First up today we went to the Old Timers Mine. The original mine dates back to 1916, it was concealed by back filling the shafts. No one knows why it was hidden but some think the original miners went off to World War I and never returned to continue with their find. In 1968, Ron Gough discovered the mine when digging extensions to his underground home accidently breaking through exposing seams of good quality opals. You can now tour through the original mine as well as the underground home of the Gough family. It was their home from the 1920s to the 1990s. The mine and museum was opened up to the public in 1987.
There was also a display of a ‘blower’, this is effectively a giant vacuum cleaner mounted on the back of a truck. These are everywhere and are used to suck the waste rocks out of the mines. They have amazing pulling power; we tested it out by grabbing some rocks and having them sucked out of our hands. Patrick chose one as big as his head and it was gone with no problem, and was not far off sucking him up too.
After this, we went to the Big Winch and a lookout over the town, not much to see at all, dusty, dirty and really just a lot of holes in the ground. In fact, I think Coober Pedy really is a hole of a place with very few redeeming features. While there we also went to a couple of underground churches, the very simple Catholic Church and at the other end of the scale the highly embellished Serbian Church, which was being extended. Obviously those miners are doing alright.
We left Coober Pedy and drove through The Breakaways Reserve; it is a stark and colourful area of arid hills. The lunar landscape provided the backdrop for many films including Mad Max III and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. We also saw the Dog Fence, this 1.8 metre high wire netting fence stretches from the cliffs of the Nullarbor to south east Queensland. It used to be 8614km long but was shortened to 5500km in 1980 and was built to keep the dingoes out of the southeast side. Parts of the fence are over 100 years old and it is a mammoth task to keep it functioning.
From here, we headed east to William Creek half way along the Oodnadatta Track. Almost the entire drive today was across Anna Creek Station. It is 24,000 square km making it the biggest station in Australia, and the world. It was part of the Sidney Kidman empire and is now owned by S Kidman and co. Although it is huge in size it can only run about 14000 head of cattle because of the harsh conditions, that is at the moment when the rains have been good. I think it was down to about 4000 during the drought of the mid 2000s.
We arrived reasonably early and were the first in the very barren but extensive campsite. There is nothing much in William Creek except the hotel, the population (according to the sign) is officially 2. You can get flights from here over Lake Eyre and the other attraction is the hotel itself. It is a great place to stop, the meals were fabulous, the wine list remarkably good and not expensive, and it really filled up with tourists from all around the world. A bit like Daly Waters but much better food and no big caravans, thus less grey nomads. We found out here that Kate and William had had their baby and bets were going around about the name. I had convinced the entire pub that he had been named George Harrison. They were very, very slow to cotton on to my joke. About a week later we found out it had been named George which made me laugh.
Playing cars in the dirt was a staple. Many creations included rally tracks. This one although you can’t see it included the Bungle Bungles and Lake Argyle.
Out to dinner, outback style. I think everyone is in need of a haircut. None of the kids have had one since we left and I have only had selfie fringe cuts in caravan park bathrooms.
Music: T = Tommy Emmanuel, U = U2, V = Van Morrison
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