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Trip Report 2018-I Can’t Believe It’s Trip 14

Aug 01 2018Trip 14: Pre-trip musings…

Small parcel of Allan's Rise opal from my 2016 opal buying trip to Coober Pedy. Hope I can find more of this in 2018.

It’s about a month until I head down to Australia.  And about this time I start to get the pre-trip jitters.  There’s always a lot to do before the trip and I find it wise to start packing and creating a to-do list well in advance in case extra supplies or items are needed.   I have an old to-do list from previous trips, but some of the items that I’ve hauled to Oz I’ve never used.   The unused items just take up luggage room and some of that 50lb weight limit.  Every year I take a close look at the list and edit.  I honestly like to travel light…I take 1 medium sized suitcase and 1 light weight back pack carry on.  On the first few trips Darlene and I took to Oz we both had large cruiser suitcases plus carry-ons and could barely make the then 70lb weight limit.   Now my suitcase usually weighs around 40lb-45lb.  Bringing only 5 days change of clothes means less a lot less weight, but also means washing clothes a couple times on the trip which I don’t mind. It really gives me some downtime from my busy schedule and a chance to catch up on some reading.

It’s about 35 hours of travel time from departing Billings MT until the time I arrive in Adelaide to pick up my rental car.  So I carry a set of lightweight pants, shirt and some under things in an easily accessible outside pocket of my suitcase and will change clothes and clean up a bit in the men’s room at the Adelaide airport.  I’ve read there are now free showers available near the International customs exit (gate 18 level 2-under the escalator) so I may try that.  And a change of clothes after wearing and sleeping in them for so long will feel great…and maybe a shower and a large cup of Aussie coffee (a long black) will improve my alertness and demeanor (maybe 2 cups, eh).  I get perhaps 4-6 hours of actual sleep during the never ending 15-16 hour flights.  Then, after picking up my rental vehicle at the airport, I stop at Mile End shopping center near the airport, for supplies needed for packing and shipping the rough opals home.  My destination, Coober Pedy, is a very small town with limited shopping available so I’ve found it helpful to stop and shop before heading north.

Then on the road from Mile End to Port Pirie, where I will be spending my first night in Oz, usually takes about 3-4 hours depending on traffic.  And Adelaide traffic can be very unnerving…especially with driving on the left.  Adelaide, with it’s heavy traffic and narrow streets can be tricky to find your was around…even if it’s just to head north on A1 or the Port Wakefield Road.  Thankfully, a few years ago I bought a TomTom GPS with Australian maps and it does much to calm my driving nerves and keeps me from getting lost.  And as many times as I’ve driven in Australia one of my biggest hurdles is the wipers and blinkers which are on the opposite sides of the steering wheel as they are in the US.  So when I make a turn, instead of signalling for a turn, most times I turn on the windshield wipers…embarrassing.  Once you get out of Adelaide city proper into the outlaying country side it’s a lovely drive on a mostly 4 lane road (until Port Wakefield) through bucolic agricultural countryside mixed with small stands of white barked gum trees and occasional glimpses of Spencer Gulf off to the west…truly a lovely drive to Port Pirie and my first nights rest in Australia.

As I have on many trips, I’ve reserved a room at the John Pirie Motor Inn in Port Pirie where I stayed with Darlene in 2001 and have great memories of the place.  Thought about trying to make it to Port Augusta on my first day, but that’s another hour plus and I don’t want to tempt fate with my less than keen driving abilities after countless hours of plane travel.  So Port Pirie it will be.  And I do like Port Pirie!!

Interestingly, the drive from Port Pirie to Coober Pedy is a study in varying climates.  PP has a cool wet climate from it’s location along Spencer Gulf and the Southern Ocean.  Then, as I start my drive north and leave the Gulf behind at Port Augusta, I’ll head a into bit drier scattered gum tree bush country and finally dry mulga (acacia), spinefex and saltbush dessert areas.  I love the aromatic eucalyptus gums closer to the Gulf, but the red sand outback has a beauty all it’s own with the almost tortured looking mulga trees and, if you’re lucky, bright red Sturt’s desert peas flowers…looking like something that had been transplanted from Mars…which flower after the arid outback desert has had a thorough soaking.

