Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A journey through small towns: Kingoonya to Mintabie, then on to Alice Springs May 8-12

After leaving Mt Ive we travelled northwards along the western edge of Lake Gairdner towards the mighty metropolis of Kingoonya, where we stopped for lunch. A pie which was yummy and well deserved, as David had to help Phil change a punctured tyre.
Men at work, while the dogs supervise
While the men changed the tyre i checked out the nearby salt lake
Kingooonya has a very small population. Buildings I could see were the hotel, a church, a few houses and a caravan park. No shops and no fuel. It is on the main rail line and sees about 100 trains a week.
We had planned to reach Coober Pedy, but it had been a long day, so we stopped at a roadside rest area at Ingomar, about an hour south of Coober Pedy. The main reason for stopping at Coober Pedy was to stock up with food, fuel and water. Surprisingly the fruit and vegetables there were excellent, and you got a petrol discount as well. They also  have the most enormous vanilla slices at the bakery. Coober Pedy is the only place I’ve been to so far where you have to pay for water, but it was minimal, only 20c for 30 litres.
Kingoonya Hotel

Coober Pedy Drive In. New since we were here in 2012

The water filling station at Coober Pedy

Our lunch stop was at Cagney Roadhouse, a place which was a roadhouse only, and we finally ended up at Mintabie , a small opal mining community. Currently there are about 85 people living there, but in its heyday in the 1980s there were a few hundred. Although I have heard of other opal mining towns Mintabie wasn’t on the list.

Opal mining towns appear to be characterised by large collections of mullock heaps, or deep pits that have been mined and tunnelled into over many years. Mintabie is no exception. Obviously there has been a lot of stone quarried as many of the buildings show beautiful stonework. The town has a hotel, post office, caravan park, scrap metal dealer, a car dealer with a dubious reputation, a second hand shop and one general store which is the only place in town with wi-fi.

Nice stonework on a decorative well

A typical sight in Mintabie

Several tunnels in the deep pit

Phil checking out the landscape. The res is the natural land formation. The white is previously mined  mullock dump
Kevin checking the results of his boring. No luck this time.

As we were in Mintabie on Mothers Day it was bound to be different. An obliging local named Kevin took us on a tour of a mined out tunnel, at the bottom of a deep pit. Then he took us to his place where we tried noodling (fossicking for opals) I found a partly finished piece with a fault, so Kevin polished it for me, and also presented me with a tiny finished piece too.  Later we watched him use an auger to drill a 30 foot  hole in the hope of finding a good lead. I was very careful not to step into one of the many holes around.He spent the evening around our fire chatting about places he’d been and things he had done. Not a boring life for sure.

It was good to chat with each of my children on Mothers Day as I was missing our normal gatherings.

After Mintabie it was off to Alice Springs via other unremarkable places including Marla, Kulgera, Erldunda (this is the turnoff to Uluru) and Stuarts Well arriving in time to find a camping spot at the showground, called Blatherskite Park. I don’t know the history of this wonderful name, yet.

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