperity as momentos to the funnier or lighter moments. 

Things we did well:
  • Food planning for extended stays away from major shopping centres. A big lesson learnt from our last trip to Cape York. Katie did a sterling job at making sure we had enough variety to keep us all very well fed throughout the trip. 
  • Fuel planning, when to get fuel in the Jerry cans and when not. We got this pretty right although there were a few places like Tennant creek that we banked on there being fuel and would have been a bit stuck if there wasn't. We should really have a Jerry full all the time to ensure if one town is out we have enough to get to the next.
  • Kids home work was considerably better than previous long trips but it only got good in the third week once the parents had got into a rhythm. We found the currency of additional iPod time to be a major driver. 
  • Dental hygiene, vast improvement by dad and the boys to ensure its done each night and each morning regardless of the activity. 
  • White boards, we purchased small (39 cm square) white boards for the boys and it worked a treat for in car activities be that maths or spelling or simply drawing their latest idea for a submarine or camper. The drawing bit varies depending on what the conversation had been that day. 
  • Water management: we certainly were able to last longer on the 85litre tank than last time. The addition of cordial can even the more calcium rich bore water seem OK if it's cold enough!
  • Cash management: We ensured that we had cash where we needed it, we only used cash where that was the only option, i.e. national parks or way out there.  We did find that there is pretty much card in most places though.  There is still the occasional % surcharge for credit but this was rare and the option of using savings account was there as well.
Things we could have done better
  • iPods, this time they had iPods whereas last time they had iPod shuffles. We got the iPods to allow them to more easily shuffle through music they were listening to. The added benefit is you can play games on them as well, in particular their favourite at the moment, minecraft. It drove us batty how they were so focused on these blasted devices.  I don't think though a single bit of music was heard!
  • Competition, patience and approach to issues: this time we found the competition between the boys was so much more evident than last time. If one did or said something, the other would have to chime in. Their patience isn't getting any better, waiting in queues for the smallest amount of time seems to bother them, they can't stand up either and have to lean on something that's holds them up, be that mum /  dad or a leaning post of some other kind. And also their thinking was always about what they don't have not what they do!  We kept having to explain what an opportunity they have to learn rather than whinging they didn't get the right ice cream at a shop after a walk!  :(
  • We struggled to stay in a place for more then 3 nights no matter how good it is. We get itchy feet after 3!  We need to learn to chill out a bit more.
  • Dad can't grow a beard. 3 weeks and he ends up just getting hairy. Maybe a beard trimmer would have made it look neater.
  • When we all worked as a team it was amazing how easy setup and packup process can be.  The boys now do a range of tasks like packing the stairs, lights and folding down legs etc that make the process a little easier and faster. 
  • We are still taking things we don't use: ie fishing rods, need to be really firm and only take what we need...noting this will change from trip to trip
  • Electrical updates for the next trip will be to include the ability to charge the fridge battery from the solar panels. We found that the fridge battery would benefit from some extra attention when the camper is at 100%.  The panels are more than capable of keeping it there, even with the fridge running all day. But if we take the fridge with us then it struggles to keep things going for more than a day or so, especially in the hotter weather. 
Some stats :
  • Total kilometres travelled : 10963km
  • Number of days : 47
  • Numbers of stops : 24
  • Number of one night stays : 11
  • Number of two night or more stays : 13
  • Free camp nights : 3
  • Cost of food : $2,300
  • Cost of fuel : $1,785
  • Accommodation : $1,400
  • Average fuel cost : $1.34
  • Most expensive fuel : $178.9 (Yulara) most expensive seen was $3.00 @ Lorella Springs
  • Cheapest fuel : $1.13 in Canberra
  • Average Daily cost including all tours etc : $190
Some lighter sides 
  • Funniest town seen or visited would have to go to Bing Bong seen around the Boorooloola area. 
  • When talking about all the army trucks coming up the highway, Katie asked where they all sleep, the logistics would be amazing. My reply, any where they bloody well want to! 
  • The number of Challengers spotted on this trip has been amazing. Towing all sorts of vans and trailers, it seems a much more popular car to touring these parts. At one stage there was four in a single caravan park. Charlie was still the toughest looking one though!
  • The number of shirts on ant mines on the Stuart and other highways. Every 100 metre or so the art of making a terminate mound look like a person using a old shirt and sometimes a hat and sun glasses is extraordinary.  There are thousands of them and some go to quite some effort. We wondered if the terminate minded, does t bother them?
  • The convoys we passed be it 2CV's(70 or more) Landrovers (43 in one and 13 in the last one seen) are great fun. You can listen on the uhf to all the chatter. 
  • Your caravaners wave being acknowledged is much greater in the morning than the afternoon.  We think that this is due to the strength of the pointer finger wavering as the afternoon stretches on.  In the colder southern states the finger just didn't work with very few acknowledgements, maybe to cold to lift a finger.  

