Oodnadatta Track

Second Year On The Road

Australia Day in Darwin 
Australia Day Cane Toads! Australia Day
Wildlife in our backyard!Possum fell in the pool - nawwww!

 

Cocosaurus Cove
Crocodile snack - Crocosaurus Cove Meet the reptiles - Crocosaurus Cove

 

Litchfield National ParkTermite Mounds - Litchfield National Park

 

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

 

Cutta Cutta CavesCutta Cutta Caves Edith FallsEdith Falls
Lorella Springs Wilderness Park

Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Lorella Springs Northern Spiny-Tailed Gecko
Caranbirini Conservation Reserve Limmen National Park

 

Devil’s Marbles
The Pebbles Devils Marbles

 

Wycliff WellWycliffe WellAileronAileron
Arltunga Historical ReserveBinns TrackTrephina Gorge Nature Park
Binns Track
Alice Springs Beanie FestivalAlice Springs Beanie Festival
Lasseter’s Camel CupLasseters Camel Cup Lasseters Camel Cup
Henley On Todd RegattaHenley On Todd
Alice Springs Reptile CentreAlice Springs Reptile Centre
Our Time In Alice SpringsHelpex Alice Springs Finke Desert RaceFinke Desert Race
Mount Sonder, West MacDonnell RangesWest MacDonnell Ranges
Palm Valley
Palm Valley
Heating up in HermannsburgHeating up in Hermannsburg
UluruUluru-Kata Tjuta
Kata-TjutaUluru-Kata Tjuta
Rainbow Valley

Rainbow Valley Oodnadatta Track
Coober PedyCoober Pedy
Lake EyreOodnadatta Track

Birdsville

BirdsvilleBirdsville 2014-09-05 031 Birdsville 2014-09-06 007water Birdsville 2014-09-06 047water WintonWinton 2014-09-07 003water
NormantonThe Big Croc, Normanton Cobbold GorgeCobbold Gorge
Undara Volanic National ParkUndaraCrystal Caves
The Crystal Caves
Mt Uncle DistilleryMt Uncle Distillery

 

Cape York
Bamaga TavernCape YorkThe Old Telegraph Track
Cape York

Chilli BeachCape YorkCape York
Zazen

ZazenZazen
CooktownCooktown

Our Time In CairnsCairnsAustralia Day 2015 Cairns


 

 

Coober Pedy

Town Profile : Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy

 

We were very excited when we rolled into Coober Pedy.  It had been on our list of things to do for ages, and after delays in Darwin and Alice Springs, we were finally here!

 

When the town came into view, it was very much what we expected – dry and dusty, with buildings built into the sides of the Stuart Ranges.   As we cruised through town, we understood why Coober Pedy is the Opal Capital of the World.  There were opal shops everywhere, as well as old blower wrecks and noodling mounds.  Nearly everything was opal related.

 

We had a look around, ate lunch at John’s Pizza Bar, filled up on some cheap diesel (cheaper than Alice Springs) and headed back to the Oodnadatta Track.

 

Coober Pedy

 

History

In 1915, Jim Hutchinson, his son William, and two other blokes went to Coober Pedy to look for gold.  While the men were out looking for water, William found an opal.  Eight days later, the first opal claim was pegged.  In 1920, the site was renamed from the Stuart Range Opal Field to Coober Pedy, an anglicised version of the aboriginal words ‘kupa piti’, which means ‘white man in hole’.

 

After the Great Depression in the 1930s and 1940s, opal prices went down and mining came close to stopping until 1946 when an Aboriginal woman named Tottie Bryant found opal at the Eight Mile Field.  This rejuvenated the opal industry and Coober Pedy developed into a modern mining town.

 

Fast Facts

  • Australia supplies about 95% of the world’s commercial opal and 70% of that comes from Coober Pedy.
  • Most of the opal that’s found is called potch – dull opal – but the other 10% is beautifully coloured and is qualified as precious.
  • The population of Coober Pedy stands at around 3,500 people, with about 60% being European.
  • The soldiers who returned from WW1 introduced the idea of living in a dugout – an underground home. Underground home temperatures remain at a steady 24ish °C throughout the year, whereas the outside temperatures can exceed 40°C during summer.  About 50% of the population live underground, and in case you’re wondering, a new underground house with five rooms can be constructed for around $25,000.

 

Coober Pedy

 

Points of Interest

The Big Winch

Sitting at the top of the hill that overlooks the town, The Big Winch is old and rundown.  While Juz went over to check it out, Dave was hijacked by a clingy man from Hong Kong who did his best to sell us some opals from his own private mine shaft but ended up scaring us away instead.

