I am so used to being in a tent now, with fresh (sometimes cold) air flowing through - it’s just so cosy wrapped up like a wiggly worm, as Charlie calls it, in our sleeping bags. It was quiet in the Underground Motel, and black as anything of course, but I tossed and turned for ages and then woke up at 4.30am. You know when you wake up and you are just AWAKE. I had words spinning through my brain and wanted to get up and write things down. I lay there for an hour and then went ‘bugger the kids and their sleep in’ and got to work. They weren’t impressed as they gradually awoke about 6am grunting sounds of disapproval.
It was so nice not to have to pack up tents or race off anywhere, so we lounged around, had a complimentary breakfast at the motel. I can’t say enough good things about this place - the lady who works here, Mercy, even did my washing. I was quite happy to do it by myself using their machine, but she threw it in for me and dried everything in between loads of sheets and towels. She is an absolute worker bee, haven’t seen her relax for a minute. Pocket rocket to the max and a little legend.
We rode our bikes down the hill (the Underground Motel is a bit of a walk from town, but it’s very quiet) and into the main drag, off to see the Umoona Mine Tour. It was a lovely civilised guided tour, led by the fabulous 81 year old Rudy, who regaled us with tales of his mining days and stories of his late wife. “She was the one who knew everything,” he said. “When she died, I had no idea where anything was, or when anyone’s birthday was; I was lost.” Seriously, I wanted to give the guy a hug. He’d obviously had a hard physical life and we all had a laugh when he rolled his eyes about modern day miners whinging about their equipment or expenses. The guy used a pickaxe for god’s sake. Another legend.
Toby, my teenager, bought an opal necklace for his *ahem* ‘best friend’ back home. This guy is on it. I haz taught him well. We rode the bikes back and hung out in the motel: cooking tacos, writing journals, organising the now clean washing (woop - how exciting are clean clothes!?), before heading out again to the Old Timers Mine, which I preferred in a way. It was really great for Charlie, who had a little booklet to follow around and find out new information. He loved his helmet and the demonstration of the blower, where massive rocks on the palm of his hand whizzed up the chute of the best vacuum cleaner in the world. He was ecstatic. The guide for the demo loved the look on his face and asked him why he wasn’t in school. When he found out the kids had three months off, he jumped back, mock shocked, and Charlie giggled. “3 months!! Well, I hope that every single day of your trip….(dramatic pause)…you tell your mum how cool she is!”. I’ll take that, with a side of pie thanks. Both mines were really interesting, very educational and I recommend both. Charlie went noodling for opals out the front afterwards and put a very plain old rock-looking ‘opal’ into a little baggie to keep.
But the afternoon was just beginning. With a quick visit to the Info Centre, we paid for our permit to go out to the Breakaways for sunset. I simply cannot recommend doing this enough. I really think it’s essential if you are coming to Coober Pedy as a tourist. We drove out on part of the Oodnadatta Track, a red dirt road stretching into the distance. Turning left at the Dog Fence, one of the longest fences in the world, we drove into the sunset, barely able to see the track ahead, which gave it an even more eerie feeling. Until one car came the other way, I felt like we were the only people on earth, discovering this for the first time.
The formations were incredible, especially in the changing light of sunset. Coming up onto the tabletop at the lookout, we were surrounded by tourists doing the same thing. Everyone was arriving to watch the light change the colours on the landscape. I chatted to a few tourists from the UK and took their photo (they seem to think I’m possibly sort of okay at photography, with this big DSLR round my neck. I’ll take their word for it…). We drove back at dusk, following a stream of cars heading back to town, the plumes of dust kicked up and fanned out by the wind. I definitely found a fraction of that peace out here, watching the colours change on the landscape tonight. Little baby steps of utopia.