Going Underground at White Cliffs

3 October

Odometer: 4476 km

We decide to take the scenic route from Broken Hill to White Cliffs, our next stop. So we continue north on the Silver City Highway. The highway is little more than a country road. It has cattle grids to stop the sheep and cattle from roaming too far, we have been told that they have the right of way!

Single lane bridges give way to tarmacced creek crossings, evidence of the floods from two weeks ago still visible in the large piles of red dirt on the sides of the road.

We turn off onto the unsealed road toward Mutawintji National Park. It is a nice drive through the outback, lots of red dirt, small grey green bushes and trees, and the occasional low hills. Distances are vast here, and we have made sure we left our planned trip details and expected arrival time with our son Josh, just in case.

The actual park is a 40 km detour from our main route, with nice scenery around the dry creeks and between the hills. We have a picnic lunch at the Mutawintji Gorge carpark, enjoying the views.

It is busy though in the park, there were four (!!) other cars, so we turn back to the main road and continue to White Cliffs. There is just one main road, we go through only two junctions on this 150 km stretch, there are no villages or localities, no rest stops, no fuel stations, and less than a handful mailboxes indicating distant farms.

White Cliffs is a small mining town, named after the Opal bearing limestones on which the town is sited. Opal mining started in the 1890’s and continues to this day. The landscape is dotted with small white mounds, surrounding deep vertical holes created by individual miners looking for opal. It is a barren and denuded landscaped.

The population of White Cliffs is around 100, a curious mixture of artists, prospectors and business owners. The local petrol station also doubles as a post office, cafe and small shop. Diesel at $1.72 a litre is 50 cents more expensive than in the civilised world.

We are in the middle of the desert here, daytime temperatures already reach into the mid 30’s deg C at the moment, and it is only spring. The locals have developed a unique way to cope with the heat. They dig their homes into the hill. Just imagine, a home extension paying for itself immediately!

We stay at the White Cliffs Underground Motel. On the outside there is not much to see, just a carpark, the reception entrance and a small pool. Once inside you head via tunnels deep under the hill. Our room is surprisingly spacious, the walls are painted white and it feels surreal.

It is nice and cool inside, a continuous 22 degrees. However, it is surprisingly noisy at night, with conversation carrying along the tunnels. We also have to use the provided mozzie spray to prevent a complete blood bath overnight.

Facilities are not ensuite, there is a set of small bathrooms close to the reception area, which are shared by all rooms.

Breakfast and dinner are eating together with the other guests in the reception lounge area; a simple menu of two courses and a choice of steak, lamb or schnitzel. This is also the only area with a tv and with phone reception.

  • Best Coffee: forget it…
  • Accomodation: White Cliffs Underground Motel, make sure you get an underground room, as there are also above ground ones available.
  • Tip: take the scenic route, it is not just about getting from A to B

2 thoughts on “Going Underground at White Cliffs

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