In the wild west of Australia, people from all over the world are desperately searching for opal and the money it brings. I covered this story with writer Karin van Kooten.

Coober Pedy

It’s like the American gold rush. There is no government control and the only police station was blown up with dynamite

The Italians, the Greeks, the Irish and many other nationalities all hang out in their own club. Every one is looking for one thing, the big opal. When they find it they sleep with a loaded gun to protect it. When they talk about it they talk like they are in love.

The landscape is just miles and miles of little pyramids with sand. Next to these pyramids there are small but very deep mine shafts. It’s impossible to walk around and take photos – one wrong step and you could potentially fall into a 20 meters deep shaft.

Coober Pedy has a desert climate and temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit)). Many people have their house dug into a mountain or underneath the ground. The underground church is a famous example.

We were guided for four days by a friendly, local men who stopped looking for opal in order to help us. Most people don’t find the big money. They just find small pieces of opal – just enough for making a living. But they keep dreaming.

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