Port Augusta is the crossroads for the north and the outback. A self proclaimed South Australian gem, I must have missed something. From what I saw, the only two things going on in the city was the road in and the road out. Added to the fact we chose to pay $150 for a luxury cabin at Discovery Parks Port Augusta and were completely ripped off, I couldn’t wait to leave the place.
Leaving Port Augusta I thought of how best to summarise the place and really, Port Augusta is little more than a skid mark in southern Australia, with the most exciting part of the city being the road out of there.
Cooper Pedy and the Outback
Synonymous with opals, mining, caves and the outback. Rough and ready Coober Pedy was where finally the weather got decent, and where we all stayed in a gorgeous underground cave.
Driving north from Port Augusta the road begins to enter a part of Australia that is the thing of dreams. The land becomes an arid desert like place dotted with bushes of a faded green clinging to life. Kangaroo hop around in the distance, emus mooch around like they own the place and birds on steroids make meals of the recent roadkill. The outback is every bit as baron, harsh and rugged as I imagined. Yet somehow it captivates and enthrals and the hundreds of miles pass quickly. The speed limit is 110km/h which is about 68mph. I wanted so badly to floor it and whizz through the outback on the single lane Stuart Highway at break-neck speed. But a few close encounters with the worlds largest kangaroos (genuinely, these things had biceps, triceps and pecs) and I realised it wasn’t a good idea.
One thing which amazed me about the outback, was the ever changing landscape. I expected it to be desert like, and at times it is, but it is constantly changing, the colours, fauna, bush, wildlife, changes as though you are driving through a peek into the best landscape Australia has to offer. One thing remains, and that is the scorched colour of the landscape. It looks tired, beaten and burned, as though it has battled for millennia to survive and is now clinging on desperately.
There is not much between places on the Stuart Highway, but every couple of hundred km a roadhouse pops up. We stopped for lunch at Glendambo, a funky little place where the woman taking our order was so angry with life she stood rolling her eyes and huffing and puffing at me. Food was reasonably priced and decent. I soon got over it.
Coober Pedy is a small town, and the first introduction is passing lots of pointed mounds of sand. This is mad max country, a place that has survived despite everything the desert and climate throws at it. Existing purely due to the opals found here and the constant and persistent search for more, Coober Pedy is every bit as ‘mining’ as you expect. Old, ruined vehicles sit rusting in fenced yards where the fence is drooping, windowless buildings built from breeze blocks double as stores working mines dot the landscape. The town itself is often described as post apocalyptic, and it would be difficult to disagree. Think mad max (which was filmed nearby) mixed with zombie apocalypse, peppered with some local Aborigines. A place where the men are real men, and the women are men too. A fascinating place with probably the best pizza in Australia; Johns Pizza bar and restaurant.
We stayed at ‘Down to Erth bnb’ not a typo. Rose, the owner has a single cave that is decorated beautifully. With two bedrooms, kitchen, and spacious living room it is the perfect place to grab a cold beer, sit back and watch mad max.
Within Coober Pedy itself there’s loads to do, though except for the spaceship left behind in the centre of town from the filming of ‘Pitch Black’ most activities revolve around mining. We visited The Old Timers mine, the kids donned helmets and we explored the spider like tunnels beneath the ground.
We loved Coober Pedy, probably because of its iconic status, possibly because we stayed underground, most certainly because it was nice to have a beer and watch a decent movie.
Read the full trip…
We then drove through the Australian Outback to Coober Pedy, Ayers Rock, Alice Springs got robbed in Tenant Creek and the finished up at the top end in Darwin. The full journey can be read here: The Outback