Sunday, 14 August 2016

The long push home

Well we had a much quieter night weather wise than the previous night in Marree. The boys had a much better sleep and nothing needed fixing up. However, it was still overcast, cold and the wind had started to pick up again and during our evening by the fire we had decided that unless we saw a significant shift in the weather in the morning we would make a push home sooner rather than later. It's no fun camping in the cold just cause you can.

Although it was tempting to do a few of the phenomenal 4wd tracks of the area, with the weather like it is, it wasn't going to be fun for everyone. 

So an early packup was on the cards, in fact it was the earliest packup of the whole trip breaking our previous record by a whole 5 minutes. We were on the road before 8am!

Even with the weather being pretty average the landscape of the Flinders is still stunning. More geology porn than you can poke a stick at. If only we could see the top of the hills that were shrouded in cloud I am sure they are even more into impressive.

A model of Wilpena Pound found on top of Stokes Hill


More geology porn - northside of the pound

Viewpioint from the northside of Wilpena Pound

View heading into Branchina Gorge

Charlie and Ernie Flinders Glamour shot

Rolling hills - taken from Stokes Hill

It is definitely a place that we would like to come back and explore at the later stage. Not sure when given that it is 1500km or so from Canberra. But it's on the bucket list.

We weren't too sure where we would aim for on this day but we figured that whilst the roads were good and traffic quiet, we would make hay while the sun shines.  The boys were just great given the long days ahead, the promise of getting home was a strong push. They were missing their Lego and teddies (they only brought two along on the trip!). 

As you come off the plateau we went through some amazing rolling green hills. Reminded dad of the Windows 7 standard background, sorry for the nerd references.  Yes that green!

There were a number of towns that we went through and pending on the weather we would stop for a Joey picture or other sights that grabbed our eyes such as the big gum tree, at Orroroo, estimated at over 500 years old!


And the changes were just as dramatic going from green hills to salt bush and back again. It looked like we were going to be able to make Mildura by day's end so we pushed through a pretty long day driving wise. A total of 600 odd kms. We settled in Mildura Big 4 by about 6:30, remembering to change our time forward 30 minutes!

By going through Mildura it also meant that we had ticked off 4 states and 2 territories on this trip, even if it was only very briefly in Victoria. That said we didn't get any pictures of the state boarder crossings!

The boys loved the facilities of the park, especially the Nintendo in the play room.  We used the camp kitchen for meals due to inclement weather, as well it availability, which was directly next door to said game room so it worked it pretty well.

Our last day on the road was the trip from Mildura back to Canberra. The weather had cleared somewhat, allowing the removal of some of the layers by the time we had packed up and back on the road. 

The last time we had been in this region was the trip to Mungo NP and it was interesting to see how then place has developed in such a short time. Still the seemingly endless fruit trees but frontage volume of truck traffic through the area it was a thriving community. 

We made our way across the Hay plains and did our usually stop in the middle to take in the view. It was so lush with grass growing in the spoon drains on both sides of the road and standing water in lots of places. It was clearly a very wet winter. Glad we missed it!

We got back into Canberra around 7pm which was an awesome time, covering over 800km, our longest day of the trip.  A total of 1535 in two days. 

The boys were amazing in the car, and very excited to get back to "happy house". Belle and Oscar were just as excited to see us, if not a little shocked to see that we hadn't left them!  Oscar was pretty clingy for the rest of the evening and the few days following. 

