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Ben above ground.
Ben above ground.
Ben underground.
Australia's little Hollywood.

Coober Pedy

Thursday, September 30, 2004
Ben visits the town underground where opals are mined and movies are made... It's all very quirky.

Roughly half of Coober Pedy's residents live underground, but from above there is no sign of the burrows that form their homes. As temperatures can climb to 50°C week after week, going underground is the best way to beat the heat. The temperature down there hovers between 17-24°C, meaning you don't need air-conditioning or heating. Other benefits are you don't need to build walls or a roof and you never need to paint. If you want a bigger house, just keep digging! Noisy neighbours are never a problem and wild storms will never keep you awake.

The Faye Underground dugout was just one room in the 1920s, owned by a mailman who used it for sleeping between his long deliveries. Faye Naylor — who bought the dugout and gave it its name — extended it over three years with the help of a couple of friends, a handpick, a shovel and a barrow. She even included a cellar and in-ground pool. When she sold it to its current owner, she insisted it always remain open to the public.

Tony and Hanna Berta came from Hungary 43 years ago and for most of that time Tony has mined for opals. They have lived underground for about 25 years and their home, Digger's Dream, is open to the public. It is five metres underground with four bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room, living room, bathroom and laundry. There are old and new rooms; some plastered white and some varnished.

If you decide you want to live like half the locals, there is an underground campsite about seven metres down that accommodates up to 14. It is designed purely for sleeping in, but it's great for the adventurer, and is possibly the world's only underground campsite.

Coober Pedy is a mysterious and quirky town with many stories of people who arrived from all over the world to make their fortunes by finding the beautiful coloured gems. Some made it and some still do; some dreams were never realised and some people just disappeared in the middle of the night, never to be seen again.

Its lunar-like landscape has given Coober Pedy national and international exposure in films such as Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Location

About 850km north-west of Adelaide.

Cost

Faye’s Underground Tours cost $4 per person. They operate year round.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

Riba’s Underground Camping
Ph: 08 8672 5614
http://ribas.virtualave.net

Faye Underground
Ph: (08) 8672 5028

Digger's Dream: Ph: (08) 8672 5442

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