When we stepped out into the open air of Coober Pedy the only thing we could see for miles was dust. Dust on our shoes, dust in the caravan, dust just about everywhere! But not even mum had time to worry about the dust, (although she certainly would later) because we had to be at an opal mining tour by 7:00 pm.
After we had dinner we went straight to the tour where we met our tour guide whose name was Rick. During the tour, we learnt about how you have to peg your claim to be able to go opal mining. To peg your claim you have to get permission from the mining authority. You are then given 4 wooden pegs and 4 plastic tags which you place in the dirt. These pegs represent where you are allowed to start digging a mine. There are close to 2 million opal mine shafts across the Coober Pedy Opal Fields. We also learnt about the different ways to find opal. One of these things was noodling. Noodling is when you visit the mounds of gravel, stone and sand that have been brought up from the mines and you search through it for small bits of opal. When there wasn’t much of the tour left to go, Rick asked me if he thought I could crouch longer than him and my answer was that it depended because I didn’t know how long he can crouch. He then challenged Matisse, Isaac and I to try and crouch longer than him. I beat him by about 3/4 of the talk. As a prize, my siblings and I got to put our hands and pull out some of the things in there. At first I didn’t trust him, but it turned out that there was actually lots of rocks and possibly small bits of opal. That night we went to bed knowing a great deal more about opals than we did only 1 and a 1/2 hours earlier.
The day after the tour my family and I visited the town of Coober Pedy. We saw lots of houses that were built into the earth. The first place we went to was the Visitor’s Centre. I read about how an English author came to try her luck at opal mining. After that we visited the church which was underground. It was very interesting to see how it was all very similar to our church yet really different at the same time. I noticed that there was a curtain over a hole in the wall that was the tabernacle. I also saw the stations of the cross. We then went to go get a stamp at the post office like we have done at all the places we have visited so far. We continued to wander around and we came across a shop where we bought waffles and a tiny bit of opal.
Then we went noodling together. I found two bits of rock with opal in it. Matisse decided to take this opportunity to pretend to be the queen and demand my finds. Of course I refused and she was very cross with me. She kept on saying “I am your mother, princess!!”. When we got back to camp, we started to chip away at the rock I found. Sadly, we ended up breaking it into multiple pieces.
Our time in Coober Pedy was spent learning, listening and having lots and lots of fun!!
Watch where you are walking. Be careful not to fall down one of the 2 million mine shafts.