Coober Pedy: Underground camping

October 14, 2013 in Australia, Oceania

Outback stars

The stars in the Outback are spectacular.

On par with those we couldn’t sleep too well beneath at Tikal, and on the Sahara… because we were too busy watching the heavens sparkle. When the sun dipped below the red horizon a deep blue curtain was drawn. The temperature dropped ten degrees quickly, and then a few more slowly. The flies folded their wings for the night. Children were washed and tucked, one by one, into their caterpillar cocoons under ground. Yes. We’re camping under ground tonight, in caves dug as opal mines just outside Coober Pedy. It reminds us a lot of the dug out houses around Matmata, in Tunisia. It’s cooler underground during the daytime, and there are no flies to swarm about your head. Besides, it’s a novelty to camp below the surface. Outback road trip Tonight we’re officially in the red center of Australia. We drove the 500 or so kilometers north from Port Augusta and made exactly two turns the entire day. The road is flat, and straight. For variety, it is sometimes straight and flat. Emus provide occasional visual diversity. Giant eagles pick at the generous offerings of road kill. There is occasionally a billboard, not selling anything, but instead reminding a person to buckle up, stay awake and drive sober. They are amusing, in spite of the content. road signs

We toured an opal mine after dinner:

  • Learned how to hunt for opals with a blacklight
  • What noodling is (like panning for gold… only opals)
  • Tried out divining rods to find fault lines
  • Learned how to turn fertilizer and diesel into explosives (the boys were disturbingly attentive)
  • Got completely covered in the fine silty dust that results from the tunneling

The funniest part was when our guide was asking the children what they thought should be done with the explosives next, in creating tunnels in a mine. Little Elijah, who is four, shouted, “Ya blow yer head off!” He completely derailed the presentation with laughter. Clothes to the laundry, boys to the shower. James dropped Joash’s clothes in a pile and the resultant “pouf” of dirt was what one might imagine if a bag of concrete was dropped in the driveway. Adeline was a mud ball. Underground camping

Today was also Canadian Thanksgiving.

We’ve celebrated in lots of places. In Tunisia with new friends, in Thailand with traveling friends, in America many years with friends who came to add it to the annual calendar on our behalf. I always bake a chicken, if turkey cannot be found. We create pumpkin pie out of something approximating pumpkin. Sometimes we have pomegranate seeds or dragonfruit instead of cranberries, but there are always friends. This year we slurped down hastily made camping-spaghetti around a metal table while Joash screamed because his feelings had been hurt and Elijah screamed because he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t drink the cordial straight from the bottle and Adeline screamed because her brothers were screaming and Jacqui, patiently, talked everyone down from the cliff. The only “thanksgivingy” thing we could muster was jars of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce that I’d be too embarrassed to admit to the price of. Cranberry sauce does not go particularly well with camp-spaghetti, in case you were wondering. While not festive in the traditional sense, we are certainly thankful.

For life, health, freedom, provision, family, friends, and each other. We’re particularly thankful to be on this big adventure with our buddies (even the screamers!) It might have been a dry, dusty, dirty, fly-ridden, parched earth, down-under kind of day, but we’re immensely glad to be here, and it’s been a Thanksgiving we’ll never forget!

Canadian friends, what are you doing to celebrate today?