Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for November, 2011

Opals and Rockets – Oct 2011

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on November 22, 2011

Breakaways before sunset panorama

SA-NT border

Bush camp sunset

Coober Pedy landscape

Hi Everyone,

After crossing the SA/NT border we stopped at a free camp for the night and witnessed another gorgeous sunset and a brilliant full moon tonight as well.

The scenery as we drove into Coober Pedy was flat with a few scrubby plants and mounds of rubble. It looks very dry and dusty and not really that inviting but the real world of Coober Pedy lies under the ground.  We stayed at the Stuart Range Holiday Parkbut the pool has had a leak and they had to lift up a lot of pavers to find it and haven’t finished

Serbian UG Church

Carvings in the Church

Coober Pedy Golf Course

re-laying them so the pool is a no-go, much to the boys’ dismay.  We topped up on some shopping, especially fresh fruit and vegies and then organised a tour of the town for tomorrow.  The Caravan Park normally runs tours but as it’s not “high season” they won’t run any unless there are a lot of people. Not very good PR so we went on a tour with the other caravan park, the Oasis.  Water is nearly as precious as the opal mined here and you need to pay for any water you use.  The water is actually pumped from artesian bores about 23km north of the town, into the town water tanks and then run through a reverse osmosis plant to produce their

Coming up from UG mine

UG home with pool

Wade found the UG TV room

potable water.  It is really lovely water, some of the nicest we have tasted in the last few months. We had full tanks of the van already but will need to fill up before we go. The caravan park has a water pump/dispenser and it is only about 20 cents for 30L-40.  There is a coin operated water dispenser in town too which costs about the same.

Our bus driver for the town tour was Rudy, an old ex-miner who has lived here for years.  We started off with a bit of a tour around the town and Rudy told us of some of the colourful history of the town.  It is a very cosmopolitan population with more than 45 different nationalities

Bit early for a drink:)

UG bedroom

The Dog Fence

represented in the town.  Roughly about 50 – 60 % of people live underground in “dugouts” which, no matter what the temperature is outside, always stays a lovely 23-25 degrees all year round!  Our first stop was to visit the Underground Serbian Church.  It is quite spectacular even from the outside but amazing once inside.  The whole church is underground with a few stained-glass windows allowing some light through.  The scalloped ceiling and carved rock statues and icons are just amazing too.  You really have to see it to believe it. The sandstone is predominantly a light white-beige colour with streaks and swirls of a more reddish

The Castle aka Salt 'n' Pepa

Sun setting on The Breakaways

Bit windy up here

colour throughout, creating a marbling effect.  It is very striking and the carvings in the rock look almost like marble statues. Our next stop was a look through the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum.  We watched a presentation about the history of Opals and opal mining in Coober Pedy, had a look through a section of the mine there and also through the caretakers quarters underground.  When building or digging the U/G homes they try to put the kitchen, bathrooms and toilet nearest to the surface/entrance to make plumbing easier. They have a lovely shop with some interesting pieces but none that quite got my attention.  We thought we’d come

Wade noodling

Daniel noodling

Coober Pedy town sign

back later and have a better look after the tour. We stopped at the public noodling area and had a bit of a go trying to find some opal, but no-one had any luck. The last stop was a look at the golf course and views of the surrounds then back to the caravan park.   It’s not what you’d call a picturesque place but it’s very interesting and looking around the landscape at all the pipes sticking out of the ground you come to understand the number of underground houses that are out of sight. After some lunch we checked out Faye’s U/G house – just amazing.  Faye Naylor dug out this place with the help of two other ladies, while working full-time and it’s

Coober Pedy mining sign

Peaceful overnight bush camp

Rocket Test Vehicle (RTV1)

incredible.  The current owners took us on a tour of the place and they still live in it too.  Faye also built an in-ground swimming pool at the back of the place, just outside but was losing so much water through evaporation that she built around it and enclosed it and they still use it as a pool. It’s a bit eerie walking through the house though as there is no natural light because there are no windows! Our next stop was a place called Crocodile Harry’s U/G mine and dugout – well he seemed to have been quite a character and his place had been used in a few scenes for the Mad Max 3 movie too.  Probably not the most appropriate place for the kids and in

Welcome to Woomera

Contraves Kinetheodolite-follows rockets

Rocket Astronomy

all honesty not someone I’d want to have known I don’t think.

Back to the van for lunch then a quick look around the town, stopping in at a few opal places to see if I could find a pair of earrings to match my beautiful necklace and ring I’d gotten already at Lightning Ridge.  After traipsing around to several places who wanted my first-born, or a kidney or two for some opal pieces we wandered into a store called Miners Direct where we found an perfect pair of earrings.  We spoke to the lady for a while and Joel was interested in some of the opalised pieces of shell and squid.  Her husband came out to speak to us as he is a local miner and explained about the pieces of opalised squid and cockle shell.  The pieces were about 120 million years old and there have been some magnificent finds around Coober Pedy.  He also looked at my pieces of jewellery and told me where the opal had come from, as in the mines they were from and all the pieces were in fact from Coober Pedy mines.  He wrote me a list of the mines for my reference and also wrote down the names of the fossilised opal and roughly how old they were.  After we finalised our purchases he asked if we were staying in town but we were heading off tomorrow, otherwise he would have taken us out to his mining lease and shown us how it was all done.  We said we were taking the kids to do some noodling at the public/tourist area and he told us we’d never find

Boys found it very interesting

"Blue Steel" missile

Black Knight missile

anything there and drew a quick mud-map to his mining lease and let us go out there for a bit of a go.  He was very friendly and his wife was lovely too and we did eventually find some brilliant pieces of opal, with some gorgeous colours.  We made sure to stop back in at the shop to thank them as we had a ball. His name was George Kountouris and he has some amazing pieces of opal and jewellery in the store.

