After just two hours drive from our last free camp, and several solar challenger’s cars later, we drove past fields of cute multi coloured mulloch heaps into Coober Pedy. I was interested that no one we spoke to had heard of Hans Tholstrup, the Danish originator of the race. I have a photo of me with his solar car ‘The Quiet Achiever’, which started all this, buried in a vault of storage boxes somewhere in a distant memory called Newcastle.
This town relies entirely on a pretty stone that apart from jewelery, has no other intrinsic use, and I found out later, opal can actually fade when it eventually dries out. Ladies, stick with gold or diamonds.
Our early arrival meant Sam and James could take part in kangaroo feeding at a local animal shelter slash art gallery. I had been out buying fuel and so was waiting around outside for it all to finish when I was approached by an elderly aboriginal woman trying to sell me some art. I actually did buy a piece for $10. I was unsure if this was a fair price as the seller was very difficult to understand. When the doors to the shelter and gallery finally opened, I saw the same woman sell another similar piece to the gallery owner for $10. Instant mark up to $65. At least I now know how fairly the money for local art is distributed.
After spending time inspecting a few of the better equipped solar challenge teams at a checkpoint, we treated ourselves to dinner in an underground restaurant. Subterranean buildings are a hallmark of Coober Pedy (Which I believe translates loosely to ‘white fella in a hole’). Sensible as it’s a mining town with summer temps of 50 C. The restaurateur George, advertises a ‘complete dining experience’. Sure enough, he fussed over us, took photos for us, gave the boys free ice cream, plied Kris and I with wine and chatted to us till it was time to leave. I was even invited back for a private coffee the next day!
Instead we made good use of both the IGA and the free “noodling” area before heading out to ‘The Breakaways’, a colourful set of formations 15 km out of town. The road takes you out of town past the longest man-made structure on earth, the Dog Fence.
The boys ‘Noodling’ – nothing found apart from worthless potch and gypsum crystals.
Sam thought Coober Pedy looked like the planet ‘Tatooine’ from Star Wars. We found a crashed Millenium Falcon that proves it’s true!
Sam takes in ‘The Breakaways’.
This 5,300 odd kilometre fence was built in the fifties to keep dingoes away from sheep stock. It is still maintained to this day. Apart from the odd mesa and The Breakaways, the landscape out here is flat and featureless. It is known as Moon Plain and apart from being used in many post apocalyptic Mad Max style films (as well as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), it was also apparently used by NASA for Mars lander research and development.