You can’t do that with a ping pong ball??!!…….

I need not pretend of our exhaustion after travelling in the heat.  Days where it was almost too hot to think let alone drive yet I loved the outback.

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Though the heat was demanding and equally suffocating and the flies drove me mad, the outback is a place unrivalled in its dramatic energy and remote magnificence.  Dusk would see the big sky fill with colour. Pink’s and gold’s, shades not imaginable, would fade away to a huge rising moon followed by a night sky filled with a million tiny stars. Morning would come again with a sun which seemed to explode with heat and light.

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Droughts in Australia are merciless.  Even the feral animals, those introduced who normally thrived in harsh conditions, were dying off in these dust bowls.  I lost count of the number of sun bleached bones and skeletal remains I saw…….

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Broken Hill was a welcome oasis.  A remote desert frontier somehow rougher and smudgier than most large tourist-friendly towns, caked with dust and baking away in the heat.  And then there’s that soil. That rich burnt ochre which surrounds the town.  A colour so vivid you could not dream up a better backdrop if you tried.

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We stayed at the aptly named Oasis Motor Inn.  A passé little place – neat, quiet, well located and scrupulously clean. I highly recommend it. Once settled, we grabbed a couple of beers and headed for the pool which was absolute bliss!

Good pool soak done and dust washed from our throats, we headed on a short walk to the town centre in search of number one on my list of top five fabo things to see in Broken Hill’ – The Palace Hotel.

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There are a number of remarkable and beautiful buildings in Broken Hill yet this is the most famous with its cast iron balustrades and gloriously kitschy and stunning interior of colourful murals.  It also featured in the wonderfully iconic Australian movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

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Famished, we headed to the dining room for a meal largely held in silence.  We had argued during our walk.  Some vague, tepid argument which had been quietly simmering away of something I had held to weeks before leaving Newcastle.

The character of the hotel and the murals are fabulous yet the food was disappointing.  Nothing was ‘house-made’ and all in all, the dining experience was somewhat lack-lustre.  Thing is, I could have eaten there every night if only to sit amongst the painted murals, old furniture and the clatter of other peoples conversations.

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We healed our spat over processed desserts then headed to the Sidebar.  Sunday nights are good in Broken Hill as most tourists have disappeared for the night or simply moved on.  There were only two other people in the bar so the cocktails, a Japanese Slipper so green and quaint it made me smile, and the Martinis were all well made.

Navigating the quiet streets, we wandered back to the motel.  There was little left of the days fatigue and my spirits were lighter and somewhat lifted due to that remarkable hotels interior.  The next day we headed out to Silverton.

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Set amongst hot, wind-rippled sand and dust, Silverton, with its one pub and population of less than 40 people – it once boasted a population of 3,000 people – is a quirky little dot on the map.   This is also another location of more iconic Australian movies.

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The Silverton Hotel is one of Australia’s most filmed and photographed pubs.  A great place to find a cold beer, good food and to browse the film history of the area.

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On the outskirts of Silverton is an historic cemetery, a raw and harsh reminder of how life was lived in the early days of settlement.  Under a brutish sun we padded about in respectful silence.  Hot glittering sand filled my sandals and my feet were pricked by bone dry spines and thorns yet it mattered little just to be in this most remarkable of places.

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Three nights in Broken Hill was enough for me to explore, wander and to understand why we cling, with such sentimentality, to some things and not others.  I guess in the long run, most things will be okay and for me, it was all going to be okay.

There was no pressure to move on but South Australia awaited………x

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Footnote:  Quote in title from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Felicia –          “Oh, you can’t do that with a ping pong ball?!”

Bernadette –   “Do you wanna bet”

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‘Ping pong ball reaction’ – image courtesy RockyMusic.org

Coober Pedy: 845k north of Adelaide and 2,088k west of Sydney as the crow flies…….

