Nearly a week after entering the Outback and I’ve arrived in Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world (apparently).
With a population of 1,695 (and a name that roughly translates to “boys’ waterhole”) this place has everything I need for an enjoyable day off: plentiful water, a supermarket, a pizza place, and beer.
I’m 1,037 mi (1,669 km) from Melbourne, 528 mi (849 km) from Adelaide, and 337 mi (542 km) from Port Augusta, but I’m also over 1,300 mi (2,100 km) from my destination in Darwin.
Also, a note for any future cyclists arriving in Coober Pedy: the last bit of the Stuart Highway leading north towards Coober Pedy was covered in (what I think were) grasshoppers. It’s the first time this trip I’ve seen this, and they are fond of jumping up and hitting you in the face.
You’ve been warned.
When I arrived yesterday afternoon I checked myself into Radeka Downunder, the local hostel (yes, Coober Pedy has a hostel).
The place doubles as a sort of motel offering private rooms as well, but my budget accommodation occupies what’s essentially a large underground cavern. The “rooms” don’t have doors and instead are just bunk bed filled spaces carved out along a single hallway.
I grab a bed in the dungeon – a thirty-bed dorm at north end of the tunnel.
The staff is friendly, but if you ever find yourself here, be careful about engaging the night manager (the tall guy missing most of his teeth) in conversation.
He’s very good at saying what he wants without listening to you. If you try asking questions, you will be ignored and he will simply say whatever it was he was already thinking. I get sucked in and he ends up feeding me complimentary shots of rum to keep me listening to his rambling plan to construct a mobile home that is also a boat.
Not the greatest investment of my time.
Many of Coober Pedy’s dwellings, called “dugouts”, are built into or under the ground to combat the summer heat – when the average temperature is just under 100 °F (38 °C).
Said dugouts, which include churches, hotels, and homes, have turned the town into a tourist attraction.
However, the town really owes its mention on Australia’s maps to the large concentrations of opals found in the surrounding desert.
Although there are places to go see, search for, and purchase these colorful gemstones, I will probably not be partaking in any of these activities. Why? Because I have been riding a bicycle through the windy, fly-infested Outback, and all I want to do is relax in a place with air-conditioning, pizza, and beer.
Is that really so much to ask?
- DAY OFF IN COOBER PEDY
- DAY’S DISTANCE: 0 mi / 0 km
- TOTAL DISTANCE: 1,037.2 mi / 1,669.21 km