Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Underground living, Crocodile Harry's, and Kangaroo Kisses

I was picked up this morning about 8 am for my tour. I was with an older couple from Perth and a family of 4, with two braaaaaatty girls, from Sydney. George was our tour guide, so he gave us an overview of the town. We started at the Serbian Church (underground, of course). It's pretty impressive, and has carving into the stone of figures. He next took us to the public noddling area where he humoured us by giving us about 30 minutes to seek our fortune and discover opal in the picked-over piles of rock and dirt. He told us about a week ago, a ten year old girl found a $4,000 piece of opal. Ok, sure. Next he we went to the Coober Pedy Golf Course, which I hope is more of a joke than anything. Of course, there is no grass on this course, but George says the membership is $100 and the club has 80 members. He drove us next out to the open mines area, which is closed to the general public. The reason for this is because the area is FULL of open mine shafts, literally thousands of up to 30 meter holes all over the ground with gray pyramids of sand beside them. It is quite a sight. He said that once someone digs on the land, they are under no obligation to fill the holes, so the result is thousand of open mines over the years. He took us next to the Umoona Museum. We watched an award winning film on the formation of Coober Pedy. It was formed because a group of men in search of gold in the area ran out of water. They left there camp with only a 14 year old boy there, and searched the area for water. They returned, unsuccessful, that evening to find the boy missing. He returned later with a sack of opal, announcing he had also located water. So the buy saved their lives and sealed Coober Pedy's history in one. Men returning from WWI had no jobs and lots of experience digging trenches, so many came out to the middle of nowhere to seek a fortune in opal. The name Coober Pedy comes from the Aborigines, who were traveling thorough the area and noticing something common among the people working there, calling the area "white man in a hole." Coober Pedy has always been built for efficiency and not for aesthetics, so the place is littered with old cars and machinery, tires, and even props from the movies filmed in the area. It's a bizarre and wonderful scene.
I was dropped back off at my hotel, where I ate lunch and ended up passing out for several hours. I then went out and bought $400 in opal and decided to seek out Crocodile Harry's, a suggestion from George. I followed the road until it turned to dirt, then kept following it for almost 15 minutes. I could see nothing up ahead, it was literally driving to nowhere. I kept imagining scenes from Mad Max and pictured a car in the distance behind me, approaching quickly to run me off the road and kill me for no other reason than boredom. Of course, this didn't happen. I eventually located Harry's, accidentally passing it because it was tucked into a cliff side (like everything else in town). I pulled in and parked as a man walked out. "How you going? I just shut the place down, give me a minute to open back up," he said. He came back around, almost shocked I was there- "how did you find us?" I told him George at Oasis had suggested it, but the truth was, if he hadn't, no way I would ever had know this place even existed. He smiled, told me to have a look around, and look in back too, because their was hand-dug caves. I thanked him and began exploring. So this Crocodile Harry guy was a crocodile hunter until the 60's when they became protected, then he just fell into his next favorite hobby, being a ladies man. The walls and ceiling over his bed were covered with underwear and bras with notes from girls over decades of time. They were also covered with everything else- business cards, photo ids, passports (good luck leaving!), photos, menus, all kinds of junk. The walls were painted with notes and messages from people that had visited. It was weird seeing all this in such a deserted place. You get the sense that this was once a rocking bachelor's pad, but now was forgotten into the dusty country side. I walked to the back and looked through the caves until I became convinced that there was either a dingo or a ghost of Harry that wanted to kill me, and got spooked. I fought flies back to my car and left. Back in the bustling city, I checked my watch. It was about 15 minutes to five, and I remembered the kangaroo orphanage had feedings at five. So that was my next stop. I browsed the gallery in the front until it was time to feed. Terry, the owner, told me they were waiting for a group to arrive. Wonderful, I thought. But it wasn't bad. I got some pictures of Terry and the group leader feeding some of the older kangaroo babies. Then he brought out a younger one named Dideio. He was tiny, a little smaller than the kangaroo baby in Kangaroo Island, and very cute. He hopped around, relieved himself, then hopped some more. It's so funny to watch the new ones try to get around. They don't know their own strength, and so sometimes a huge hop turns spastic, and they end up landing on their head. Terry held out him pouch, and he jumped head first in. Terry invited us back inside to hold him for a minute. I grabbed a couple of dollars from my pocket, strategically donating as Terry entered behind me. He offered to let me hold him first. Haha, excellent. I cradled Dideio, and Terry told me to blow into his face for kangaroo kisses. I blew, and Dideio looked up at me and began licking my lips and cheek. I usually am not a big fan of letting animals lick me in the mouth, but I figured it would never happen again, so what the hell? I passed him off and thanked Terry.
After my makeout session with Dideio, I was hungry for dinner. I decided to get pizza from culinary genius John, and brought it back to the hotel for the night. For a place in the middle of the dessert, they do make a mean spinach and tomato pizza.

No comments:

Post a Comment