Today was the last bit of serious dirt road driving I have left in this trip. My AWD car has managed it well. I feel I’ve learnt a lot about driving the past week and today was learning to overtake trucks on the dirt. The GPS didn’t like the roads I was on, but in terms of quality, they were better than many of the other roads I had been on. However as I got close to White Cliffs I ended up coming across cattle trucks on the road. Of course the thing with trucks is you can’t drive too close behind them as you lose visibility in the dust kicked up. However trying to find the drivers mirror so he knew you were there seemed to do the job and overtaking was done based on the direction the wind was blowing the dust.
I arrived in White Cliffs and it has a somewhat unusual feel to it. It is an opal mining area which means underground living. There is a town that is between 3 hills where all the miners are living underground. The town itself is above ground. It seems caravanners come here for some fossicking, however my motives were purely to stay in the underground hotel! Being underground, the rooms are a fairly constant temperature all year round and definitely a relief to get out of the heat.
I finished the day with a visit to an opal mine. I didn’t find it claustrophobic. I have to admit I didn’t know how opals were formed, but its a process involving a solution of water and Silicon Dioxide and it gets into cracks etc and forms opals. It also has a habit of “opalising” fossils and the value of these was not known a 100 years ago, but now a whole opal fossil is worth a fortune especially if it happens to be a dinosaur. Apparently many were found and cut up. The owner of the mine is looking for a type of opal known as a pineapple opal. In this case it is a crystal structure that becomes porous and then turns into opal. The result is something that looks like a pineapple in shape. For anyone thinking of moving to White Cliffs and staking a claim you can do it for about $200 a year.