As traffic thins along the Stuart Highway the farther north you go, you can appreciate that Australia is the worlds driest continent.  In 2014 I started my trip to Coober Pedy from Darwin in the Northern Territory’s hot tropics along the Timor Sea, through Alice Springs in the center of this sunburned country, down to the coolness of Adelaide along the frigid Southern Ocean.    Australia is nothing if not a land of contrasts.  But I do love my too short visits to Oz for Coober Pedy rough opals!

And for my last night in Oz on this trip I’ve reserved a room at the Stamford Grand on Jetty Road in the south Adelaide suburb of Glenelg.  It’s an upscale hotel with the superb Promenade Restaurant, lovely rooms which overlook the ocean, the jetty at Mosely Square and big Norfolk Island Pines along the esplanade at Holdfast Bay.  It’s a bit on the expensive side but it’s only for one night…kind of my reward for being away from home for so long.  And as always I will take a long walk along the esplanade…lovely place to stroll away the evening.  Although the Jetty Road area is know for it’s shopping I truly enjoy the variety of restaurants…Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Peruvian (?), Australian and Mexican.  I’ve stayed in the Jetty Road area at the tail end of many of my rough opal buying trips to Australia and now feel very comfortable here and immensely enjoy the ocean and great restaurants.  There’s even a tram that goes from Glenleg to Adelaide City Centre that may be fun to take.  Maybe this will be the year!?

Received an email from one of the miners I plan to see this year.  He’s been mining in Turkey Ridge Opalfield and Old Zorba Opalfield.

Here’s his email:

We have just started mining in two spots at the Old Zorba, Turkey Ridge area.

One spot we are mining under ground the other we are mining open cut.

We have been doing a lot of drilling in the last couple of years, and not much luck.

But now things are looking ok we have two mining spots on the go at once.

I sent some pictures, we started about 3 weeks ago, we should have some opal when you get here.

I am still working out at the mines 1 week on 1 week off, so I will be out when you are in Coober.

So we will have to catch up.

Sep 05 2018The Long Journey

With a bit of nervous trepidation about the upcoming trip, I boarded a new Delta Embraer 175.  Single aisle configuration with 2×2 seating…78 passenger capacity.  Comfortable seats and I even nodded off for a few.  Bumpy approach into Salt Lake…the usual with mountains on either side of the airport.  Smokey hazy air quality due, I’m guessing, to the Colorado or Idaho fires.  Arrived a few minutes early.

Departed Salt Lake on time on another new plane…A220 Airbus.  A little chop leaving Salt Lake and no refreshment service for the first 20 minutes.  Collected my bag at carousel 6 and the terminal building next door was the Bradley international Terminal.  Just a short walk.  The check in line at Qantas was incredibly long until I found I was in the wrong line, so I moved over to the Economy Comfort line and was the only passenger there…quick check in.  Then up to security and another quick pass through with Economy Comfort…nice benefits.  I could get used to this.

Had a burger, French fries and coke for supper: $27.00.  Must have been a Kobe beef burger.  Finally waiting at the gate for my Qantas flight and catching up with the trip report.  Boarded a little early and was escorted through to the rear of the plane and up a curving stairway to the second deck of the huge Airbus A380.  Window…seating configuration was xx-xxx-xx and I had a starboard window.  Excellent seats, a little wider with more legroom, that recline much more than standard coach.  Stayed awake until supper was served then took 2 melatonin and ½ of a trazadone the doc had prescribed.  On this flight, as in past flights, there was a bit of turbulence…just enough to rock one to sleep but not enough to cause alarm.  I slept until about 0230 Melbourne time so I rose and performed my morning ablutions and read (The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell…great book!) until brekkie served.  Good food in economy comfort…they even give you a table cloth. Landing was smooth.

Sep 07 2018Port Pirie…First Night In Oz

(skipped 9/6/18 crossing IDL) Picked up my rental at Enterprise…large Nissan SUV.  Made it over to Westpac Bank to pick up opal buying cash as it’s Friday and Coober Pedy Westpac bank will be closed over the weekend when I arrive.  I’ll need the cash to buy opals over the weekend…no checks or credit cards accepted.  Got lost once and almost got into an accident…but didn’t.  Did a bit of shopping at the Mile End Mall for coffee, bubble wrap, a cheap coffee press, Just Right Cereal and bottled water.

