Australia: The Outback – Coober Pedy, South Australia


I went to Coober Pedy in December, for a business trip. You can drive there from Adelaide, but I wouldn’t as you are likely to die along the way. I flew in my nice cushy plane (it wasn’t like mine mine, I just purchased a ticket) from Adelaide over some gulf and then on for hours over a landscape that didn’t seem at all troubled trees. As I landed I saw piles of dirt and rock, dug up from holes.

I don’t think there’s a sign in Australia that officially tells you you’re in ‘The Outback’, but if you get as far as Coober Pedy, you’re there.


I was in Coober Pedy on government business so I can’t go into too much detail [SPECTRE].

It’s fucking hot in Coober Pedy in December. I have never been anywhere hotter in my entire life. It’s the type of heat that dries out prunes. I can see why most people live underground here and I take my hat off to the Aboriginal population  who lived here for centuries, bloody tough mob here. They are some of the few people you see walking around Coober Pedy during the middle of the day. Of course the stifling summer heat never stops Aussies putting up plastic pine trees representing ones from places that snow to remind us of the anniversary of the birth of a middle-eastern radical in Israel some 2015 plus years ago. Do the dates start from when Jesus birthed or when he deathed (sic)?


The town exists because of opals. I didn’t even have to look up wikipedia to bring you that startling fact. If you are not interested in opals, I doubt you’ll find Coober Pedy very interesting for more than half a day (though opals are very pretty why don’t you like them?). Though having said (or written) that, I was there on a business trip so I didn’t really get time to explore the Indigenous culture of the area which could be fascinating.

If you’re visiting Coober Pedy you’re probably not going to need to have to have a contingency day up your sleeve for rain as it’s very much ‘the desert’ so it’s probably not going to rain the day you’re there. It did happen to do so on the day I was there though, which was fine because it is fucking, fucking hot in Coober Pedy in summer, and the rain felt warm and refreshing!

Coober Pedy’s like Las Vegas, without the casinos, cirque du soleil shows, cocaine and elderly women making a living selling sex to drunken tourists (so nothing like Vegas really apart from being located in the desert). The locals are quite friendly, there’s a nice clean little pub at the end of the street and numerous restaurants. You would think they’d serve kangaroos or lizards or something local like that at these restaurants. In fact they all serve little creatures known as fishes which are generally found swimming around in oceans and such places. I don’t know where they get these fishes from, I suspect they get them in by truck, but those fishes are about as far as you can get from the ocean anywhere in Australia.


Unlike Las Vegas, in Coober Pedy you can sleep underground in a genuine old opal mine. Now that’s an experience. Underground opal mines turned into hotel rooms don’t have much in the way of light – think black hole, or when the power goes out in your suburb – so I found myself waking through the first night wondering if it was 1 a.m. or 10 p.m. or maybe 8.30 a.m. (though at various times it ruined out was all three) I believe sleeping in an old opal mine is perhaps the darkest place you’ll ever find on the [slightly below] face of the Earth. It’s also dusty, I mean they’ll tell you they spray shit on the wall to contain the dust but it still mother-fucking dusty and there’s tinee bits of your room falling off all around you and floating around like in an Indiana Jones movie when he breaks into an Egyptian tomb.

My room had an upside-down umbrella hanging from a hole in the ceiling catching bits of what one might describe as ‘the ceiling‘, that shit fell down too, only little bits, but still it’s ‘the ceiling’. If you’re not comfortable with the ceiling falling down on your head, don’t try sleeping in an old opal mine.

You’ll be right for air-conditioning though, it’s a fairly pleasant twenty odd degrees Celsius (or 71.6 Fahrenheit) underground which is why I’m guessing snakes and lizards rest here during the day. Not resting in this very room, just underground in general.

There was a vein of actual opal in my room though, as pictured below. See… That’s pretty cool, it’s fine to think that’s pretty cool, because it’s really pretty cool.



I did venture out from my cave in the late afternoon for a stroll around. There’s a few hills , including the one I took the photo below from, plenty of Indigenous desert folk hanging about the edges of town, including down at the old abandoned drive-in cinema, and a lot of mining stuff, and people walking around being miners and a plethora of places selling opals, just as many as those people in Las Vegas who try to (or do) sell you cocaine or the mature ladies who try (or do) sell you some private time in bed. For more on Vegas check out my story: From San Cristobal to Vegas.

After an uneventful day, I headed to the pub for a nice cold beer. It was actually very nice and very cold especially given, as I mentioned, it is so fucking hot in Coober Pedy in December. I had another beer as I thought the first one was so refreshing, and I was walking home.  And then I watched some more sport on TV as people played pool and just sat around, being there, before sculling a glass of cold coke for the road and walking the dark streets over to my cave hotel again, a few drops of desert rain moistening the air and my face, bringing that wonderfully life bringing smell best smelt by closing your eyes and inhaling deeply.

After another night of waking in not-knowing-the-time-of-day terror, I fly back with my paste opal necklace, bought for $15, across the same desert, thinking I’m glad I came, seriously. Places like Coober Pedy seem so real, none of that air-conditioned crap of Las Vegas, Nevada, this is real Australia, the dream of riches in the ground during the day and satisfaction with a cold beer and sport in the evening, while not questioning the bewildering variety of fishes in the desert.

The end.

For more Juanito Travels adventures why not check out my book The Adventures of Kosio & Juanito (and Corinne) or one of my other pages on Mexico City, Iceland or Thailand.