Welcome to Coober Pedy, the town of the opals!
Around 96 % of the world's opals are coming from Australia and 85% of all world opals is from this area!
The first impression isn't that nice perhaps, as Coober Pedy is a desert mining town. But take a second look. Coober Pedy got quite a lot to offer. There are houses, restaurants and even churches dugged into hillsides, as the temperatures are around 40 degrees Celsius and even reach the 50ies. Everyone got the chance to get rich in Coober Pedy. You can even find the opals on the street...
...It's really amazing, there is really a place in town where you can find heaps of earth which comes out of the mines and you can dig yourself for opals for no costs! But you must use only your hands and no tools.
We met an opal miner and talked just about this heap of earth, because I thought it was just a place to keep the tourists happy. But it isn't like that! There are really people living, of digging with their hands in the earth in the middle of Coober Pedy! Sometimes they just find stones in a whole day, which are about $20 worth. But it also happened that people found valuable stones of $2000! How comes that? The professional opal miners work with machines of course. When these machines dig in the mines, it is too expensive to stop them every few centimetres and to look if a few opals were found. So they just throw the earth out of the mines and you can see everywhere the small earth hills. Some of that earth gets into the town.
Perhaps you like to dig for opals and you want to try it for a longer period. That is easy in Coober Pedy. Go to the “Department of Primary Industries and Resources of Southern Australia” and get a PPS (Precious Stones Prospecting Permit). This one costs only about $50 per year and then you can claim 50 m² and start digging. If you haven't found something after a few days, perhaps you want to try it somewhere else? Ok, do it! Stop your mine and start a new one, but it must be the same size of course. You can even dig in other mines, as long these aren't claimed already by another miner.
But you have to be really careful, because there are so many mines in the area and it can be really dangerous. There can be explosions and holes which you can oversee and these can be death-traps as they can be very deep.
In Coober Pedy everything is about opals and money and there is enough of both here, even if you won't expect it at the first moment.
Unfortunately this isn't always good and at this point we want to warn you of the “Underground Café & Didgeridoos”. It's definitely a good place to eat or drink a fabulous ice coffee, but be really careful if you want to buy a didgeridoo!
We bought one and first of all it wasn't that cheap even after a bargain. But we found that out later and things like that happen. But the owners are dishonest and break contracts! Before we were even interested in buying a didgeridoo we talked about this and that and I told them that I was a travel agent back home. After the dinner I was looking at some didgeridoos. Then the owner offered me one for a “good” price and told me that he would send me even another one, as long as I would cooperate with him.
He wanted to send me 200 Flyers with the didgeridoo, which I should take to other travel agencies. He told me that he got a few co operations like that, but he was still looking for one in Germany. I found it a bit strange from the beginning, but he really wanted that deal. So I even offered to get more handouts. He wrote my address down and the date I would fly home again.
After I got back, there was no didgeridoo waiting for me. So I wrote him two emails with my correct address again and left a message on his answering machine, but I never received an answer.
Just be careful that this doesn't happen to you.