Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Living Down Under

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Living Down Under

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ellis

B&B operators Peter and Joanne Pedler truly can claim to being the ultimate in mine hosts.

Their address proves it: PJ's Undergound B&B is located at Dugout 72, Turleys Hill, White Cliffs, NSW - a collection of old one-time opal mine tunnels and diggings that they've turned into a remarkably comfortable half-dozen rooms for guests- and a complete subterranean "Two-bedroom cottage" as well.

The Pedlers are like most of the 150 residents of tiny White Cliffs in far western NSW, in that they live underground to escape the searing 45C or more heat in summer (113+ Fahrenheit,) and the chilly -2[degrees]C nights in winter, enjoying instead a steady 22-degrees or so day and night year round.

And it gives new meaning to telling folks that you live Down Under.

The now largely-abandoned White Cliffs opal fields were put on the map somewhat by chance: during an 1889 drought three shooters were sent to the Momba Pastoral Station to reduce kangaroo numbers, and while opals were known to be in the area, they came across an unusually big number of what looked like quality stones.

Mainly out of curiosity, they sent them to Adelaide for valuation by a wonderfully-named gem dealer, Tullie Cornthwaite Wollaston who was so impressed that he took a stage-coach to White Cliffs to see for himself.

He later wrote that he "found the shooters camped under two tents and a bough shed.

They asked me to make an offer for the stones (opals) they had gathered. I suggested 140-pounds - and was prepared to spring another 10-pounds - but my bid was promptly snapped up."

Mr Wollaston travelled weeks by steamship with the opals to London with some others that he'd bought, aware that the world's then-main opal mines in Hungary were petering out.

"The (London) dealers told me not to waste time on opals as there was no demand for them," he wrote in his diary.

"And there was some stupid superstition going around at the time that opals would bring evil to those who wore them."

Unfazed he forged ahead, selling his stones and returning to Australia and White Cliffs for more, which he was able to sell in England and later America. …

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