Set the GPS for Port Pirie and headed north.  Lots of construction along South Road in Adelaide (same as last year)  but just got in the slow lane behind a big truck (left lane is the slow lane here) and took it easy.  Plenty of time to get to Port Pirie and the John Pirie Motor Inn.  Darlene and I had stayed there in 2001 and we have GREAT memories of the place.  Kmart (yes they have Kmart in Oz) was my first stop for a new SIM card for my old Aussie cell phone.  Called my wife Darlene and told her I made it here safely…it was 1:30am in Billings…sorry honey.  Then over to the motel to check in and have supper at the small attached restaurant Angus & Company…reservation only and I got the last table.  Food was excellent…I had salt and pepper calamari with chips (chips are fries in Oz) and a small salad with delicious hot garlic bread for starters.  Food was tasty, hot, well presented and plentiful!!  Kudos to Angus & Co!  A bit noisy and raucous, but everyone was happy and enjoying themselves and that was contagious.  Back to my room for a dip in the in-room Jacuzzi tub and to bed by 8:30pm.  Slept well…comfortable bed.  Didn’t wake up in the middle of the night from jet lag per my usual first night…maybe the extra sleep from the comfortable EC seats helped…or was it the trazodone and meletonin??

Sep 08 2018Day One In Coober…Looking For Opals

Gibber plain seen along the Stuart Highway...lots of rounded gravel and sand. Much of the gravel is red hematite...turns out, as well as opal, there are large iron deposits near Coober Pedy.

Next morning up at 5:30am, had another dip in the Jacuzzi, checked out and stopped at Harry’s Homemade fruits and vegetables where they have breakfasts and take away items, fruits, veggies, home grown olive oil and DELICIOUS smoked fish.  Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties (refrigerator down), they were out of the smoked fish.  So I settled for sausage and fruit for a road lunch.

I was very surprised this year with the number of road kill ‘roos.  Seemed like 2-3 dead ‘roos every mile.  Must be very dry.  The bitumen road will hold moisture under it so plants along the roadside will flourish and attract the ‘roos to the highways.  Saw a big wedge tailed eagle feasting on freshly killed ‘roo.   The wedge tail eagles are about the size of our bald eagles, but very dark brown.  Made it to Coober Pedy by 4:00pm.

Checked into the Mud Hut Motel and started visiting opal miners to see what was available.  Picked up several nice parcels from one of my regular miners…nice opal…parcels from Emu, Old Zorba and Hans Peak Opalfields…nice bright opal with larger easy to cut sizes and bright colors…one large bright piece from the 28 ounce Old Zorba parcel weighs in at 18.3 Troy ounces (570 grams).  Lots of other big pieces in that parcel as well.  Must have been incredible to find that parcel with opal in such large bright pieces…would’ve liked to have been there when it was unearthed!  Wow!!

Then a late supper at Johns Pizza…gyro sandwich and chips.  Back to the motel and to bed by 10:00.  I was still a bit jet lagged, but this year it wasn’t as bad as past years.  Read more of The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason…started it on the flights over to Oz.

Sep 09 2018Another Day In Excitementville

Mulga trees and salt bush just north of Glendambo, on the road to Coober Pedy. The red sand outback has a stark beauty all it's own.

Had a lovely brekkie at the Motel…rashers of bacon, fried eggs, whole meal toast and fried tomato…oh yes…a small press of coffee.  Then back to the room for a bit of housekeeping.  I clean my own room and make my bed as I have a lot of money and/or opals on hand.  And I doubt the housekeepers mind at all.  I’m kind of a neat freak so it’s not a chore if it you keep on top of it.

Visited with an old friend, and retired opal miner, David Arnold.  Was nice to see him and renew old friendships.  Been a lot of years.

Saw several parcels today and bought a few with good color and inviting prices.  Forgot I had an appointment with a miner at 2:00pm and stopped by around 6:00pm to apologize for my oversight and ended up having dinner with him and his new wife.  We talked for several hours about the good old days of opal mining as well as the bad old days where miners were hurt by explosives or cave ins.

Will see more opal tomorrow.  Also need to pay Westpac Bank a visit for more funds in case the parcel I’m viewing tomorrow is calling my name.  It can happen!  I need to get to the OA (Opalholics Anonymous) meeting….hi my name is Steve and I’m an opalholic!

