Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 22: the earths bowels

(FYI this post is a day late bc I had no signal & my phone died; this is Tuesdays post)

Early. Early. Grumpy.

The lights in my room had already been on for over an hour & I was fully dressed & ready to go when the town rooster crowed - at 4:45am. This is my vacation?

After sleeping for a few hours on the bus and a refuling/coffee break, we stopped at one of the smallest salt lakes in the country, Lake Hart. From a distance, it looks like water & as you get closer it looks like snow, but its just a huge expanse of glittering white salt, stretching to the horizon. We walked out on it for a ways; there are random wagon pieces & remnants from a wooden salt mining jetty, all rotted & rusted & covered in salt crystals. I can only imagine how long they've been there, baking. Sort of a surreal place.

John MacDowell Stuart was the first white man to traverse Australia north to south. It took him 6 tries & the last one took 8 months, by foot, and almost killed him. Stuart Highway, what we're driving today & tomorrow, was named for him. Its the only real paved road out here; I never really understood before how very empty it is.

Stopped at the two petrol station, 30 person "town" Glendambo for a pee break & a chance to try the worst coffee in Australia. I opted out of that one. :)

Then stopped at a section of the road that is also a runway for the Flying Doctors & almost the entire group posed on the crosswalk for a great cheesy "abbey road" photo.

A few more hours on the bus & we arrived in Coober Pedy, the opal mining capital of the world. This town is quite possibly the ugliest place I've ever been. Its too hot & waters too scarce to grow grass or flowers, and its built around the mining industry, so everywhere you look are piles of dirt & big drilling machienes.

Most of the homes, including our hostel (pictured) are built underground to keep cool. I actually think that's kind of neat & its very environmentally friendly, but in those underground structures the walls & ceiling are ugly, scratched-looking reddish brown, and there are no windows. I just don't think I could live in a house like that & i know I couldn't live in this town.

We took a tour of an opal mine, which was pretty cool - it was really deep underground (I think he said 30 meters) & all dug by hand between 1920 & 1970. Even in a big group of people I found it kind of creepy; I could never be a miner (surprise, surprise ha ha). It was really neat to see a vein of opal in the rock though.

Then came the highlight of my day & a competitor for highlight of this trip. We went to a home where they rescue, raise & release orphaned red kangaroo joeys. Oh my goodness so SO adorable. Kangaroos are so soft! They had a large one just over a year old that, because of a dog attack, won't be able to be released into the wild so its their pet. Then they had 2 joeys, much smaller but only a bit younger. We got to pet them & feed them wasabi peas (no lie!).

Then, they brought out two pinkies, which are baby joeys that should still be living in their mothers pouches; they have little cloth sacks the pinkies are carried around in. I got to hold a tiny little pinkie called Coober, he's only 4.5 months old!! I totally fell in love - look at that little face, who wouldn't fall for him! I cradled him like a baby, keeping him pretty much nose to toes bc that's how he'd be in mums pouch. He was sucking on his blanket & let me pet his head & ears & fuzzy belly - I even held his little hand! It was amazing. I could've held him all day but I had to share. :)

Later Sandeep (Indian) & Stephan (German) & I learned to play the digeridoo - cross that off my list! I couldn't stop laughing, it sounded like a foghorn fart!

James (British), Sandeep & I were the last ones to leave; James was getting the owner to tell some fascinating stories about fighting adult kangaroos (the males get very big & aggressive), and I was holding a joey, Lilly, 7 months old. Le sigh.

Then we had a pizza dinner & I joined the boys club at the nearby underground bar, which wasn't as thrilling as it sounds, but now I can say I've had a beer underground. :) I had so much fun hanging out with them: Sandeep, Stephan, Dennis (Canadian), Kirten (Norwegian), and Sammy (French) are crazy boys. Loud, obnoxious & fun. Stephan & Dennis are pictured.

I tried out my french on Sammy (he doesn't speak English) & didn't do too badly! It was a good night & I went to bed deep below the earth.

Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ getting to hold baby kangaroos!
~ making friends easily
~ crazy experiences

Xo! n.


  1. Great post and great pictures.

  2. Did you fit one of those Joeys into your backpack??

  3. So, if your French is pretty good that's a good think to mention to James when you speak to him tomorrow....we have a group coming from France that don't speak great English and they are doing a performing street theatre piece so they need someone that can help get crowds into the work (with theatre background) but also be able to communicate with the performers.....can't wait to see you tomorrow!!!!!


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