When Opals were discovered at Coober Pedy, prospectors came from all over the world to seek their fortune in the soft earth of the settlement. Today there are opal mining fields all around the town, although the town authorities have banned any further digging within the town itself for fear that people’s dug-out houses will collapse.
As a result of the international excitement that the discovery of opals caused in the 1920s and 1930s, the population of Coober Pedy today is much more cosmopolitan that one might have imagined. Apart from the local Aboriginal community and other native born Australians, there are Croatians, Italians and Serbians, to name just a few.
Indeed, one of the most impressive features of Coober Pedy, and one that made the long drive across hundreds of miles of nothing well worthwhile, was the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The front door gives no clue what lies burrowed into the hillside.
When we arrived, there was no-one around, but the door was open, so we ventured in down a sloping corridor into the depths of the hill.
And then we walked into the church itself.
The entire church, which was built in 1993, has been dug out of the hillside and the magnificent roof showed clearly the marks of the enormous boring machine that must have been used to excavate it. A remarkable achievement on the part of the town and the Serbian Community.
We walked around and, believers or non-believers, our jaws well and truly dropped!