Sep 10 2018Good Day Buying Opals!!

Saw and photographed this huge 100+ carat opal from Allan's Rise. Allan's Rise is the furthest south opalfield and is located about 45 kilometers south of Coober Pedy.

Spent a fair amount of my funds on opal parcels today.  Picked up opal from Allan’s Rise, Dead Horse Gully, Olympic, Opal Valley and Emu opalfields.  Have seen a lot of opal from Opal Valley for sale on this trip.  Must be a lot of mining going on right now.  And also a fair amount of rough opal on the market from Olympic.

This year I’ve really noticed that Coober Pedy is losing population.  Seems to be very little traffic on the streets…lot of homes up for sale…restaurants have closed and the average age of opal miners has to be around 55.  Coober really need an influx of younger miners to help with opal exploration and just mining in general.  Mintabie is scheduled to close in a few weeks, Andamooka is producing almost no opal and Lambina has been worked out and is off limits to travel.  The opalfield at Lambina Station are almost in the middle of the huge station or ranch and can only be accessed via a rough single lane track.

But on the bright side there still are a lot of tourists around and John’s Pizza is packed at supper time with a lot of people dining in and many more getting take-away pizza.  They do have excellent pizza (and I especially like their yuros)!

Still haven’t been out to the opalfields.  Hope that changes soon.

Sep 11 2018Fell In Love With A Turkey Ridge Parcel…

Tim Seekamps Mine at Old Zorba Opalfield. Hope you find some opal there Tim (and Sam)!

Bought more opal today.  Several smaller parcels with some nice gemmy stones….Opal Valley, Olympic and 12 Mile opalfields.  My friend Harvey Mehlos called today.  We had breakfast together at the motel where I’m staying.  He’s living the dream…he volunteered his services to miner Gary Miles to help him mine opals for 2 weeks.  But Gary is working at Donna’s Rush opalfields which is about an hour’s drive north of Coober Pedy.  So, they are up at 0400 and finish working at 1900.  Long day for an old timer of 71.  I shouldn’t talk as I turn 70 in just a couple weeks.  I know he’s tired but this has been on his bucket list for many years.  Go Harvey!  Hang in there!

Saw a big parcel that Tim & Sam Seekamp and Tim’s brother in law Pep had mined.  It’s alluvial opal but lovely parcel with exceptionally large pieces of opal.  And with bars of bright blue, crimson reds and forest greens.  The colors are crisp and sharp.  And it’s 200 ounces of lovely opal from Turkey Ridge in a range of grades from top gem to potch and color.  This parcel was found at a depth of only 20-30 feet which means it’s more likely to be healthy, stable opal.  Might just be able to swing that.  It would be great if I could.

Had a great time visiting with Tim’s brother in law Pep about the good old days in Coober Pedy.  He’s relatively young (by my standards) but certainly knows the opalfields and opal mining.

Had grilled hake with chips and salad at John’s Pizza.  In Australia most dinner or lunch meals come with chips.  Have only seen hake on menus in Australia so I took a look at Wiki and found it’s related to cod and haddock.  Not quite as good as Australian barramundi.  But I did enjoy the hake.

Finished Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.  I really enjoyed it.  One reviewer called it an “unusually intelligent thriller”.  To me that means you have to pay attention, no skimming and have your smart phone handy to look up definitions and Latin phrases.  I also enjoyed Ian Caldwell’s second book The Fifth Gospel and did have my phone handy.  Lots of Latin and Italian in the Fifth Gospel…thank goodness for the Google translator.  Been a while since Caldwell has written a book…wish he’d get a new one published soon!

Sep 12 2018More Opal…September Is A Good Month To Travel To Oz

Looking north across Old Zorba Opalfield. Wonder if the person who named the opalfield had just read Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis...maybe?

Had coffee fresh from the press and my favorite.  I’ve been drinking an Australian coffee that I’ve really come to like…Vittoria.  The coffee bean is not grown in Australia, but it’s blended and roasted in Australia.  Beans are sourced from Central and South America.  Will have to bring a couple packages home with me.  Just Right cereal with sliced bananas in my room.

A phone call from a miner I’d met last year and went and had a look at a small parcel he had for sale was welcome indeed.  Liked it and bought it.  Some very gemmy material in the lot….Blues/greens and oranges…Opal Valley again.

