Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Desert Paradise

I got up this morning in Adelaide, parted ways with my dear adoptive family that I've spent about a week with, and was driven to the airport by Sarah. My flight at 10:20 am only had about 10 people on it, even though we were on the Kangaroo Island sized plane that can fit about 30, so we were able to stretch out a little. We lifted off, and I watched the city become pathwork farms, then change into deserted redness in front of my eyes. Nothingness except the occasional bush tree and long, straight dirt road cut cleanly through the red. It took about an hour and a half to reach Coober Pedy, and we arrive in bladder kicking turbulance. I scanned the barren moonscape and noticed thouands of tiny gray holes in the ground. There is no possible way these could all be mines! There are literally thousands of them! But as we got closer and closer to the ground, it became clear. The red was red, except for the thousands of current and abandoned opal mines that dotted the surface, like freckles on my best friend, haha. We landed no-so-gracefully and exited the plane. It was warm, but not dramatically hot. I waited for my ride outside the front of the "airport," a building with 3 rooms- the check in, the waiting room, and the baggage claim. While waiting, I witnessed my very first dust tornado! I struggled to get my camera out in time, and was only able to capture the last of it as it disappated. My car pulled up, and a lady asked if I was waiting for transport to Underground Motel. I said I was, I don't think I ever even got her name! But we talked, she has only lived in the area for 4 years, but enjoys it. She pointed out things and really gave me a tour of the town (a strip of road about the size of the main drag in Efland, NC), consisting of opal shops, restaurants, supermarkets, and the occasional petrol station (gas station to you yanks!) We finally arrived at the Underground Motel, on the far side of town. I was aleady reasoning out in my head how long the walk might be to the main strip. She checked me into my room before helping me carry my bags to the room. While checking in, she asked me an unsual question. "Do you drive?" My mind started ticking, wondering where this may lead. "Um, in my own country, I do. I haven't driven in Australia yet." She said, "Well, I am looking after this place for Mike right now, and it might be easier for me to just give you the keys to the car and let you go where you like instead of driving you around when you need it." I was stunned. She was handing me a car? But I wasn't supposed to drive until Alice Springs! "Are you sure," I said. "Absolutely, no problem," she said. "Is there any time I need to have it back, am I sharing it with other people?" "Nope, all yours." I let this sink in as she gave me a brief tour of the kitchen and my room. I would be driving, by myself, a free car, all around Coober Pedy. Awesome!
I was too excited, and needed to tell someone, but it was about 10:30 pm on the Atlantic coast, so I called Matt, I knew he would be up. He was out in NYC, I could hear the bar noise behind him. I was just glad he answered, because some people see the strange numbers I am calling from and do not answer. It's only about a month until I meet him out in Alice. It's so crazy! I chatted with Matt a few minutes, settled in, then decided what I would be doing in my drive out. I knew I would be hitting up the much touted John's Pizza Bar, mostly just for the 10 discount I would receive. I also decided to opal browse and grocery shop too. I spent about 5 minutes psyching myself up. Then I grabbed my purse and keys and town map and walked out to the car. It was a Ford Falcon, whatever that is. I unlocked the door, cranked the car, buckled up, then took a couple minutes to locate the various levers I would need. I then released the parking brake and was off. I was driving on the left! I didn't know the speed limit, so I just went a speed that felt right. I also kept forgetting that the levers are reversed, so I occasionally sent the windshield wipers swishing for imaginary rain instead of using my turn signal. There are no stop signs in the town. So people do not stop. They simply roll out into their turn, some not even slowing down. But I stopped, mainly since I am in a car that is not mine. I ate a hotdog at Johns, browsed a couple of opal shops, then went to the information center. She was able to suggest some things to do and tours I could book. I then went to the grocery store to get some stuff. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and planning what I would do. I called and booked a tour for the next morning that was kind of a highlights tour of Coober Pedy.

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