King’s Canyon & Coober Pedy

Day 5

17th March 2017

Day 3 of the ‘Alice Springs to Adelaide’ Tour

Another super early start but made it easily enough, mostly because I awoke covered in sweat and eager to get out of the tent.

The morning’s destination was King’s Canyon. The idea was to start walking at daybreak between 6am and 7am and get out by 10am. There is a designated start point for all walks (clearly marked on maps and clearly signposted) which is a big carpark with sheltered spaces for sitting out of the sun, clean toilets and taps for drinking water. By the toilet sinks there is the following sign which I think is brilliant.

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Oh also, on days where the temperature is forecasted to be above 37 degrees, you are not allowed to commence the longest walk after 9am (the rim walk the group were doing). This was the case today.

Of course, I had no intention of doing the famous ‘rim walk’ with the rest of the group, that the tour guide would lead, after my disastrous experience a couple of days before. Our tour guide had already told us of an alternative walk, the Creek Walk, self guided and less than one hour so I stuck to this.

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Here is the rest of our group heading up to the ‘rim walk’

I told my friend, as she gazed wistfully towards the hill marking the start of the tougher walk (there’s a fork where the two separate off), that I was more than happy for her to take it with the rest of the group but she decided to come with me. I hope she genuinely wanted to – once more I was very clear I had no intention of ‘holding her back’.

Anyway so off we went. The creek was obviously dry but there were lots of birds twittering overhead and plenty of shade. We could just see those who had climbed the hill to walk the rim of the canyon overhead, as demonstrated in the photos.

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Our ‘yoo hoo!!’s were not heard, I fear

Once again, all was that same classic red colour here, with similar shrubs and trees. It was peaceful, too, and a very pleasant temperature at this stage of the morning.

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Our walk did not take very long and after completing it within the hour, we went and parked ourselves under the designated sheltered bits where we would regroup with the others. Here we discovered free WiFi to our surprise and delight – woohoo!

Once the rest of the group returned, sweaty and triumphant (I can honestly say not one iota of jealousy went through me at this point), we jumped back on the bus and were driven back to the Kings Canyon resort to enjoy the pool there once more as our tour guide prepped our lunch at one of the resort’s picnic tables.

As the showers there were excellent, after a quick dip in the pool and lounging a bit, I took a long and luxurious one – felt cleaner than I had in ages.

Then a hearty lunch of mince or bean wraps with tons of veg and condiments, surrounded by extremely irritating flies (they cropped up a lot during our time in the outback but are only annoying, not harmful), and then onward to our camp.

We had been warned that the camp, in Erldunda, was basic and there was little to do there so we were advised to go and chill at the on-site bar where there was air con and WiFi until dinner, which we duly did.

Also met these two so obviously I was happy.

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I heart cats, yes, to the point where I will include such a photograph in a fantastical tale about Australia on a travel blog, as it’s just as exciting to me as the rest of it. Sort of.

The camp wasn’t as basic as I’d thought it was going to be though – nice bar, nice shop, good clean bathrooms, etc. Quite enjoyed the evening, including the meal the guide cooked up (stir fry with noodles and rice…Quite a talented bloke!).

Tried and failed to get amazing shots of night sky…

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In fairness after some (very basic) editing this is pretty good but tbh unsure how many are real stars and how many my ‘brightness’ setting increases have invented…!

Also learnt what the word ‘bogan‘ meant later, as used by another tour passenger go describe some fellow campers (a family) here, but I won’t go into detail about that…you can read the link and determine for yourself what he meant…

And then settled to sleep. I chose to once more sleep in the tent, everyone else slept outside under the stars.

Onward…

18th March 2017

Day 6 – Tour day 4

Today we started pre-dawn and drove quite a few hours on our bus, with appropriate stops along the way, so this section will not be anywhere near as rambling as before. The landscape changed a bit as we did, the shrubbery growing sparser, the red dirt and the cloudless sky remaining the same. Thank God for air conditioning on buses is all I can say.

Our destination was Coober Pedy, an opal mining town, and we reached just before lunch.

Ooh forgot to say – we stopped partway to meet a baby camel called Nibbles. He was in a (very big) enclosure. I could not tell you where exactly but that was a cute encounter.

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Nibbles the camel (taken by Jessica, the friend with whom I was travelling!)

Back to Coober Pedy. Now, I adore opals. I think they’re easily one of the most stunning gemstones, their beauty in each stone’s uniqueness – no two opals ever look the same and are filled with dancing, colourful light, enhanced when cut and polished correctly.

Therefore I was very excited about this particular stop and definitely intended to make a purchase of my own during our stay – the Opal mining capital of the WORLD, how could I not?!

Anyway we got unloaded into our positively luxurious (compared to previous nights!) bunker, or dugout, literally dug out into the rock – beds! Sheets! Coolness! (LITERALLY!)

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Here is a blurry pic from phone, but gives you the idea!

We stayed at Umoona Opal Museum – a mine, museum, shop and accommodation all in one.

Most of the residential / accommodation parts of Coober Pedy are underground or in dugouts as it’s just too hot on the surface. Here is a good link explaining some of the history as to how Coober Pedy came to be. TL;DR – people in search of gold found opals instead and started mining, eventually settled permanently and when realised the rock wouldn’t collapse on their heads, moved the camp underground.

We put together our sandwiches in the attached kitchen bit and after eating, embarked on a tour of the Opal mine.

I’ve never been on such a tour before. It was awesome, all underground. Watched an unintentionally hilarious video about the history of Opal mining and Coober Pedy specifically and then were shown the basics of Opal cutting and polishing before wandering around the tunnels underground. Really awesome!

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Learning all about opals (woman is demonstrating something, forget what)
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Wandering about the opal mining museum

Ended in the shop and did indeed make some purchases. I’ve looked at Opal jewellery online before and never seen it so cheap as here. They had a full range depending on the cut of stone and how it was processed plus the metal it was set in, with prices ranging from $15 to thousands. This is because they’ve not travelled from the source of mining I guess!

After, our tour guide took us on a bus tour (as opposed to a walking tour, as too hot) of the town…Not a huge amount to see, but the surface genuinely looks like what the surface of the moon must look like.

We stopped at one place to get nice photos, I stayed onboard the bus due to the heat but here’s one by my friend.

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If you squint you can see me on the bus, trying to avoid another episode of heatstroke

After, we got some photos by the main sign.

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And then, headed to the main (I think only) grocery + bottle shop and picked up snacks and some alcohol (I did not get much of the latter…) for the evening and for the long drive the next day.

Dinner was at John’s Pizza which we paid for this time. Interestingly, this place is apparently rated no.5 on Tripadvisor according to reviews. I can only assume this is because it’s the best restaurant in Coober Pedy so everyone who passes through goes there reviews it and so it ends up with loads of reviews. Have not got round to checking Tripadvisor for myself yet.

After we hung out outside our bunker chilling with drinks, with one of the group playing songs on his phone. I learnt you can pop a smartphone in a cup as a makeshift speaker.

Bathroom facilities here were good. Bed was good. Temperature amazing. Really enjoyed it!

Got a few more days to go in Australia at this point…!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Ro x

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