Return to Andamooka

22 April 2023 by Johno

Categories: Opal Fields | Opal Fields Characters | Opal Fields History

A short time ago I was contacted by an opal miner from Andamooka who related to me a story of his time at the opal field.

The miner was Geoffrey Cotton and when asked if it was ok to post his story he provided me with the following. I am having trouble with the photographs and hopefully will be able to add these later.

Return to Andamooka

In July 2022 I turned off the Stuart Highway at the iconic Spud’s Roadhouse at Pimba (now with a fancy caravan stopover) and proceeded past Woomera on the comparatively straight sealed highway that leads to, and past, Roxby Downs township and the giant Olympic Dam mine. I was headed to Andamooka to continue my connection with a place I’d once considered my spiritual home.

Since I’d last been there in 1998, when a mate and I had camped in the small caravan park above the old post office and had put down a dozer cut on the southern part of Gunns Gully diggings, the town had changed considerably.

The most noticeable changes were the sealed road into and through town, and the street signs. What the heck? Since when did Andamooka have streets, anyway? Part of the romance of the place was trying to make sense of directions like “Drive up the hill past the bottle motel to where Ron’s place is, that’s the one with the dead D7 in the carport, head past where the drive-in used to be, then left until you come to a red corro shed where old Bert lived back in the 70s. If you get to Polish Jenny’s you’ve gone too far. You can’t miss it.” (Yes you could!)

The other really noticeable change was to the town’s retail and hospitality infrastructure. During Covid the last remaining outback store shut its doors, as did the famous Tuckabox bar/restaurant. Fortunately Bob at the remaining grog outlet (Cellarbrations liquor store) also stocks essential groceries including a lot of frozen food, so if you don’t feel like doing the 30km run over to Woolies at Roxby you can get by quite adequately. You can even get a Weekend Australian newspaper by lunchtime on Saturday, if you don’t mind supporting its Murdochian alternative reality. And every day except Mondays and Tuesdays you can get a burger and coffee and a smile from Julie and her opal-mining mum Bev at the Dine-A-Mite Café inside the community hall. The café normally closes by 2pm, but re-opens Friday afternoon/evening for a meal out and takeaways if you don’t want to dine in with some of the locals.

Also not to be missed on Fridays is the CWA Boo-Teek op-shop. This is surprisingly well-stocked with inexpensive, good quality cast-offs. Someone told me that the stocking is a result of the exodus of people from Roxby township as the Olympic Dam mine swings more towards FIFO. The number of houses on the market in Roxby, and the empty shops in the ‘mall’ there supports this explanation.