Posted by: travelrat | May 6, 2013

Skinny Dog to Coober Pedy

Kulgera 3

Coober Pedy: 23rd April 2012.

If you can remember that far back, our original plan was the ride the ‘Ghan’ train from Darwin to Adelaide, breaking the journey in Alice Springs to tour the Red Centre. But, a change to the train time-tables caused us to alter our plans. We could still ride the train down from Darwin, and do the tour, but we’d have to wait for four days in Alice Springs for the next train, which we didn’t want to do.

We could have flown from Alice to Adelaide, but that seemed a bit ordinary. Or, we could take a bus. There’s a daily Greyhound Australia service to Adelaide … and it’s as good as the train for seeing the country, especially if there are no tracks where you’re going. In fact, I wonder if a trip on a long-distance bus (not a tourist coach) … may be counted as a ‘road trip’, regardless of the fact you’re not driving.

Greyhound 2

When we found that it stops at Coober Pedy, the ladies’ eyes lit up. Coober Pedy equals opals, and it’s probably illegal to leave town without buying any. So, the plot was hatched. We would ride the bus to Coober Pedy, have a 24 hour stopover, then catch the next bus to Adelaide.

The ‘Skinny Dog’, as it’s sometimes called, is rather like the National Express, at home in the UK, apart from the distances involved. Every so often, the bus stopped at the turn-off to a remote station or homestead, where the driver left a sack of mail, usually in an old oil drum on a post at the side of the road. And, the coach was towing a trailer, for Greyhound Australia’s business is not only carrying passengers, but also freight.


We stopped for lunch at Kulgera, which advertises itself as ‘The First and Last Pub in the Northern Territory’. It’s a picture of studied dilapidation, consisting of whacky signs, old cars and tractors and things, trying, with some success to capture the atmosphere of an outback pub.

Kulgera 2We only had thirty minutes here, so we just had time for a pie and a quick coffee in a restaurant decorated with effigies of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn, I can understand … one of her best-known movies was ‘Bus Stop’, but I’m still trying to work out the Elvis connection.

Towards the end of the afternoon, the setting sun came out, and lit up the red desert sand and the yellow grass. And, as we approached Coober Pedy, its pinky-white mullock heaps from the opal diggings glowed ghost-white in the gathering darkness.

If you want to see video of this trip, there’s some at



  1. Yay, I love Coober Pedy. It is definitely a place like no other. Did you enjoy the bus ride or did it get a bit tedious?

    • Well, there was plenty to see on the Alice Springs-Coober Pedy leg, but when we continued to Adelaide the following day, it was an overnight leg. I slept most of the way; that’s something I can’t usually do on a bus. I’m not sure whether that was because we’d had such a busy day, or the bus seat was so comfortable.

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