Kev an I meet our 8am planned departure and are excited to be experiencing the rawness of the Outback once more. We pound out the kilometers in hopes that we can reach Coober Pedy before the temperature becomes too uncomfortable for us. Well camouflaged by the saltbush on the dry sandy plains Grey Kangaroos pop up their heads up from time to time checking things out like curious huge ground squirrels. Emus are in abundance running across the dry earth, or at times, across the road in front of you!!
It is just after 3pm when we ride into the Opal Mining Capital of the World…Coober Pedy and the temperature gauge reads 102 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Why is it the last hour to your destination always drags, with the last 20 k's lasting for hours it seems??? Kev checks us in at the Desert Cave Hotel. Sweaty and excited we ride around to our "dug out" room and open the door…Wow…This is totally cool! The rooms have a thick rough ribbed textured look to them that is created by the mining machinery as it is being dug-out. The underground rooms temperatures remain between 23 - 25 degrees Celsius all year round! No air-conditioning is necessary which is amazing for this hot desert climate with temperatures that have rose above 50 degrees Celsius. South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent on earth, and Coober Pedy is one of the very driest regions of South Australia. Coober Pedy, Aboriginal for "White Mans Hole" annual rainfall is only 175mm. We have hit Coober Pedy on a full moon and I hope to catch some great outback shots tonight, although pretty spectacular storm clouds are moving in caused by Cyclone Rusty on Western Australia's Pilbara Coast so I'll have to see what happens!
Kev and I woke to silence and darkness in our cave like room. I took a quick peek outside the door to check on the bikes and to my surprise it was raining. I knew that there was a cool change coming, but I did not expect this much rain…Coober Pedy's first rain of the season. Hmm this will take a bit of thought! Do we load up in the wet and chance it or hang around for another day and see how the weather pans out? Only last night had we researchers and planned our route across Williams Creek Rd (dirt), then onto the Oodnadatta Track (dirt), which would take us by beautiful Lake Eyre and then on through the Flinders Ranges. Kev and I went to sleep excited about our adventure route back into the Adelaide area. Now it looks as though Mother Nature has other plans for us! Kev and I decide to head to brekky, discuss our options, chat with a couple of locals and formulate a plan. The rain is coming down fairly consistently, so we vote for staying on another day in hopes that it will stop and start to dry out. Chatting with a couple of the residents we learnt that Williams Creek Rd was flooded in sections, and south of Williams Creek was receiving heavier rainfall…Kev and I were happy with our move. Once we commit ourselves to Williams Creek Rd we have 452 k's of dirt and no outs!
I made a call to the front desk to ask if the tour of Coober Pedy is running for the day…we're in luck it is, and even luckier to find out that Kev and I are the only ones! A rained out day for Kev and I proceeded to be an amazing day of desert color, awesome photographic opportunities, with a ex-opal miner/sculptor german tour guide, who was a real character. We saw everything that Coober Pedy had to offer and grew to understand the draw and appeal to living underground, surviving the harsh temperatures and excitement of the dig ,all for this luminescent and mesmerizing piece of compressed silica and water…the opal! Think of the opal as a slice of solidified rainbow! It is hard to imagine that this dry dusty desert was once a thriving inland sea that stretched into the Queensland area. Opals, opalized fossils like cockle shells, muscles, squid tubes and prehistoric sea creature bones are still being excavated from this area, and are a spectacular sight.