We did the minimum unpack that evening, preferring to just chill and get the boys into bed after a little play time (fat chance of getting them out of the Lego room in under an hour). 

As we had arrived home a day earlier than expected we started the long unpack and cleanup of the car, camper and all it contents over the following weekend. And it took that long!

With final blog posts being written and journals completed it was a nice chilled out weekend, giving ourselves enough time to get back into the swing of things and ready for the onslaught of normality on Monday!

Back on track

Our next adventure was to hop back onto the dirt road in the form of the Oodnadatta track.  An iconic road that follows the old Ghan train line before it moved to its western path, it also follows more of John Stuart's path north in the1860's. The track is also based on past aboriginal trading routes. So lots of history.  We didn't join the track at the start so we missed visiting Oodnadatta township but we ticked off the rest of it. 

We did a quick fuel stop and tried to top up the gas bottle. Turns out gas can't be filled up before 9am in any of the gas stations. We found a variety of reasons from "lack of staff" to "it's too early for gas" to "the guy that does that comes in around 9:39 or it could be 10:00".  You had to laugh as there wasn't much else you could do.

We headed out of Coober Pedy under solemn grey skies. Light drizzle and a fairly strong headwind. Not the perfect conditions to head out. It looked like the weather was worse where we had been and not where we going, so off we went into the wide grey yonder. 

Our first aim was to get to Coward Springs, camping there overnight before heading to Marree. The landscape opens up pretty quickly and you can certainly see the effects of good winter rains. Like everywhere else the place does come alive with a few drops of rain. 



Spot the green stuff!


The road was a bit slippery in spots but nothing to serious. It did however show the signs of some recent heavy rains that people have talked about with some fairly deep ruts and chewed up bits. With 15-20mm or so you would be in some real strife pretty quickly. 


The first township we came across was the famous William Creek pub. As it is customary to pop in and say hello, we did. Given the weather, a pie was top of the order. Whilst munching we had a lovely chat to a bus group that were having a meal before taking a scenic flight over Lake Eyre.  We were a bit confused initially how they got there as there was no bus in sight. Turns out they flew in on 6 chartered planes from Roxby Downs as part of their tour. The flight was on hold due to the weather so they were hanging out for a few hours till it cleared. Happy as Larry they were, with a variety of beverages and ice creams being consumed!  Our pie was awesome and hit the spot.

Charlie & Ernie outside the famous William Creek pub

Anyone know what this means?

With the rain showers looking to catch up with us, we headed off towards Cowards Springs arriving around lunch time. The weather hadn't improved much with drizzle around, but the wind had certainly picked up. Dad was the only one that ventured out to see the springs, the rest were just comfortable munching lunch in the car out of the weather!

The campground there is well fitted out with a donkey heated shower and flushing toilets. The owners were in Alice Springs for a few days so we missed catching up with them. They certainly have done a good job in restoring things and putting the museum together.


Where the old Ghan line came through 


Shower and toilet picture

There were only a few brave caravans and campers camping there, using the trees to provide some respite from the wind.  We noticed the numbers of people travelling has certainly dropped off as we head south! I wonder why!  Most of them have obviously stuck to the highway as they scramble north to the warm stuff!

After a quick walk around the campsite and the springs, a few quick snaps and we were back on the road, thinking we may make Marree our nights stop some 200 or so kilometres down the road.

This is the Coward Springs plunge pool, it was warm but not nearly warm enough to dip on the day we were there.

The springs runs out into the desert and has created a wetland in the middle of nowhere.  The bore has been going since around mid 1800's!

Just prior to Marree you pass the southern tip of south Lake Eyre. Firstly, we didn't realise there was a north and south before this!  And with a bit of water it, it was certainly an impressive sight.  You couldn't see the other side of it, and this is the small one!  It was as impressive as the catchment area, from east of Longreach, north of Mount Isa and west of Alice Springs.  They all run into the lake's basin.

