All Under The Place – 1 Oct, Coober Pedy, Australia
Adelaide seems like a pleasant city. South is the sea, north is a long strip of wooded mountains, and the city centre is surrounded by an M25 of parkland. My two days off went by in a hail of laundry, admin and a trip to the physiotherapists to look at my dodgy knee (got a bit over competitive with Johny Pitts in our first event a month and a half ago). Then before I knew it we were on a small rotor bladed plane stuffed full of our heavy luggage (we were asked to sit up near the front to even up the weight!) and on our way to Coober Pedy.
“Coober Pedy” is Aboriginal for “white fella in a hole”, due to the fact that for 100 years European settlers have been digging stuff out of the ground here. It’s a pretty harsh environment, with sandstone hills and soil resembling crumbled up rocks. It gets up to 50 degrees in the summer, and the only reason people stick it out is the prospect of striking it rich. Unlike Mount Isa , where we filmed up north, the mining is on a much smaller scale, and centres around the extraction of opals.
Once we landed and had lunch we made our way to Coober Pedy Golf Club. I usually hate places like this, sucking away precious water so that spoilt Westerners can knock a ball about with a stick. But this course is different. It rejoices in its desert location by having no grass at all (apart from a small piece of plastic turf that you can carry in your pocket and place under your ball on the fairway). It only has 30 members, but their sister club is St Andrews in Scotland, as our guide Father Paul proudly told us. Naomi and I had a crack at working our way round the course, taking on board the warning to try and avoid falling down any mine shafts. The surrounding barren landscape is dotted with the occasional dwelling or piece of rusting mine equipment. It must be the weirdest place to play golf in the world.
We retired to the clubhouse as the sun set to film a sketch about, surprise surprise, golf, and then checked into our hotel down the road. Well, down the road and then inside a hill. Before air-conditioning came along the residents here utilised abandoned mines to build their houses into the side of the rocky hills. The entrance to our hotel leads straight into a stone corridor, at the end of which is my bedroom, entirely carved out of stone. It’s pitch black when I turn off the light, so at least I’ll get a good night’s sleep.