Had lunch at the Outback Bar and Grill and then made the short trip to the post office for customs forms.  Spent most of the afternoon going through opal purchases re-weighing. repackaging and cataloging.  Then carefully packed the precious opal with generous amounts of bubble wrap inside and lots of tape on the outside of the boxes for the long journey home.  My theory is you can’t use too much tape and wrap and fill the boxes to the brim with bubble wrap.  Then mailed them off at the Coober Pedy Post Office.

Had another call (word is out now I’m in town buying opal…I must pay too much for opal) from a Chinese opal buyer.  He said he had a VERY gemmy 5-ounce opal parcel from Olympic for sale.  Well…I make it a habit to buy opal only from miners as prices are better, but if he had exceptional opal at a good price I might be interested.  I was interested…medium sized stone with incredible bright multi-color play-of-color.  It was stunning opal!  And the price was in the ball park.  Went back and had a second look…it was still stunning.  But I’m waiting to see another big 200 ounce parcel tomorrow before I make up my mind.  Don’t have enough money for both parcels.  Tough decision!

Had another hake dinner and back to the room to read Zorba the Greek for a bit then to bed to dream about the 5-ounce gem opal parcel.

Sep 13 2018Waiting….Waiting….Waiting….

Steve (me) at Tim Seekamps mine at Turkey Ridge examining a piece of potch found underfoot. This actual location is where the 200 ounce parcel I bought was mined with the excavator next to me.

Had breakfast at the motel and now back to my room waiting for a call from an opal miner.  Plans are to see his parcel and then go out to Turkey Ridge to see his mine.  Waiting is the hard part in this business.  There’s a lot of that while I’m in Coober Pedy.  Right now, I’m waiting for a call from a miner and waiting for the Westpac bank to open at 10:00am so I can withdraw the last of my opal buying funds.  So, while I’m waiting I’m catching up on the trip report.  Heard from Tim and went back to have another look at the 200oz parcel.  Made an offer on the parcel and it was accepted.  That means 2 more boxes of opal need to be shipped.   After buying the parcels Tim took me out to his mines at Old Zorba Opalfield and Turkey Ridge Opalfield and was able take several photos of his mining equipment and the diggings.

Started on packing opals when another miner stopped by to see if I would photograph some of his finished opal cabochons.  And these weren’t just average run-of-the-mill opal cabochons.  These large lovely opals were the cream of a life time of opal mining.  I did try with my little point and shoot camera but it wasn’t up to the job.  To truly do a worthy job of photographing opals you need manual exposure mode and macro mode.  And I also use 4100K white lamps to get good color reproductions.

I’d had an invitation for supper at miner Gary Miles dug out.  He had a lovely place with covered garden (you need a bit of shade or plants will get sun scald due to the strong Coober Pedy sun).  The covering is a green gauze-like fabric that will let some sun through, but not enough to burn.  Had a delightful dinner but had to leave early as they had a couple cats and my cat allergy was complaining.

Back to my room to finish packing my final shipment home of opals.  Read a couple more chapters of Zorba the Greek.  Interesting, philosophical book but can’t take more than a couple chapters at one sitting.

Sep 14 2018Preparing For The Trip Home & A Hiking Adventure…

Old hand dug shaft at Old Zorba Opalfield...probably from the 1950's to 1960's...or perhaps even earlier. The miners would lower a rope attached to a windlass, placed over the shaft, and holding the rope, place their feet on either side of the shaft and step their way down into the darkness. The windlass and bucket was also used to remove mining debris. Not for the faint of heart!

Up early…again.  Made a couple cups in the coffee press.  Forecast is for 98F and windy.  Caught up on trip report, called my wife Darlene at home and had a sausage, egg, toast breakfast at the Mudhut Motel where I am staying.  Shipped the last of my opals home…that is such a relief!

I have 3 extra days left so I may go on a little adventure.  Been thinking about Mount Remarkable NP which is just to the east of the A1 motorway…right on my way back to Adelaide.  Some interesting hiking trails there.  While waiting for miner Tony I’m reading a couple more chapters in Zorba the Greek.  I’ve just ordered another book from Abebooks.com…The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis…same author as Zorba…think I read this in 1972 aboard ship off the coast of Vietnam.  And have ordered the 1964 movie version of Zorba The Greek on DVD.   It’l be interesting to compare the book to the movie.