 

Umooma Museum

This was a fascinating stop with heaps of historical information about the area.  The museum was fitted into an old opal mine, and while they offer guided tours, we saw ourselves around.

 

There was a great section with prehistoric bones of animals that lived in an ancient inland sea and there were also opals for sale.  We learnt about triplet, doublet, and solid opals but walked away empty handed because everything was very expensive.

 

Coober Pedy

 

Saint Peter & Paul’s Catholic Church

The first underground catholic church in Coober Pedy. When we walked in, we found that it had the same chlorine smell as all the other underground places we visited that day, but unlike other churches with high ceilings and cavernous halls, the St Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church is a little claustrophobic.  We didn’t spend much time in there.

 

Coober Pedy

 

Noodling

If you want to try and find some opals yourself, there is a public noodling area to the north of town that consists of dry, dusty mounds of dirt.  We knew we would have no luck finding opals because we have no idea what to look for so we decided it was time for lunch.

 

The term ‘noodling’ evolved from ‘noduling’, looking for nodules of opal in the rock.

 

John’s Pizza Bar

We chose this place for lunch because of the awesome prices, but the food is also awesome and the venue is licensed.  We enjoyed cheap wine and beer with our cheap steak sandwich and yiros, which were the perfect size to satisfy our midday hunger.

 

The Breakaways

About 30 km north of Coober Pedy is a string of low hills that have ‘broken away’ from the Stuart Ranges.  The main feature is the Castle, or ‘Salt and Pepper’, two outcrops – one is solid white while the other is a sandy, yellow colour.  This landmark has featured in films such as Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome.

 

Coober Pedy

 

The Painted Desert

On the road between Coober Pedy and Oodnadatta is a turnoff for the Painted Desert.  This beautiful and desolate landscape of white, yellow, red and purple soil sits right in the middle of nowhere.  The road in and out was in good condition without too many corrugations so the diversion is well worth it.

 

Coober Pedy  

 

Once we were done with Coober Pedy, we headed back to the Oodnadatta Track via William Creek.  The road was good, and it would have been a smooth ride if we didn’t have to watch out for silly bush chooks that went out of their way to run in front of the Troopy.  Lucky for them our brakes work, otherwise they wouldn’t have lived to see another day.

 

Coober Pedy

 

 

Coober Pedy

Eating Out : John’s Pizza Bar, Coober Pedy SA

Coober Pedy

 

We were absolutely starving and after having a quick browse for what was available in town, there was no question where we were going to have lunch.  John’s Pizza Bar not only looked good and smelt good, but the prices were pretty good too.  It’s a family owned and operated business that is run by the Ikonomopoulos family and has won many awards due to their great quality, affordable food and delicious pizzas.

 

We walked in and discovered that the place was licensed.  Brilliant – let’s have a drink while we wait for our food.  Dave got the steak sandwich and Juz got a mixed yiros. We didn’t have to wait too long for our lunch to arrive.

 

Coober Pedy

 

Both were served with a small side of delicious, crunchy chips, which was totally unexpected. Juz stuffed these into her yiros… just because.

 

Coober Pedy

 

Apart from being the perfect size to satisfy our hunger, both of our meals were absolutely delicious.  All up, our two drinks and two meals was about $30 – which is an awesome deal for lunch and a bevy.

 

http://johnspizzabarandrestaurant.com.au/

 

The Big Winch

Big Things : The Big Winch, Coober Pedy SA

The Big Winch

 

The Big Winch in Coober Pedy, South Australia is 8 metres high and sits atop a hill that overlooks the town.  It was constructed in 1970s by Klaus Wirries to commemorate Coober Pedy’s opal industry, but the original was destroyed in 1986.  A new Big Winch was rebuilt shortly afterwards.

 

The Big Winch is not meticulously cared for, as these days, it looks a little old and rundown.  While Juz went over to check it out, Dave was hijacked by a clingy man from Hong Kong who did his best to sell us some opals from his own private mine shaft but ended up scaring us away instead.

 

The Big Winch

 

Oodnadatta Track

Outback Tracks : The Oodnadatta Track

Oodnadatta 2014-09-02 017water

 

The day we started the Oodnadatta Track was the day we finally left the Northern Territory.  After 15 months, we crossed the border into South Australia and was glad to finally feel like we were moving along.

 

Marla

The starting point of the Oodnadatta Track and a great rest stop for travellers, Marla a very small town that sports a supermarket, hotel/motel, service station and restaurant.  The word Marla actually means kangaroo, but while we were there we didn’t see any.  A local aboriginal lady offered to sell us a live chicken, and we took advantage of the reasonably priced diesel ($1.90) to top up our fuel tanks.

 

Oodnadatta

The road to Oodnadatta was pretty good despite the occasional pot hole, and it was great to see emus again.

 

The first thing we did when we arrived was go to the Pink Roadhouse for a drink.  We sat out on the deck and watched the sun go down as we read through their Oodnadatta Mud Map, which was full of handy hints and attractions we would be passing along the way.  Before we sussed out the free camping grounds, we ducked into the Transcontinental Hotel for another drink and met Jeffery, who played the didgeridoo for us.

 

Oodnadatta 2014-09-02 037water

 

The free camp ground was conveniently across the road and had a sheltered picnic bench with a clean BBQ and bins nearby.

 

From here, we deviated from the Oodnadatta Track to head towards Coober Pedy, and returned to the track at William Creek.

 

Oodnadatta 2014-09-02 043

 

William Creek

A good place to stop and stretch your legs, William Creek offers public toilets and a refreshing drink at the William Creek Hotel, which was originally used as a railway siding on the old Ghan railway line.

 

Oodnadatta 2014-09-03 012water

 

Across the road is a tree with cats hanging from it.  Initially, Juz assumed that the cats were fake, until she got closer and saw bones and teeth.  She started to feel sick before reading a sign that the tree was called the Pussy Willow and was used as a prop for a film – thankfully, the cats were indeed fake.  Phew!

 

Oodnadatta 2014-09-03 007water

 

Nearby is Anna Creek – the biggest cattle station in the world.  At its peak, it was about 70 million acres!  It’s now about 6 million acres, which makes it bigger than about 110 countries, including Israel, Fiji and Slovenia.  The land is owned by S. Kidman and Co. Ltd, the largest private land owner in Australia (duh!).  They owe this legacy to Sidney Kidman, an Aussie pastoralist from the late 1800s – and coincidently the great-great-great grandfather of Nicole Kidman.  Sidney bought up as much land as he could throughout the Great Artesian Basin and he managed his business really well by moving his livestock around the millions of acres of land as the weather changed.  His property was so vast, one area could be flooded while another area was in drought!

 

We spent the night by Beresford Dam and the nearby ruins.  Once the sun went down, the mozzies came out, so we shut ourselves into the Troopy and had an early night.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs

This stop was unexpectedly excellent.  After a short drive to the springs, we visited the Bubbler first – a round, bubbling pool of clear water that trickled down to the surrounding area.  To see clear water, lush green reeds and birds in a place so barren and desolate was strange.

 

 

The next feature was the Blanche Cup, another bubbling pool atop a mound. We learnt that the water coming out is from the Great Artesian Basin and is nearly 2 million years old.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Coward Springs

We stopped into Coward Springs to refresh ourselves in their natural spa.  Pay $2 for a day visit, and have a soak in the spa, which is about the size of a plunge pool and sits at around 25°C.  We met a lovely couple from Goolwa and chatted about cockling and the Birdsville Races.  If you want to stick around for the night, camping fees are $12.50 per person for the night.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Lake Eyre

The lookout over Lake Eyre South was amazing.  A walking track leads you to the edge of the salt flat and if you walk in far enough, it starts to get really muddy and soft underneath the thin, salty crust. The salt is so fine, that in some places it looked like fairy floss.  We spotted a bearded dragon with spots scampering across the plain, and took a few silly shots before moving on.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Lake Eyre is the largest salt lake in Australia, and Halligan Bay represents the lowest point of Australia at 15.2m below sea level.  It was named after explorer Edward John Eyre, and may only fill with water every three years.  Its name was officially changed in 2012 to Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, to incorporate the indigenous name.

 

Alberrie Creek

An interesting diversion from the track, Alberrie Creek features giant sculptures made from scrap.  We thought the giant flower was excellent, as well as the metal people, and if you watch the two planes at the entrance long enough, you’ll find that it has been made into a home by the surrounding birds.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Maree

The end of the Oodnadatta track, this small and super friendly town of just over 600 people consists of a general store with fantastic, freshly baked bread and deep, meaty pies, Australia’s oldest mosque that was built to cater for the Afghan cameleers, and a BBQ area and museum park.

 

Oodnadatta 2014-09-04 111water

 

Also worth a look is the Maree Hotel, a gorgeous pub with friendly owners, great prices and the Tom Kruse Museum, which commemorate a great Aussie postie who delivered along the Birdsville Track.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

If you’re low on fuel, expect to pay around $2 or more per litre for diesel.

 

We had heard that the Oodnadatta track is the best outback track in Australia and we absolutely agree.  The track itself is in great condition, the scenery is really pretty and the points of interest are actually interesting.  We recommend it to everyone…

 

Oodnadatta Track