Travel Inside Coober Pedy, Australia's Underground Town

10:12  15 may  2018
10:12  15 may  2018 Source:   cntraveler.com

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Inside the Australian mining town where 80% of people live underground . Smack-dab in the middle of nowhere in South Australia , Coober Pedy is located over 1,000 miles from Canberra, the country' s capital city.

Australia and Oceania. Inside Coober Pedy , Australia ' s Underground Town .

a large room © Getty

The remote South Australian town of Coober Pedy takes its name from the Aboriginal words "kupa-piti," meaning "whitefella hole." And that's accurate—the township is full of holes dug by eager white fellas. In fact, most of the town still lives in those holes. Coober Pedy is located, for the most part, underneath the outback sandstone.

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Coober Pedy was founded by a bored teen.

In 1914, 500 miles north of Adelaide in the middle of nowhere, a 14-year-old boy named Willie Hutchison was left behind in camp while his dad and the other men were out prospecting for gold. Because Fortnite had not yet been invented, Willie got bored and wandered off to look around. The men were alarmed to return to an empty camp, but Willie showed up later that night with a huge bag of opals slung over his shoulder. To this day, 70 percent of the world's opals are mined around Coober Pedy.

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Inside the Australian mining town where 80% of people live underground . Smack-dab in the middle of nowhere in South Australia , Coober Pedy is located over 1,000 miles from Canberra, the country' s capital city.

Inside the Australian mining town where 80% of people live underground . Smack-dab in the middle of nowhere in South Australia , Coober Pedy is located over 1,000 miles from Canberra, the country' s capital city.

Take the same road trip as the Road Warrior.

With its lack of trees, clouds of flies, and summer temperatures rising into the 120s, Coober Pedy is a tough place to visit, let alone live. Its eerie, unearthly vibe—a landscape riddled with pits, and rusted-out cars everywhere—was immortalized in 1985 by director George Miller, who shot part of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome there. It didn't take much redressing to turn Coober Pedy into a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

But under the sand, it's a different story.

Coober Pedy today has about 1,800 residents, and it's still an eccentric mining town. It has a movie theater—but it's a drive-in, with signs warning cars not to bring explosives with them. It has a golf course—but without grass (golfers carry around a bit of turf for teeing off) and using mostly glow-in-the-dark balls (night golf is big here, to avoid the scorching daytime sun). Signs all around town warn visitors not to fall in one of the landscape's many unmarked holes, reminders of past opal digs.

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Inside the Australian mining town where 80% of people live underground . Smack-dab in the middle of nowhere in South Australia , Coober Pedy is located over 1,000 miles from Canberra, the country' s capital city.

Inside the Australian mining town where 80% of people live underground . Smack-dab in the middle of nowhere in South Australia , Coober Pedy is located over 1,000 miles from Canberra, the country' s capital city.

Going down under when you're Down Under.

Residents spend a lot of time in holes—that's where 80 percent of them live. Most of Coober Pedy is a subterranean community built into underground shelters called "dugouts" where the temperature stays a cool 75 degrees even on the hottest days. Some homeowners have hammer-and-picked out bookshelves right into their sandstone walls, and a local underground church, pictured, has intricate carved portraits of the saints. One woman even has a swimming pool in her (below-ground) living room. Check it out for yourself that next time you're in the middle of the South Australian desert! Coober Pedy boasts a dozen hotels and B&B with underground rooms.

Explore the world's oddities every week with Ken Jennings, and check out his book Maphead for more geography trivia.

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