Location spotting Down Under.
Everyone should try fossicking in Coober Pedy. Sounds rude but actually it’s quite innocent – it’s the hunting for opals in the spoil of opal mines in a remote town in central Australia. Sadly I didn’t make my fortune but I did find a spaceship…
Back in 2007 I travelled a bit around Australia and one place I found utterly fascinating and unique was Coober Pedy. It’s not a pretty touristy town, it’s desolate and barren, but in a way that is quite striking in the bright Australian sun. Most of the town’s inhabitants live underground in subterranean dwellings – it’s the only way to deal with the harsh conditions out there – too cold in winter, ridiculously hot in summer. Even the hotel I stayed in was carved out the earth. But the reason the original settlers started to live such an existence was to mine for opals – check out some of the pieces in the Australian Museum (https://australianmuseum.net.au/australian-opal-samples ) – they are stunning. Tourists get a chance to rummage in the spoil heaps in the vain hope they find some, failing that you can of course buy some genuine Coober Pedy jewellery before you leave.
When I had been looking at accommodation in my travel guide one of the backpack hostels was apparently easy to spot because it had a spaceship out-front. Turns out they used the area for filming the 2000 Vin Diesel sci-fi movie Pitch Black http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0134847/. For whatever reason the props were left behind – and I did indeed find a spaceship!
I hadn’t seen the film at that point but was still suitably impressed to see an actual full scale prop left just off the main road. Coober Pedy has also the most creative use for left over props I have ever seen. Tucked away on a hill was (and hopefully still is) a fabulous art installation called the ‘Petrify forest’ which used further left over set dressing from the film.
It was rather surreal, walking around in the fresh morning air beneath a brilliant blue sky with no-one else around. Weird twisted yellow towers, distorted shapes with seemingly random assortment of recycled computers and brick a brac stuck on. Made from foam, fiberglass and wire frames and out of context utterly bonkers. Really could believe I was in a strange alien landscape.
Other than a donation box and a plaque saying the artists name was ‘S. Eger’ there is nothing explain what it was for or about. I loved it even more for that!
I was leaving the town the day the final Harry Potter book was released and was dreading the fact that probably everyone else in the world would be reading it and I was genuinely in the middle of nowhere. But I was delighted to find that there was indeed a little bookshop in the town and that I was the second person that morning to buy it (no midnight opening here!) I had practically finished Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by the time my coach had reached Adelaide.