And I have made the final decision…I will be departing for Port Augusta in the morning and making a visit to Mount Remarkable NP only 25km away from PA.  Am packing and cleaning up the rental car getting ready for another adventure.  My flight home leaves on Wednesday 9/19 so I have a few days to burn…hope to find a nice B&B in PA or nearby.

Later this evening, after the weather had cooled, I decided to take a walk around the CP walking path near the Stuart Highway.  Stars were incredibly bright and the Southern Cross or Crux (cross in Latin) was in her glory with all 5 starts visible.  Lovely night…

Sep 15 2018On The Road Again…

Flowering gum tree along the Riesling trail north of Clare in the Clare Valley. wine producing area

Wind picked up in the middle of the night and blew hard.  Glad I wasn’t sleeping in a tent like some of the early opal miners did after WW1.  There was a light coating of red dust in the room’s entry way…really blew hard.  Up early and got one last load of clothes washed and dried while packing and having breakfast.  Washed both dark clothes and whites in the same load…Darlene would not approve!  Stopped at the Shell station for fuel before heading south on the Stuart Highway.  Very uneventful drive.  No wildlife except for a pair of wedge tail eagles on a rotting kangaroo carcass.  Wedge tail eagles can be hazardous as they are known to become airborne slowly and can fly into your windshield.  Stopped for fuel and a large coffee at Glendambo.  Stayed at a Discovery Parks caravan park cabin in Port Augusta…my favorite place to stay along the shore was full.  This cabin looks very new and is immaculate.  Has a full kitchen, new towels and a comfortable bed.  But it is expensive…too  expensive!

My route tomorrow will be through Dutchman’s Stern Conservation Park to Quorn (pronounced corn), then onto Wilmington, Terka, Melrose, Murray Town, Wirrabara, Stone Hut, Laura and Gladstone.  Lots of small towns on a secondary highway.  Not sure how far I’ll get but I am in no hurry.  I’d like to stop for about an hour’s hike at Mount Remarkable NP, but will see how the day transpires.

Stopped at a grocery store in PA and bought a frozen Indian dish for supper.  Not bad, but would have liked more rice and chicken.  Good sauce though.  Indian cuisine if big in Australia.  Good thing I bought a big chocolate bar as well.

Sep 16 2018Day 1 Of Another Adventure…

Pastoral scene along the lovely Riesling Trail with a lone galah in foreground and sheep in a, yet to leaf out, vineyard...north of Clare in the Clare Valley Wine Region.

Left PA at about 8 am with a foggy drizzly morning.  Was disappointed with Dutchman’s Stern Park as I wasn’t able to see much with low clouds and fog and misting rain.  Same with Mount Remarkable NP.  But the gem of the morning was stopping at Hickory’s Run Restaurant for a late brekkie.  Met the owner Greg Dick and his wife Marie.  Had great conversation with Greg (also a Vietnam Vet but from the Aussie Army) as I was the only customer at first.  Talked about American politics (always a subject of conversation and consternation in Australia this year) and had a delightful meal of Mexican skins (potato skins served with pico  de gallo…a different twist and sour cream) scones and a couple long black coffees.  Delightful meal and restaurant (indoor and outdoor seating) which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone travelling down to the Clare Valley from Port Augusta.

Dick and Marie at Hickory’s Run Cafe near Stone Hut South Australia…great hosts and great cooks!

Made my way back to the John Pirie Motor Inn, checked in and then took the back roads down to Clare where I spent 1.5 hours hiking the Riesling Trail trail just north of Clare.  The Clare Valley is also known for it’s vineyards as some Aussie wine connoisseurs well know.  Lots of grape vines along the road and the trail.  But it’s early spring and the grape vines haven’t leafed out yet.  And the tourists haven’t shown up yet so I had the trails to myself…didn’t see another hiker.  Had a wonderful time…saw a lot of birds along the hike including many smaller green budgie parrots and 2 large Australian king parrots.  Wasn’t expecting the parrots so every time reached for my camera the birds would fly on…a bit camera shy perhaps.  But I did get a photo of a lone galah.  For the most part they are easy to shoot…well not literally of course.  Also known as a rose-breasted cockatoo…crazy birds…love to just watch their antics.

