Next stop was Coober Pedy, and nice to be back driving on bitumen again for a while. Coober Pedy is famous for its opal mining. Opals can only be found in Coober Pedy in SA, Lightning Ridge in NSW or Boulder in QLD and people come from everywhere to see the unique town where many habitations are underground to escape the heat at the surface.
As you approach the town huge piles of mining rubble shape the landscape in different sized conical mounds. Pits can be excavated up to 30m deep. We found somewhere to stay, visited the big winch, and underground church of St. Peter and Paul on the high street. This church was built in the 1970’s and worth a visit.
On the opposite side of the road a film prop, looking like a derelict spacecraft, sits in a car park. Who can name which movie it comes from?
We tried the public opal noodling site and found only some fragments, but back at the caravan park the manager showed the kids to a bucket of stones to “noodle” in. They found better specimens in there, Oscar even found an opalised fossil shell that was quite impressive until he broke it. There was plenty more to see but it was still too hot and we retired to the pool. To do the town justice we need to return and spend a bit more time, visit one of the mines and come at a cooler time of the year.
Next day we hit the road again with Woomera in our sights. We loved the road sign at Glendambo (see picture above) en route, then marvelled at the snow-like appearance of the Lake Hart salt lake. A massive outback train hauling coal to Port Augusta, with over 60 carriages passed in front of the lake just as we arrived.
When we got to Woomera we were looking forward to seeing the museum and watching the night sky from the observatory, but the whole town appears to close in Summer. The museum was closed but luckily there is a lot of the missile and satellite paraphernalia outside that can be seen, including Blue Streak, the first Australian (third nation) satellite in space. It took some 30 years to find and retrieve the components on display from the Simpson desert. The observatory told us they only opened on Fridays, not the widely advertised Tues/Thu so when Woomera had nothing else to offer (even the Visitor Info was closed) we pressed on to Port Augusta.