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Coober Pedy, 535 kilometres north of Port Augusta in South Australia, has always held a strange fascination for many Australians, not that a high proportion of them have ever been there.
It's a place like Oodnadatta, farther north along the Oodnadatta Track, which skirts the normally waterless Lake Eyre, whose name conjures stretches of arid desert, marvelous rock and sand formations, and a natural stillness that speaks of vast distances and solitude.
What differentiates Coober Pedy from any number of Outback towns is the fact that it lies in Australia's best-known opal region and about 1500 of its people (roughly half its population of around 3000) live up -- or down! -- to its Aboriginal name: Coober Pedy, usually translated as "whitefella's (white man's) hole in the ground."