There have been a number of resident parish priests over the years and they have all ministered to a community that reached as far as Western Australia!
We have visited in both hot and cool weather, noticing that that this amazing structure is incredibly cool in 40C heat and snug during a 17C day. No excuses there!
The original building was extended over the years and currently the chairs are placed for COVID conditions. To the left and right of the altar it is also cut out, creating a transept, I think.
There are two other underground churches in Coober Pedy – the Anglican Church and the more recent Serbian Church. DO visit one of them if you venture into the centre of Australia, and maybe try your luck at opal noodling.
With a parcel of long service leave, a yearning for warmer weather and two State borders open to us, we hitched up the van and headed off. Our ultimate goal is the top of the tip – the northernmost point of Australia and the top of Cape York, but the Corona virus is seeing borders closing and opening with little notice, so we have to be flexible.
For those of you who are locked at home, or who might be missing us, you can travel with us as we go. Make sure you let me know if you want more or less information as we go and there may be a delay from time to time, as WiFi is hard to come by in the middle of nowhere.
Day 1 brought us to Lake Hart, a free campsite not far from a large salt lake. We had passed a lookout over another one, just out of Pimba and apparently there are many larger, but it was salt and the illusion of water, as far as the eye could see.
Evidence of an enclosure or jetty or some kind of structure using wooden posts, unlikely due to the original owners of the land, the Kokatha, as it is very European in design.
The rifts and lumps of salt made for good photos, as did the sunset, still oozing orange over the lagoon about an hour later.
The Ghan railway passes between the lagoon and the campsite and can be crossed by a pipe/tunnel or over the top. At 7pm the train went past, almost silently, and all campers came out to watch the dark shadow seeming to run on water.
Take plenty of water and choose free campsites near others, for safety.
Our exit from Leigh Creek brought us to a beautiful spot just out of town, that we’d missed on our way in. We’d heard of Aroona Dam and thought it would be in the middle of town, so might have completely passed this gem by.
The road in is dirt, but would be ok if you were towing. I think it might be 5km and it was scenic. We were not expecting the size of the dam or the range of things to do and wildlife.
There’s an old concrete BBQ setting but I didn’t take a close look to see if it still worked. I’d definitely recommend taking food and spending some time here, as you could fill hours, easily. Don’t forget hat, sunscreen and some portable shade could be good.
We left and decided to make a stop at Beltana, as we had heard a tourist operator talking up the town, as having been rebuilt from ruin and the model upon which Furina was based. It wasn’t far from Leigh Creek, but the road from the highway was pretty rough at the meeting of waterways and if we had been towing it would have made for plenty of careful crossings. No water in sight, of course.
Beltana is occupied and we expected a shop or some signs of life, but there were none, so we ate our lunch, used the excellent facilities and drove on to Parachilna.
” In 1946, geologist Reginald Sprigg discovered fossil imprints in rocks in the Flinders Ranges at the old Ediacara minefield. This discovery was the first time the fossilised remains of an entire community of soft-bodied creatures had been found in such abundance anywhere in the world. ”
The Ediacaran period is 94 million years between Cryogenian and Cambrian Periods.
There is an area just after Parachilna, heading north, called Nilpena, where it is very easy to pick up Ediacaran fossils. Had we known…
There is a great hotel at which to stop here and plenty of information.
From here, it’s still about 5 hours to Adelaide, so pace yourself and plan ahead where you’ll stop and for how long. We made several stops before home, including Orroroo and Auburn.
The other drive we took from Leigh Creek was to Lake Eyre South, in hopes of seeing the lake filling.
En route to Maree, we stopped at Farina, a town that is being rebuilt from ruins and friends had advised us to get there early for the cream buns! You see, the first building to be rebuilt was the bakery , which runs on wood as it did in the day, and is underground. This doesn’t seem to be uncommon, as a hotel in the town had an underground bakery, too, so maybe it was to provide a cool spot in the Summer. I should have asked!
A super idea having a working bakery, as the town is only a little detour from the main road and the place was packed with visitors, all checking out the ruins, recovery and yeast goods. A team of people come here from May to July each year, to work on rebuilding the town which they have researched heavily. We think we might join them when we retire. There’s a campground for anyone wanting to stay.
At Maree, we stopped for a great coffee at the Oasis Cafe and heard that the road to William Creek was pretty awful. From Maree onward it was dirt. Having a bite to eat by a rest area, we saw a memorial to the early cameleers, who were present throughout the desert in Australia in colonial times and their part in the country’s growth is only recently being acknowledged.
We let down our tyres (for the first time ever) and had a great drive. A spot along the way caught our eye and we stopped to catch the sentiment. I think it’s nature is artistic.
It was some time before we reached Lake Eyre South Lookout and it was pretty easy to find, with a huge carpark and many attending. The water had only just started entering this part of the lake and we had been warned that it was a good walk out to see it, but 100m didn’t even provide more glimmer. We’re glad we did it, though.
From here, I was keen to go to the hot springs, but Alan wasn’t, so we returned the way we had come. We paid closer attention to the closed coal mine and got some nice sunset shots.