The Strange Town In The Middle Of The Outback
The weirdest place I’ve ever visited!
I had never heard of Coober Pedy before I travelled to Australia.
When I thought of Australia, images of golden beaches, blue skies entered my mind. I had no conception of what the outback would look like.
The more I travelled around Australia, the more I became intrigued by the outback.
If you’re unfamiliar with the geography of Australia, I will briefly explain it for you.
Australia is a giant land mass with the majority of people living near to the coast. The intense heat and barren landscape of the outback make it virtually impossibe to live in.
Even during winter months, the temperatures are sweltering. Living there year round would be an ardous task.
This was what intrigued me.
What would the outback look like?
Would it be a vast expanse of open land?
Where there little towns dotted about along the way?
After 8 months in the country, I decided to drive from Adelaide to Darwin. From the bottom to the top of Australia. Following a route the adventurer, John Stuart MacDoull had undertaken 200 years earlier.
There was one place along the way that stood out to me. I had never heard of it beforehand, but it left a lasting impression on me.
That place was Coober Pedy.
I know what you’re thinking. What!? I’ve never heard of that place, is it even real?
I can most definitely attest that it is real, even if it is surreal!
The Drive to Coober Pedy
Approaching Coober Pedy is strange.
There is virtually nothing in between the remants of civilisation you leave behind in Port Augusta and Coober Pedy.
There are a few roadhouses dotted around, but they are few and far between.
It felt like I was in a Mad Max film.
The wide orange expanse of the outback appeared to be never ending. There was no end in sight on the horizon.
It appeared to stretch on forever.
A familiar sight during the drive were the remains of burnt out cars. They scattered the landscape as you progressed towards Coober Pedy. A stark reminders of the perils of the outback!
The drive to Coober Pedy is a long and arduous one. It takes around 8 hours to reach once you leave Port Augusta.
Once you near Coober Pedy, figures appear on the horizon. You can make out the outline of cranes and drilling equipment as you edge towards this outpost.
You have the sensation that you are approaching the last civilisation on the planet. The isolated nature of the town and the lengthy drive, only heighten this feeling.
Coober Pedy is the weirdest place I have ever visited.
Of that there is no question. It’s like nowhere that I have been before!
Everything from the landscape to the way people live, even to the local amenities is just surreal.
It’s hardly surprisingly given its slap bang in the middle of nowhere.
The town wouldn’t exist were it not for the abundance of opals that lie beneath the surface. Coober Pedy is sitting on the world’s biggest opal mine. A rich source of wealth, which has led people to flock here to earn riches.
There’s just one problem, the heat!
Temperatures regularly soar above 40 degrees. Living in a conventional house in that heat is not feasible. The residents of Coober Pedy came up with an innovative solution.
They built their houses underground.
When you first arrive it is like you stumbled across a Martian film set. The eerie ochre colours with pipes and appendages poking out of the ground, are more akin to Tatooine than Earth!
The inside of the houses is surprisingly cosy considering they are bored into the side of a hill.
They are considerably cooler than the temperature on the surface. Despite being underground, I had never had the feeling that living underground was strange.
In fact, I felt like I could get used to, and even, come to like sleeping underground. It was oddly relaxing to be underground, away from the noise above.
Perhaps the strangest thing I encountered in Coober Pedy was the presence of a golf course.
Yes, you read that correctly, a golf course!
The town has its own 9 hole golf course. However, there are a few caveats.
You can only play in the evening and at night, due to the intense heat during the day. Thus, you need to play with balls that grow in the dark.
As there is no grass in Coober Pedy, you have to tee off from a piece of turf you carry around with you.
Perhaps strangest of all, the greens are black!
That’s not everything though! Despite being in the middle of the outback, the town does have a tree.
However, this tree is made entirely from scrap metal and sits atop a hill overlooking the town.
Did I mention Coober Pedy is rather surreal?
Our tour guide made an interesting point while we were in Coober Pedy.
This point has stuck with me ever since.
During our drive out of the town, we reemerged into the outback.
He was in flow about the nature of the outback and stated that if you walked out of Coober Pedy in one direction, and carried on for a day or two, due to the size of the outback, and its sparse population, you could be the first person in human history to set foot on a particular spot of land!
This comment floored me!
Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. The thought that there is land no human has ever set foot on is simply incredible.
When you consider how interconnected te world is today, this thought completely blew my mind.
This is why I love travelling to strange and remote places. Not only are they fascinating, but they challenge your idea of what the world is like.
I considered the world to be fully explored, with no stone left unturned.
My trip to Coober Pedy made me realise this is simply not the case.
The world is bigger, and stranger, then me, or you, could ever imagine!