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Ayers Rock - Coober Pedy 10 January

To get back on schedule we had a choice of either 2 nights at Ayers Rock, missing out on Coober Pedy or 1 night in each place.  We decided on the latter and therefore had to leave our luxury hotel rather hastily without even trying out the beautiful swimming pool.

Ray still wasn't in the best of shape, so this time he sat with the luggage while Flemming organized refueling and I paid the landing fee of US$ 27.  By the time we took off it was 2.15 p.m. - in good time for the thermals.  I wish I could get used to those damned things!  We tried to fly at 9,000 ft where we had a good tailwind but it was too bumpy so went up to FL130 (13'000 feet) where we were only just above the thermals.  The land beneath us looked increasingly desert like - a far cry from the lush vegetation near Darwin.  There were more thermals as we descended to Coober Pedy, where we landed after 2 and a half hours.

It was hotter than hell as we stepped out of the plane.  The temperature gauge of the plane indicated an outside air temperature of 42 degrees C but the locals say  it can get up to 50 C! We thought we would fry if no one came to pick us up quickly.  Flemming's mobile phone didn't work, neither did a 'Free phone' by the 'terminal' building.  But fortunately there was a phone booth and that phone worked.  The taxi arrived within a few minutes.

As we drove into town, we spotted a whole lot of  'mole heaps' - heaps of earth left by diggers beside their abandoned opal mines.  Due to Coober Pedy's extreme temperatures - it can drop below freezing at night in winter - the miners decided to build their homes under the earth where the temperature remains at around 24 C.   That's life 'down under' in 'Down Under'! Just how low can you get?!

We soon found that most of Coober Pedy's population is foreign.   We stayed at an underground  hotel run by a French woman and dined at a Greek restaurant.   Next morning Flemming and I had breakfast early at an Italian café.  But they were all like the Ozzies in that they were super friendly.

It was cool and windy when we emerged from our hole in the ground at 7 a.m. and I was actually cold enough to get goose pimples.  We wanted to get an early start in order to see an opal mine and take off for Arkaroola before the thermals started.  Since there wasn't a lot of time, we did a compromise and visited the Old Timers Mine - an ex-mine that has been turned into a museum.  We even had to wear miners' helmets to avoid hitting our heads on the low ceilings as we crawled around.

In case you're wondering, no, I didn't buy any opals.   Actually they come in a great variety of colours and, now that I know more about them, I like them - particularly the "black" opal variety - much more than before when I was only familiar with the milky looking ones called the "white" opal.  But there was no time to browse and I still prefer my emeralds bought in Jaipur.

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Entrance to our dug-out motel room. The 'chimneys' are vent shafts

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Outside the Radeka Underground Motel

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Inside the Old Timers mine

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Leaving Coober Pedy - the white dots are "mole heaps" left by the miners

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