The Sound of a Sunrise

If you missed my previous post on my 7-Day Groovy Grape “Desert Patrol” Tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs, you may want to check that out first; then read below for the second in a three-part series on my trip “up the guts” of Australia.

By the way, if you’re scratching your head right now wondering: “Didn’t she mention last week that there would only be two posts on the Outback?” you’re absolutely correct, but I realized I have way too much content to squeeze everything into just two entries, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer to read the conclusion of this story. 0:-)

Welcome to the Outback

When I think back on my tour to “a town like Alice,” the memories come complete with a soundtrack.  The playlist consists of a few songs our guide Whales played repeatedly throughout the tour, but the song I hear most vividly (& most fondly) is Shane Philip’s “The Morning Song.”  Our tour group came to rely on that song to greet us at dawn each morning as we made our way to see a sunrise at Uluru or the Olgas or some other picturesque location.

Sunrise at Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), Northern Territory

And while I’m on the topic of music, let me just say that I quite like the idea of having a theme song for a holiday.  When I went on a 13-day tour of Italy in 2006-7 with Contiki, our guide played Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (a strange choice, I know!) to start each day & now every time I hear that song I am immediately transported back to Italy where I am happily sipping a frothy cappuccino & devouring any one of a number of delectable pastries – sfogliatelle, anyone? 🙂

Of course “The Morning Song” has a slightly different effect on me – there were no cappuccinos in the Outback . . . & certainly no pastries (well, none of any note anyway). 😦  BUT, I met some great new friends & they are what I’m reminded of each time I think of that song. 🙂  I also can’t help but picture us all sitting around a campfire (sans smores, unfortunately – Australia, I still can’t comprehend why your supermarkets don’t stock graham crackers!), our new German friend Elke playing some tunes on her guitar & inventing new lyrics for the popular children’s song “I Like the Flowers:”

“I like the flowers,

I like the desert oaks,

I like the Olgas,

I like the Uluru,

I like the fireside when all are drinking beer,

Boom de-ah-da, Boom de-ah-da, Boom de-ah-da, Boom de-ah-da . . .”

I should point out that the song is best enjoyed around a fireside when all are drinking beer . . . in case that wasn’t evident.  Oh – it should also be performed in a German accent (i.e., “I like dee Ooooh la ru!”) 🙂

Matt, Celeste, Me, Sabrina, Petra & Elke at The Breakaways near Coober Pedy, South Australia

There were several highlights for me along this trip, so I will do my best to cover them all!  In this post, we visit the opal capital of the world . . . Coober Pedy.

I had been looking forward to visiting Coober Pedy since I first decided to come to Oz on the 12-month Work & Holiday Visa; No, scratch that: since I had first visited Heather in September/October 2010!  I bought an opal necklace on that first trip to Sydney & I promised myself I’d be back someday & I’d buy a ring to match. 0:-)  As Coober Pedy produces 80% of the world’s opals, it seemed the perfect place for just such a purchase!

Opal necklace from Sydney & ring from Coober Pedy; You can't tell from the picture, but if you look at my ring in the light, you can see subtle blue-green specks.

During my tour of the Umoona Opal Mine & Museum, I learned that there are three types of opals: solid (the most valuable), doublet & triplet.  A doublet opal is a thin slice of quality opal glued to a piece of black glass (or other dark material) to highlight the color.  In addition to the black glass, a triplet also has a protective dome of quartz glued on top.

Opals are also valued by their dominant color, red fire opal being the most prized.  The water trapped within the mineral is what gives the gems their color. Opal mining is a tough business as it is very difficult to predict where they will be found.  Also, most opals that are found have no color & are therefore of no worth.

"Coober Pedy" comes from the Aboriginal "Kupa Piti," which roughly translates as "white man in holes" - rather fitting, don't you think?

Coober Pedy was quite an interesting town – which is to say I’ve never seen a town quite so strange!  The crater-like holes produced by the opal mining industry, along with the reddish-brown color of the dirt, give the landscape an almost other-worldly appearance.  Add to that the fact that most homes are “dugouts” built into hillsides & the result is a place like no other on earth.  In fact, certain areas of the town appear so foreign & uninhabited, Coober Pedy has been the site of many films, namely those involving aliens. 😉

Alien Invasion at Coober Pedy . . . or could this just be a prop left behind from the set of the movie Pitch Black?

Outside temperatures in Coober Pedy can range from about 0C (32F) to 50C (122F), but most residents live in "dugouts" where it remains a consistent 23-25C (73-77F) year-round. While in town, we too slept underground - just like the locals!

