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Travel

Coober Pedy

In case you haven’t heard of Coober Pedy, it’s almost like Australian folklore. I’d heard stories, but it was hard to believe there was really a city where it got so hot that people chose to live underground. Where mining for opals wasn’t a job, but a way of life. A place where the locals were so used to flies that they don’t blink when they mosey across their eyeballs. The truth is, I literally saw a man not flinch or move a muscle while flies danced on his nose. The truth is that all of these things are the truth.

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We rolled into Coober Pedy on a fairly hot afternoon. I was sweating a bit and it was winter. So, I could understand this place getting wicked hot. My crew and I did the usual Coober Pedy things. Actually, I’m not sure what the usual is, but we did a mining museum and saw an underground hotel. Then what though? We honestly didn’t think there was enough to keep us occupied, but with night quickly approaching, we needed to find a campsite. You see, people just don’t drive on the roads at night in the outback. Why? Kangaroos! Kangaroos fucking everywhere! Our rental company didn’t even allow it. Our liability insurance went out the window after dark. So, we needed to start making some decisions quickly.

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We did a little grocery shopping first and went to a liquor store with a two-item purchase maximum. There are some weird laws in the outback. For lunch, I Googled “best restaurants in Coober Pedy” and Waffles & Gems was the best rated: 4.5 stars! Well, the food was surprisingly delicious considering we were in the middle of nowhere and the owners were even cooler. We chatted about our camping predicament and they recommended some locals who might let us stay on their land. Hell yes! Whoever said Coober Pedy wasn’t friendly hadn’t been to Waffles & Gems.

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The next section of our day was…something. We were given some loose directions such as “turn left at the pile of tires” and, surprisingly, arrived without a hitch. What we weren’t ready for were the barrel people. Don’t worry, they weren’t real! But I’m talking barrels turned into people watching the opal mines. Le creepy barrel people. Ok. So….the property was a bit creepy on first glance. We’re in the middle of nowhere and I’m getting a strong Hills Have Eyes vibe. The people we were looking for weren’t there. Dave and Amory head off to speak to another local (there are about five homes spread across a large property) and they leave us ladies alone. They were gone for what felt like a century. What could be happening? Have they already been taken? Have we all lost the plot deciding to wander into the opal mines expecting a lovely host in the middle of the desert? Well, maybe. Maybe the boys are already dead. One member of our party was so scared that they chose to stay in the car the entire evening. Totally fair!

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Turns out one gentleman on the property didn’t appreciate our presence, but the boys managed to calm some nerves with the locals and once Bill and Kay arrived, all was well. They were warm and welcoming and their dog was cute as shit. Crisis averted. We might live to see the Breakaways tomorrow!

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Really though, they were so nice to let us pitch on their property. We had a lovely evening barbecuing at their home and sharing stories over a campfire. We learned a ton about opal mining! They even took us out back to show us some of how it was done under a black light. Then we got to see the underground part of their home. The rumors were true! People do live underground. Someone pinch me!

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Later in the evening, after some of our party was good and plastered, Bill suggested they take them out to the opal mines to get some opal of their own! Well, as cool as that sounds, I’m terrified of dying tragically down an opal mine hole AND I couldn’t leave one party member behind. What if they woke up and no one was there? That’s the real nightmare! So, Dave and I decided to stay behind. Luckily everyone came back in one piece and plus many good rocks, so all was well. I guess I was a worry worm scaredy cat.

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I woke up real early the following morning (before the rest of the crew) and had some one on one time with Bill and Kay. They really are the dearest people. They gave me coffee. Like, with milk! Guys, when you’re camping across the outback, milk in your coffee is like fucking gold. It was amazing. We talked opals and guess what? Out came the opal jewelry! Needless to say, I bought some shit for the whole family! Sorry not sorry.

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We said our goodbyes and headed to the Breakaways. BEAUTIFUL! Holy shit! You can really see how the rock formations were once underground. We spent a lot of time there just taking in the natural beauty. Highly recommend if you’re ever in the area!

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By the time we really got going for the day (we were nursing some serious hangovers from the night before) we realized we had to stay in Coober Pedy again. Turns out there are actually caravan parks in Coober Pedy. Score! We opted for a low-key night at the Oasis with…wait for it…internet! Shitty internet, but internet, nonetheless. I finally got to update my IG and check some emails. They had a dope little cooking area with all the amenities, and I think they even had a pool, which we did not partake in. We were too tired for anything but a quick pasta cook. However, next door was something we had to hit before sundown.

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Guys, there was a kangaroo sanctuary! Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage is exactly what it sounds like: an art gallery paired with an orphanage for kangaroos and other animals. We got to meet a range of kangaroos and feed them. They were so gentle. I couldn’t believe it! They were so peaceful and sweet. Then out comes a joey. Omg! The little baby was clumsily hopping all over the place. Be still, my heart! I wish I would have taken photos for you, but I decided to take a break and just enjoy and evening sans camera.

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We ended our trip to Coober Pedy back where we started: at Waffles & Gems. Was is because they were so delicious or because it was the only place to eat that didn’t look questionable? A little from column a and a little from column b. But good people are good people, so they won out. Don’t miss this place if you’re ever in the area and don’t miss an opportunity to meet the spunky owners! Also, this is where I met the flies on the face guy. Didn’t move a muscle. Stone cold.

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What did I learn on this trip? Well, for one I had a sturdy reminder to never judge a book by its cover. It was also a great reminder that there is cool shit to do LITERALLY EVERYWHERE! I talk about this all the time, but this really drove it home for me. In a place in the middle of the outback dessert we found opals, made friends, saw beautiful rock formations, ate delicious waffles, met some adorable kangaroos, and learned some life lessons. Thank you, Coober Pedy. You were awesome!

 

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