We took a drive out-of-town and stopped to marvel at the Dog Fencewhich is the longest continual construction in the world. Stretching some 5,300 kms, it begins east in Qld and ends up north of Ceduna in the Great Australian Bight.  It was originally built to protect the sheep country in the south from the dingoes in the north.  We headed around in an

Target drone

Jabiru-HRV- Hypersonic research vehicle

anti-clockwise direction so we could see the Dog Fence while it was still light and then headed for the Breakaways for sunset.  We stopped along the way to look at the “castle” or “salt and pepper” which are two rock formations, joined, but they are different colours; one being white and the other a brown colour. The white one has weathered quicker than the brown one to reveal the white rock underneath.  We kept driving up to the lookout to take in the views of the Breakaways.  OMG the wind is so strong and cold that we have to hold the car doors as we open them or they will fly off.  Oops, unfortunately Dan didn’t realise just how strong the wind was and it flung his door open, at the back, and popped it off the hinges and stretched the metal connector.   Joel spent a bit of time trying to fix it but looks like we’ll be seeking out a panel beater when we hit Port Augusta! The Breakaways are colourful, low hills that have broken away from the Stuart Range…..hence the name. They are famous for spectacular sunsets and the numerous motion pictures filmed here, including Mad Max movies, noticeably No3.  Today it is as windy as hell but we re-parked the car to get some protection from the wind, so we could have some nibblies and drinks and watch the gorgeous colours of the sunset on the rocks.  The wind didn’t ease up at all and we headed off back to Coober Pedy to see if the van was still standing.  Luckily it was windy before we headed off so the awning was already packed away.  The caravan park has a pizza parlour as part of the park so we ordered some pizzas for tea and headed back for showers while they were cooking.  The pizzas were delicious and after a movie it was lights out as we are off tomorrow.  We had actually paid for an extra night thinking there was more to see here but 2 nights would have been enough.  We went out for some more noodling in the morning then did the tourist photos under the town signs, filled up the tanks with water and then packed up and headed out-of-town.  We have seen emus everywhere and luckily no close calls.

Big Rockets

Sea Slug Mk2

We drove for quite a while and stopped for the night at a free camp No 512 in the Camps 5 book, called Mulga Well Rest Area.  We pulled off into the Rest Area then there was a track down behind the hill to a single tree and flat area so we camped there in the middle of nowhere.  We have noticed that most of the rest areas don’t have a toilet, which is fine for us as we have one in the van but if you were just travelling by car it would be a nuisance. Not much to pack up the next day so off to an early start and then pulled into the Lake Hart Rest Area to check out the salt lakes and stretch our legs.  We noticed another van and car nearby and they came over for a chat.  Seems we had met them before and they recognised us from the car – well it does somewhat stand out! They had camped near us when we were on the Cape Trip at Moreton Telegraph Station; they had a similar tent to us – the things you remember about people hey! They also said we were at Curtin Springs when they pulled up that night too but we didn’t recognise the van just their car.  What a small, small world.  After a few chats we headed off on our way into Woomera, having the rest of the sausages for lunch. We visited the Woomera Visitor Centre to read about the town and there was also a heap of information about an Australian Legend, Len Beadell.  He was a real ocker character and a road surveyor and basically spent most of his life marking out and making roads all through the outback of Australia.

There are all sorts of rockets, planes and even a tank or two on display outside, where you can wander around at your leisure and check them out.  We went into the Rocket Rangefirst, which is situated inside the Visitor’s Centre and stepped back through time, reading about the town’s involvement with rocket testing in the

All the boys loved it

Last bush camp b4 Port Augusta

early War eras up to the present day use of the place.  The town was originally only open to the RAAF and was used as a weapons research facility until the town was “opened” in 1982.  There were heaps of artefacts, machinery and rockets on display with huge amounts of info to read about as well.  We spent quite a while in here, reading about the different rockets that were tested here and it was so cool to then see them outside, where you could see and touch them too.  Woomera was established in 1947 as site for the launching of British Experimental Rockets.  The testing range, which extended across the Great Victorian Desert into Western Australia, encompassed some 270,000 square kilometers and is known as the Woomera Prohibited Area.

We grabbed a few ice-creams and headed outside to check out some of the actual rockets and missiles we had just been reading about that were out in the park area.  It was a fantastic place and we finally headed off about 3:30pm.  We pulled up at another free camp, #505 in Camps 5 book, to stop for the night.  We

Plane used for rockets

could get right back off the road, in amongst the trees and we also had mobile service here???, so we got the kids to do some more schoolwork, much to their disgust.  Then the boys went for a bit of an explore on their bikes and Joel and I went for a walk down past the railway tracks to a sheep farm.  We never really expected the train line to be busy but we heard 4 trains in the space of a few  hours, the Ghan, the Indian Pacific a few times and a freight train to Darwin.  We headed off to Port Augusta in the morning and stayed at the Shoreline Caravan Park.  There is a Big 4 in town, and not far from the Shoreline, but just couldn’t justify the price, which was almost double for us!!! and the Shoreline was a lovely park too!  We pulled into a great little spot and proceeded to do 5 loads of washing and finish organising the car service, panel beaters, etc.  We found a gravel track from the caravan park that ran all the way across an old bridge to a wonderful park area and then down along the docks.  It was a great little spot and there was a swimming pontoon there as well but the water didn’t look that inviting. I spent the next few days doing lots of schoolwork with the boys, more washing and some shopping while Joel tended to the car service, panel beaters, windscreen replacement, auto electrician and 4WD and battery jobs. After a very productive, but expensive, stay here we are off to the Flinders Ranges tomorrow.

Till Next Time



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »