The Road to Darwin – Part 3 – Coober Pedy

Done Whyalla,

Darwin here we come!

Nothing to see except salt bush till we passed Iron Knob.

It looks different every time I see it. It is definitely getting smaller every time.

Back in the ’50s, when I was just a lad, it was called ‘Iron Boob’

After a few decades of rather creative mining they had to rename it ‘Iron Knob’

These days it’s called ‘Iron Pimple’

Soon to be renamed ‘Iron Gully’ then ‘Iron Canyon’.

More saltbush and the occasional dirty lonely mangy sheep for the rest of the day.

Some pretty weird animals out there, best to keep going.

Plenty of rotting kangaroos being devoured by crows and wedge tailed eagles, salt lakes, one cow, nothing else till Coober Pedy.

Lots of holes in the ground. Apparently an old Italian nona was the one who discovered how to find opals, way back in days gone by. After eeking out a meagre existence scratching in the dirt for the first thirty years, as her delicate complexion became all hard and leathery and her children ran off, one by one to the siren call of the city, she came to understand that the opals grew in fissures in the rock. These elusive fissures held a little bit of water that made the grass just that little bit greener. So she and her faithful husband who had grown equally withered by her side, went in search of thin lines of slightly green grass. She devised a most ingenious method of detection: standing at the top of a long ladder tied in the back of a ute, scanning the barren wasteland day after day, through shine and shine.

Her method was very successful. They both became rich beyond their wildest dreams. But their road to riches was not without its potholes. They refused to divulge their secret method under pain of death. They were smothered in honey and staked to ants nests, they were forced to listen to Metalica 24/7, and such things, but they were both hardy peasant stock from Sicily, raised in the ways of the Cosa Nostra, they kept mum.

It was many months before they recovered from their ordeal and continued their quest. But of course, their every move was being tracked. Their secret was soon exposed.

(It is pretty difficult to be surreptitious when you are wandering around the desert on the top of a 4 metre ladder, even the most incurious start to wonder what you are up to.)

 

Next stop Alice Springs.