My parents would throw the three of us kids in the back seat of the Falcon station wagon and off we’d go. Towing a caravan behind, we would travel to distant parts of Australia. We saw much of this prehistoric continent and lots of things that you just can’t see anymore for all sorts of reasons.
I remember it taking us three days to travel 60 miles through thick mud after the roads had flooded. When the car got bogged we’d all get out and push it. Once it was going there was no stopping so we’d run along side and jump in. Some of the other vehicles were stuck in the mud for another two weeks after we got out and their food had to be airlifted in. Luckily we used a new highway that was under construction. It took us parallel to twenty or so trucks, cars and other vehicles, most of whom were bogged up to their windows in mud.
We watched as some bloke thought that by driving at the mud really fast he might make it a bit further. Bearing in mind that there was another road he could have used. He hit the mud doing at least seventy miles an hour. He immediately lost control and started to swerve all over the narrow part of the road that didn’t have bogged cars on it. He took the first car’s side mirror off. (It shot up at least 20 feet into the air.) A fat bloke was standing on the running board of a big semi trailer having a chat to the driver. Luckily he saw the speeding car just in time and he jumped through the drivers window (feet and all). He moved faster than the psycho in the car. The psycho was going so fast that he aquaplaned across the surface of the mud, making it past at least six vehicles. Luckily without killing anyone. Eventually he ended up bogged up to his windows. Which was unfortunate for him because the fat guy who’d jumped through the window walked over and started to give him a piece of his mind. That’s when Dad decided it was time to move on.
Finally we made it to the town of Coober Pedy. At that time most of the dwellings in Coober Pedy were underground because the place is just so damn hot. So what does a family of five do while visiting a town that has nothing above ground? OPAL PROSPECTING.
We sifted through the mullock heaps of abandoned opal mines looking for opals. The mullock heaps are all the rubble that the miners throw out when they’re digging their holes. And holes are exactly what they are, six foot round holes that go hundreds of feet down. These holes were everywhere. No safety fences, just holes.
There was a small amount of success with our mining efforts, I found a piece of quartz as big as a golf ball with a fine vein of deep blue opal running through the middle. Just before we left the town of Coober Pedy I walked over to the caravan park tap to wash my precious haul. Only a child could do something like this, but I discovered that every person who had used this caravan park in the last thirty years had used this same tap to wash their opals. There were hundreds of small bits of opal compacted in the ground under the tap. I had only ten minutes before we had to leave but this is a picture of some of the opals I found under that tap. The opal at the front is as big as my thumb nail.