Being neighbors with worms and surviving off artificial light sounds like the newest form of torture, but for the people of Coober Pedy, these are the makings of their beautiful home.
This small Australian village is known for its abundance of opals, a beautiful (not to mention quite valuable) iridescent gemstone said to signify love and passion. Coober Pedy is so chocked full of them it’s even been dubbed the “Opal Capital of the World.”
In a land lush with precious stones, the Aboriginal people lived off native crops, built thriving communities, and, quite notably, were not living underground. The 20th century brought changes.
The town’s name wasn’t even officially established until the first outsiders arrived. It was only when Willie Hutchinson first discovered an opal there that other miners began moving to the area in droves.
After that, the floodgates opened. By 1916, foreign miners were flocking to the area, hoping to get their hands on some money-making stones. And pretty soon, these outsiders started to get some pretty sick ideas in their heads.
The European venturists, unused to the harsh conditions (read: constant heat) of the village, soon realized that if they wanted to make their opal money, they’d need to find a way to survive in the town without dying of a heat stroke. That’s when they hatched their plan.
First, as colonizers often do, they had to give the area a name they could actually pronounce. They settled on Coober Pedy, after the aboriginal term kupa-piti, which roughly translates to “boy’s waterhole.” There was a second name the miners didn’t like so much.
A local joke is that Coober Pedy sounds similar to white man in a hole. Because what did these settlers do when they realized their fragile temperaments couldn’t take the heat? They dug underground tunnels, of course. But this was only the beginning.
After several miners began this undertaking, scores of others followed suit. Over the course of a few years, more and more “buildings” were constructed underground, until there was more infrastructure hidden below the surface than was visible from on land.
So far, there are an astounding three churches, an art gallery, a bar, and even hotels hiding below the surface of what from atop may look to outsiders simply like a desert wasteland. And it’s not just single men who live there, either. ..
Here, 12-year-old James Tappin is casually resting in his subterranean bedroom. You almost wouldn’t notice something was off about the space if it weren’t for the rock walls. Outside his bedroom, the town offered plenty to do.
Even people who live their lives underground have to find creative ways to have fun, and the residents of Coober Pedy have come up with a particularly interesting pastime…
Of course, it’s too hot during the day to do much outside (hence the caves) and so most extracurriculars take place under the shade of night. This includes golf, but with a special twist: all the balls glow in the dark.
As you may imagine, the extreme temperatures aren’t very conducive to plant life, so they’ve also had to find out-of-the-box ways to add some greenery to things. Honestly, their resourcefulness is impressive.
Instead of your typical shrubbery, the people who live in this village have constructed a tree made entirely out of metal. It’s quite the sight. Even so, while they’ve done their best to make the area their home, there are still some serious dangers to watch out for.
All around the area are scores of random holes dug into the ground by would-be prospectors hoping to get their hands on a valuable opal. These can be serious tripping hazards for those who visit — especially if you plan on partaking in a friendly game of glow-in-the-dark golf.
The village does its best to appeal to visitors, if only as a fun attraction to see once in a lifetime. There are even opals engraved into the walls of hotel rooms, highlighting the fact that the town offers the majority of the planet’s supply.
Other oddities to check out if you ever step foot in Coober Pedy include Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest, or the Coober Pedy Drive-In. Sounds cool right? But it’s not so easy to make the trip…
There are several options if you want to make your way to the Australian town. You can either fly into a small airstrip, go via bus on a coach tour, drive in a private car, or, finally, by the Ghan railway line.
Because of its bizarre, pseudo-dystopian nature, it’s no wonder that Coober Pedy is a Hollywood location scouts dream. The town has been featured in multiple blockbusters including “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,” “Pitch Black,” and “Red Planet.”
Most Cooper Pedy tourists are surprised to learn about another town that’s completely underground, though this one can’t be found in Australia and opals weren’t the cause of these peoples’ flight.
Content created and supplied by: Vicckky (via Opera News )
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