The catchment basin of Lake Eyre

That's the lake in the distance

You do come along some strange places along the road.  Not sure if these guys advertise but it seems like someone thought "lets stick a plane or two and some other strange objects in the ground and people will come to middle of nowhere to see them".  Its called the Mutonia Sculture Park.  There are some very strange things out here including cars, trains, buses.  Worth a look at the website http://alturl.com/vm9t3 to see all manner of thing they have.

We arrived at our choice of caravan park in Marree, Drover's Run that afternoon.  The wind was still blowing a gale and with not much to stop it in the way of trees we tried to bunker down.  Looking at poor old Ernie when we arrived, clearly the last few hundred kilometres had a few more muddy patches.  The Stonestomper (or Romper Stomper as Katie calls it) collected a lovely roll or two of mud.

Our campsite at Marree's Drover's Run caravan park


Ernie looking a little on the muddy side (again!)

Although they lit a communal fire it wasn't the weather to stand out and chat.  On one side of the fire (the upwind side) you couldn't feel the warm, the other side was too smoky.  The fire was made from collecting the old railway sleepers from the train line.  There was quite a stash to get through, but not tonight.  In different conditions it would be very pleasant out there!  We bunkered down in the camp kitchen for dinner, it was the only place out of the wind, before a quick retreat to the camper after dishes for an early night.  Or so we thought.

The wind just howled all night long, we think that it would be have been the strongest wind we were in since our first camper trailer experience in Burrinjuck Dam a few years back. On that occasion there were 90km hour winds and we thought this was on par.  A few small adjustments during the night to ensure things didn't fall down were needed, a few extra pegs here and there.  But all we survived and were warm, inside. 

Leaving Marree we made our way down the last part of the track. We made a stop into the township of Farina. This little town is slowly being restored by a group of passionate volunteers since the mid 90's. If you keen to volunteer see the website  http://www.farinarestoration.com

Walking through the town and reading the information boards you get a sense of what the town was like during it's hay day. Fascinating bit of history. During the months of March - July each year is when the volunteers are there, rebuilding etc. We think it's during this time that the bakery is in operation. It's certainly one of very few bakeries still in operation in these parts. 

Joey's Farina picture

View of the underground wood fired bakery.

The southern part of the township

Along the way you come across sidings which were buildings for the workers that maintained the rail line.  They certainly stand out in such a stark landscape.  This one has been partially restored by the owners of Coward Springs to ensure that remains for many more years.

Margaret siding

The last section the track showed yet another side of this wonderful road.  It meant keeping to the racing line if you didn't want too much mud all over the vehicle and trailer.  Amazing big skies and with some much greenery around it seemed hard to remember that this was very arid land.


As we hit the bitumen and aired up we noticed this sitting on a truck. Turns out it's a caribou being shifted to Adelaide. Not sure where it came from but they did the Strzelecki track!  For more info (http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-07/caribou-makes-final-journey-through-sa-outback/7698204)

Back on the tar we were able to pick up the pace a little. We stopped in Leigh Creek for lunch. It's a mining town that was built to support the massive Leigh Creek coal mine, but with the mine now closed its population has dropped from 7000 to around 2500. So it was pretty quite place!  The whole town is currently up for sale!

Leigh Creek welcome sign

With the rain having been a bit heavier down south, some of the roads we wanted to travel on to get to Willow Spring were closed. But we found a lovely track through on the geological trail that took us through the Branchina Gorge to our stop for the evening at Willow Springs station. 

The station is host to the very well known Skytrek 4wd track. We didn't think about doing it this time as its a full day but looking at the videos in the camp kitchen, it's certainly something to think about for a future trip. 

Although the wind dropped a bit, we still had dinner in the camp kitchen, which looked very new and was fitted out with all the gizmos.  That evening, using the car to not so successfully block the breeze we had our last camp fire of trip. Some of the wood we had carried from before King Canyon!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Hanging out underground

OWell the most talked about stop on the trip inched closer. The boys were very excited about staying underground in the sleepy little hollow of Coober Pedy. They were so excited that when people asked them where their favourite place was on the trip, Coober Pedy was always said - even though they were weeks from actually visiting it!