I had no idea until after we arrived in Coober Pedy, but my tour included a stop at a kangaroo orphanage, & much to my delight, I was given the opportunity to hold a baby kangaroo!!

Me, holding joey Azza (Azza is a common Aussie nickname for Aaron)

Before we took turns holding Azza, the owners of the orphanage showed us how they feed him.  Kangaroos normally climb into their mother’s pouch to feed, but since Azza had lost his mum (yes, I said “mum” . . . when in Rome . . . ;)) the owners made a pouch for him to climb into during feeding time – you can see it in the picture below.  Azza climbed into the pouch the same way he would have climbed into his mother’s pouch – entering head-first & then doing a somersault in order to right himself – so cute!!

Little Azza is eager for his bottle!

Probably the best part of the night was watching little Azza hop around the yard – which is a bit like a watching a toddler drunkenly stumble about (there I go again comparing animal babies to human babies!), except on a much more massive scale.  We learned that baby kangaroos simply don’t know their own strength, which results in a tendency to bounce with a little too much force (seriously, can ‘roos get any more adorable?!)  Right on cue, baby Azza bounded straight into the shed with a loud *clang!*, startling the older kangaroos whose facial expressions seemed to implore that they couldn’t possibly have ever been so young & foolish. 😉

I left Coober Pedy feeling that I had seen a lot, but also knowing that more Outback adventures lie ahead.  Next we travel onward to Uluru, so stay tuned for the third (& final, I promise this time!) post on my Desert Patrol tour, coming soon!

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heather
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 15:06:30

    Coober Pedy, FTW! Did I ever tell you that I almost wrote to the people who run the roo orphanage about helping them out? They’re on Help Exchange or the WWOOF site and I thought it would be cool O:-)

    I still have that list of songs we talked about on our road trip…we didn’t have one theme song, but I still want to make a playlist with our road trip related songs 🙂


    • nicoleinoz
      Jul 16, 2011 @ 06:13:35

      That would be a cool place to work for sure! Hmmm . . . I wonder if there are any kangaroo (or maybe wombat?!) orphanages looking for help along the east coast where I could work this summer? 😉

      You’ll have to send me the list of songs from our trip when you have a chance!


  2. Camille
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 17:37:54

    The opals are beautiful and I wear my necklace that you brought me home from Sydney all the time.

    I love the baby kangaroos. It’s wonderful that there is an orphanage to help nurture them through their early years without their mums. How fun to watch them jump and tumble into the homemade pouch head first!

    You have seen more than we could have imagined you would – with many more days, weeks and months ahead to continue this adventure. Continue to explore and stay safe – love you Mom & Dad


  3. Rebecca
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 18:40:50

    I loved Coober Pedy too! So different then any place I have ever been!

    And ohmigod, kangaroo orphanage?!?!??! I can’t believe my tour missed that!!! I’ll go back to Australia just for that!


  4. Rebecca
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 18:42:45

    Ahh,. just google’d the kangaroo orphanage and said they opened in 2009. Before my time, probably (I was in the area in Feb ’09)!!! GAH!!!


    • nicoleinoz
      Jul 16, 2011 @ 06:17:14

      Hey Rebecca, oh no, sounds like you just missed the kangaroo orphanage! 😦 It was a surprise to me because the tour materials didn’t mention that we would be stopping there, but I was so glad we did! I hope you got to see some ‘roos at some point during your visit! But like you said – it is a good reason to return to Oz some day. 🙂


  5. Aunt Penny
    Jul 16, 2011 @ 15:03:27

    Hi Niki,

    Little Azza is really adorable. You should adopt him and bring him home. I’m sure your mother would be happy to take care of him. 🙂 Miss you and love you.


    • nicoleinoz
      Jul 17, 2011 @ 07:18:33

      Hahaha – I don’t know about my mother, but I can definitely see Auntie Marilyn making a place in her home for Azza! But I think his size & clumsiness would scare little Destiny. 😦 Maybe he would fit in better at Auntie Char’s with Jamie? 😉


  6. Jessica
    Jul 21, 2011 @ 20:40:17


    You are fabulous! Taking time to help little roos:-)



    • nicoleinoz
      Jul 22, 2011 @ 09:01:14

      Awww, thanks Jess! Did you get the chance to hug any ‘roos or koalas while you were here? I have yet to hold a koala but I hear they’re smelly little bears! LOL. 😉


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WA = Western Australia; NT = Northern Territory; SA = South Australia; QLD = Queensland; NSW = New South Wales; ACT = Australian Capital Territory; VIC = Victoria; TAS = Tasmania


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