Yes! This Place Exists In Australia????

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Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID

GET OUTBACK - GET UNDERGROUND... is the tagline of this unique cosmopolitan town of Coober Pedy, a town in northern South Australia, 846 km (526 mi) north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway. As of 2016, there were 1,762 people in Coober Pedy (State Suburbs). Of these 962 were male and 801 were female. As of 2018, the population is around 3,500.

Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID
Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID

DID YOU KNOW: Around 150 million years ago, Coober Pedy was covered by ocean – and when the water receded, the sandy silica minerals from the seabed flowed into the rocky cracks and cavities and solidified over time into multi-coloured gem-stone – opal.

The town is also therefore referred to as the "Opal capital of the World" because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined here. The town was not established until after 1915, when opal was discovered by Wille Hutchison. The first opal was found in Coober Pedy on 1 February 1915; since then the town has been supplying most of the world's gem-quality opal. Coober Pedy has over 70 opal fields and is the largest opal mining area in the world. The town itself was the setting for the 2006 film ‘Opal Dream’ and is a pivotal location in Wim Wenders' 1991 film ‘Until the End of the World’.

Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID
Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID

However, the highlight of Coober Pedy is that it’s renowned for its below-ground residences, called "dugouts", which are built in this fashion due to the scorching daytime heat. What is a dug-out? A dugout or dug-out, also known as a pit-house, earth lodge, is a shelter for humans or domesticated animals and livestock based on a hole or depression dug into the ground. The harsh summer desert temperatures mean that many residents prefer to live in caves bored into the dugouts A standard three-bedroom cave home with lounge, kitchen, and bathroom can be excavated out of the rock in the hillside for a similar price to building a house on the surface. However, dugouts remain at a constant temperature, while surface buildings need air conditioning, especially during the summer months, when temperatures often exceed 40 °C. It is believed that the soldiers who returned from the trenches of France during the First World War introduced the idea of living underground in homes commonly known as “dugouts”. The miners quickly discovered the advantages of living underground to escape the heat of the summer and winter’s cool desert nights. It is estimated that about 50% of the population live underground now.

Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID
Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID

The name "Coober Pedy" comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means "boys’ waterhole. Coober Pedy is a very small town, about halfway between Adelaide and Alice Springs. It has become a popular stopover point and tourist destination, especially since 1987, when the sealing of the Stuart Highway was completed. It has a domestic airport too.

Much of the town’s treasures – like its opal – can be found underground. One can opt for Local organised tours. Take a true DownUnder trip into a “dugout” home – made by mining families – with some more like mansions, covering 450 square metres. More than half of the town’s families live underground, where temperatures are maintained at a pleasant 23-25 degrees C throughout the year. There are underground churches and art galleries too – plus the award-winning Desert Cave Hotel, the world’s first 4-star luxury property of its type, complete with mining display and opal gallery.

Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID
Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID
Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID
Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID

The most famous are the underground churches. The church of Saint Elijah the Prophet is the Serbian Orthodox church in Coober Pedy, South Australia, built in 1993 and is dedicated to Saint Elijah. Yet another is the Catacomb Underground Church that was dug out in the mid 1970’s and dedicated by the Anglican Church thereafter. It is very quiet and a great place to meditate, pray, or just sit and be still. Coober Pedy first Cemetery dates back to 1921 and is located near the Greek Orthodox Church.

And though the land is famous for Opals, it is highly dangerous to visit the opal fields without permission. The Coober Pedy Opal Fields are pitted with abandoned prospecting drill holes up to 30m deep. Estimated over 1,500,000 open shafts.

NOTES:

1. It is illegal to go on a pegged claim without the miner’s permission.

2. Beware of machinery in operation.

3. Do not go onto the opal fields at night.

4. Watch where you walk and do not walk backwards, especially when taking photographs.

Having said all this, Coober Pedy does stand out of all the mainstream Australia. Would you like to go here someday?

Photo of Yes! This Place Exists In Australia???? by SONIA DAVID
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