It is a fair distance from Uluru so we had to break the trip over two days. We made our way towards the Kulgera roadhouse as our overnight stop to break up the 700km or so to Coober Pedy. On the way we passed through Eldundo roadhouse and stopped in for fuel.

They had a small number of emus in captivity there and for just $2 you can feed them some pellets. Well the boys were most excited and Dad succumbed. The bag they got was certainly bigger than expected, a good half a kilo of pellets came out. The next 25 minutes or so was entertaining watching Katie who isn't the biggest fan of birds to start with get amongst it. The boys thought it was hilarious. They claimed it as the highlight of the day! Yes it even beat a helicopter ride, or was at least right up there said Griff.

Onwards to the roadhouse we went and settled there around 3pm or so. It was a nice surprise to see people we camped with at Palm Springs setup there and had a good yarn over the fire that evening to see what everyone had been up to. 


Old school playground at the roadhouse.

Next morning we were Coober Pedy bound. The landscape changed with the trees disappearing, the red colours fading somewhat and the roads straightening.  It's amazing how the place changes. 


We also made our first entrance into South Australia, the boys are most proud that they now only have to go to Tasmania and Western Australia to tick off all the states. 


Before we arrived in town we did a quick detour out to the Breakaways. It was the closest thing to the painted desert we could get to. As part of the Stuart Range, the breakaways are scenic set of hills that show the amazing weathering process of different sedimentary rocks.  


These are known as the castle or salt and pepper. They made of the same stuff, just are different sizes and therefore as the layers are eroded, different minerals are visible. 


You can also get the closest to the dog fence, this section is around 2250km long but the whole thing is around 3500km, stretching up into NSW and Queensland. 


Seeing the fence brought back memories of the book Uncle Chris was reading about the fence on our last journey up north to the Cape. Here is a pic for you!

We couldn't hold off the boys for much longer and we made our way into town to JAM B&B. Well it certainly is a strange place where you first arrive into town. Mounds of dirt dot the landscape like someone has been looking for treasure. The famous road signs indicating deep shafts etc are very apt. 

We arrive at our B&B and the boys are jumping out of their skin with excitement. We leave Ernie upstairs and take down some essentials. 

Ernie gets a break for couple days. Our house is under him!

We are greeted by our host Julie and shown around the place. It's the house she used to live in when she first moved to town 13 years ago, (turns out that Julie spent time in Rutherglen, Victoria of all places). The house has 3 bedrooms, 2 dining areas, 2 living areas with a hugh laundry space. Massive place considering that its underground. It was built in the 70's and being about 4metres underground gives you 21-24 degrees all year round. 

The front door!

The living area

Our room

It was certainly very comfortable. The boys expectations were met and exceeded!  

Julie also had a couple of little critters as well, Minty an 8 year old pup and Scratchy the cuddliest cat in town.



The next day we did a bit of a tour of town to get our bearings. Quite a picturesque place, although things do seem to be a little run down at the moment. 


Every town must have a "big" something. Coober Pedy has the big winch. The bit down the bottom is the handle of the original winch that came down in a cyclone in 1966. It's not quite apparent why it's still on show!


We headed towards the Umoona mine and display for our tour. Amazing setup with information about the town's history of opal mining, the mining process and how it's changed over time.  This is all free of charge and a really good read. 

Turns out Coober Pedy invented the blower. It is essentially a large vacuum cleaner that sucks out the rock dug up by the tunnelling machines. They are dotted everyone around the landscape. Some more functional than others.  A picture of a blower truck from Google.  The vacuum sucks out the dirt till the container is full then it empties the container as spoil near the mine site. 


The tour also showed how miners lived at the turn of the 18th century and then compared this to how they live in modern day underground house.  The difference was stark!

The other interesting stories relate to the fact you don't need to report how many opals you have found, in fact its shunned upon as it encourages others to either help themselves to your opals if they aren't protected enough or they stake a claim for the ground around you.  So the spoils of your find is kept pretty quiet - seems almost devious!  The B&B we were staying in also had a ongoing dig down the road.  They had 24x7 protection to ensure that no one came visiting in the night to help themselves.  Its more wild west out here than you think!