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Sometimes I worry I have the maturity of an eight year old and other times, I am actually convinced of it.  Perhaps this imperfection is because of the way I often see the world.  I find an almost innocence of curiosity and enchantment where others find only the tiresome.  I still make a wish on a shooting star, I always want to see the best in people and continue to show them kindness even when they have shown themselves not to be deserving of it and most of all, by my spirited enthusiasm at the prospect of a road trip.

Now there is no sugar coating this road trip because heading to Coober Pedy is a bloody long slog so it requires many stops along the way to not only to fuel up and stretch the legs, but stopping also gives you the opportunity to really appreciate this iconic stretch of highway and its many eccentricities.

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It will take much longer if you go by bike though…….

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Truth!!…….

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I do love a road trip and this trip to Coober Pedy was no exception as it encompassed some of the things I love most about Australia………the outback and the characters you find there.

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These are the places where a local will tell you danger is highly overrated yet go on to tell you up until the 1980’s you could still buy dynamite over the counter at the local supermarket and that you can very easily disappear without a trace………as many have!

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The locals are hard working, hard living and hard drinking.  Boot Hill Cemetery is a testament to that fact and is so named because the folk of Coober Pedy work so hard and for so long that they literally die and are buried in their boots.  Charmingly macabre don’t you think.

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The locals really are a friendly lot if not a little wary, but they become sincere and entertaining when you get to know them.  People out here can also spend their entire lifetime with just a nickname.  No Christian name.  No surname.   Just a simple and often endearing sobriquet which everyone knows you by and of which I think is rather wonderful.

It is said some people are running to something but most are running from something and its a good place to head if you don’t want to be found.   The sort of place you can live the sort of life you want to live without judgment or persecution.  Isolation it seems, is good for some souls……..

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Coober Pedy is blistering heat, one main street, cold beer and the gin passable.  The skies are enormous and the earth is scorched, painted and peeling.  It is a beautifully multicultural community, rainfall is low, you can get a latte (the least likely advice I was going to take)…..did I mention the beer is cold 🙂 and there are no trees.  Summer days hit 50 degrees plus, the slow black flies are in plagued proportions, there is pizza and magnificent opal.   It is a place that doesn’t throw its weight around but holds its own with a commanding yet unassuming ease.

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Ventilation…….

Located in one of Australia’s hottest desert climates, ‘the opal capital of the world’, as Coober Pedy is often referred is a labyrinth of underground mining tunnels and dugout housing.

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Looking up from deep underground…….

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An opal seam…….

Attempting to avoid the stifling heat, much of the town has been built underground and you can visit homes, churches, the lovely time-warp that is Faye’s House and stay in the underground motel.

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And you know we did……. 😉

The dog proof fence, built during the 1880’s is about 10k out of Coober Pedy.  It runs 5,614k (3,489 miles) and is one of the longest structures in the world, even longer than the Great Wall of China.  It’s well worth the hike out of town just to see the fence disappear out over the horizon.

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This is about as tough as it gets and I knew being out here I could take no photo to truly capture that nor the immensity of it all and words, well they wouldn’t cut it either.  What I can say though, is that this really is one of my most favorite places on earth.

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Will I return?  Absolutely!  That goes without question.  I found a deep sentiment for this area and although almost apocalyptic it is one hell of a place so easy to love.   My plan has always been to live out in Coober Pedy for a while and fossick about in the burnished golden desert under that massive outback sky and I already have a name for my slag heap.  That life’s adventure has been a dream since I was a girl and I sincerely thank The Leyland Brothers for that 🙂

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I could not help but wonder that perhaps it was not the getting to Coober Pedy, but the idea of it that struck me so.   That starkly beautiful arid landscape, barren as the moon and riddled with thousands upon thousands of holes surrounded by mounds of white powdery dirt.

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Did my photos and text of Coober Pedy do it justice!  Of course not!  This place is like a wild brumby.  Too stunningly glorious to be captured and tamed but a girl with a heart for wild horses can always dream can’t she………x