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Australia: Coober Pedy

The drive from Uluru to Melbourne was huge – about 2400km all told – so I did it in three stages, with breaks at Coober Pedy and Adelaide. The landscape between Uluru and Coober Pedy is flat and desolate desert scrub, but on approaching Coober Pedy the road is surrounded by hundreds of mounds of earth, varying from a few feet high to the size of a caravan. Coober Pedy is home to serious numbers of opal mines, and the mounds are the dirt from the vertical shafts built in the search for gems; the miners don't fill the holes in because when you're following a seam of opal rich dirt and you dig underneath a filled-in hole, the loose earth will collapse down on top of you. It's a sensible reason, but it makes Coober Pedy look like it's home to a colony of huge desert moles.