Outdoor seating area at Hickory’s Run.  Very relaxing atmosphere with lovely pastoral scenery and good food.

Back to the JPMI…quick shower and had the fish and chips at the Angus & Co restaurant….just as good as the salt and pepper calamari I had there on the way to Coober Pedy.  Worked for a while on trip report then off to dream land quickly after the long walk.

Sep 17 2018Hiking The Riesling Trail…

Spectacular sky along Riesling Trail...just north of Clare in the Clare Valley Wine Region.

Up early and worked on my trip report and had brekkie at Harry’s Homemade north of Port Pirie.  Bought some smoked fish and fruit at Harry’s for a picnic lunch on the road.  Had a second cup of coffee and visited with the proprietor about opal mining in Coober Pedy.  He had relatives who had mined opal there but I did’t recognize any names.  Very cool windy morning so I was trying to while away a few hours waiting for it to warm so I could do a bit of hiking again along the Riesling trail again.

Started at the same point along the trail as access is very limited…discourages people from using it…makes no sense??  Anyway it was much cooler today and the wind kept most of the birds from flying.  But the sky was spectacular and it felt good to be out in the sunshine and fresh air.

Trail Markers along the Riesling trail.  Be fun to do this next year!  Night have to plan my opal trip a bit later for warmer weather.

Supper again at John Pirie Motor Inn and had salt and pepper Calamari again…just as good as the first time.

Spent an hour reading Lee Child’s The Midnight Run…another page burner in the Jack Reacher series.  Early to sleep as I was pretty worn out after 2 days of hiking…but good tired.  I wish I had stayed closer to Clare as the 1 hour drive from Port Pirie was intruding on my walking time…maybe next year  I will plan to spend a couple days there doing a bit more hiking.Tomorrow I’m off to Adelaide, a 230km drive from Port Pirie, to return the rental car and check into the Stamford Hotel along Jetty Road.

Sep 18 2018Back To Adelaide And The Stamford Hotel…

Up early and finished packing the last of my suitcase that I couldn’t pack until this morning.  Had an apple to tide me until I could find somewhere to stop along the way for brekkie.   I had washed the Coober Pedy red dirt off at an automatic car wash last night and cleaned it up so there would be no complaints at Enterprise Rental since I might be out of the country before they had taken a close look and decided to bill me and would be difficult to contest from the USA.  Stopped and topped off the tank at Lower Light and soon I was into Adelaide traffic.  Adelaide has some of the worst traffic in Australia.  Seems they’ve decided not to build motorways like our freeways in America, so most traffic proceeds through town at a snails pace.  At least that’s been my impression.  Dropped the car off at the Adelaide Airport and took a taxi to Stamford Grand Hotel on Glenelg…about a 20 minute drive.

Had an early lunch at a restaurant on Jetty Road near the hotel…marinara seafood pasta.  It may have been that I ended up skipping lunch and was famished, but it was just delicious with plentiful shrimp, huge mussels, scallops and fish.  Think I’d like a serving of that seafood pasta dish right now (it’s close to lunch time)!

Called a couple of retired opal miners who had moved to Adelaide and had saved a lot of there top gem opal for their golden years.  They had some breath-taking opal, but unfortunately all of my opal buying funds were gone.  But it was a pleasure to just view opal of such quality in their historic mansion-like home in Adelaide.  They were a very gracious couple and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit…Greek coffee with cookies and talk of the good old days on the opalfields…always a treat!  Next trip to Oz they will be my first stop after landing in Adelaide.  Thank you John and Sophia!

There is talk that Qantas will be scheduling an international flight from LAX direct to Adelaide next year.  It would knock several hours off my trips to Coober Pedy.

Tomorrow morning I will rise at 3:00 am, take a taxi to the airport and and catch the 6:00am flight to Sydney 2 hours before I left Sydney…due to crossing the international dateline again.  It will be a quick run to the international terminal Sydney where I catch another Airbus A380 to Los Angeles.  Then a 5 hour layover in LAX and a flight to Salt Lake City where I will finally catch a flight home to Billings.  Almost wish I lived in LA but I think I prefer the quiet of Billings MT.

I’m now comfortably home in Billings waiting patiently for the last 2 of my opal boxes to arrive from Oz…maybe not patiently…it’s always  unnerving waiting for those boxes!  Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it!