After a long, hot and dusty drive from Dubbo (with an overnight stop at Florida free camp) we arrived in the just as hot and dusty outback town of Broken Hill. Before getting there I knew very little about the place, including the fact that it was the birthplace of BHP – which I now know stands for Broken Hill Proprietary. The BHP company was established in Broken Hill by ‘The Syndicate of Seven’ in 1885, after the discovery of a huge ore body of lead & silver.
It was late afternoon when we arrived and the visitors centre had already closed, so after a bit of our own investigative work we located a van park to stay at. Having a powered site was very handy. Not only could we recharge everything and catch up with the washing but we were also able to switch on the air-conditioning. Broken Hill in January is hot, even the water in the swimming pool was warm.
We returned to the visitors centre the next morning and this was a mine (pardon the pun) of information. We liked the sound of the guided walks around the town by retired locals but they had been cancelled over the hotter months of the year. One of the walk’s stops visits the collection of statues of the seven founders of BHP.
It was at the visitors centre that we also learnt about a memorial in town, dedicated to the band that played on The Titanic as it sank! Apparently it is one of only a few memorials for the band in the world. It was erected in 1913 – the year after the sinking and looks like an unfinished column, it is thought to represent the unfinished music of the band.
Outback Australia – the last place we expected a Titanic memorial!
Another quirky thing about Broken Hill we enjoyed was that many of the street names are associated with mining, such as Chloride, Bromide, Zinc, Silver and Silica streets!
Of course, there is so much more to Broken Hill than mining. It is also well-known for its art, with NSW oldest regional art gallery being here. There are many artists galleries to visit and we decided to go to the Pro Hart Gallery.
For years one of our catch cries has been “Oh Mr Hart, what a mess!” when the kids have left things lying around and now, after watching his three carpet commercials, they could finally understand just what their highly entertaining and oh so funny parents were talking about.
For those who aren’t familiar with what the commercials you can watch one here;
As well as some of his art there was a video presentation about his life – he was such an interesting character. You can still view his studio, which looks like he has just been working in there. We got talking to one of the ladies working at the gallery who, it turned out, had been a close friend of Pros when he was still alive. Her face just lit up when we started asking questions and she was more than happy to discuss him and some of his art, which gave us a greater understanding and in turn appreciation, of some of his creations.
About 10km out of Broken Hill is The Living Desert & Sculptures. This is a reserve that comprises of a Living Desert Flora & Fauna Sanctuary as well as a sculpture site. There was a $10 car fee for entering the reserve and one of the highlights of our time in Broken Hill was visiting the sculpture site at sunset. We have seen some pretty awesome sunsets during our road trip and this one rates right up there with the best.
Another great local place to visit is the town of Silverton about 25km from Broken Hill. This was once a thriving place, largely involved in servicing the surround mining industry but is now all but a ghost town. There are some beautiful old buildings scattered around and the museum at the old gaol was fantastic. The amount of local artefacts was just amazing. The history of the area has been very well documented.
Silverton is also famous for being the location where the Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert movies were filmed. There is a Mad Max museum to visit and outside the Silverton Hotel is a replica of The Interceptor – the car Mel Gibson drove in Mad Max. The Hotel is also famous for its hot dogs (yummy!) and has been used in a number of other movies and commercials. It was stinking hot the day we were there and some donkeys had walked into town seeking shade.
Yet another highlight of our time was a surface and underground tour of the Daydream Mine. Once upon a time this was a busy mine with a township of around 500 people. Today there is little but the mine and old equipment. Tours are run twice daily and the two ex-miners that took the tours were really good. They explained so much about its history and did a great job of conveying the hardships of life, in what was once the town of Wilson. The kids were shocked that children as young as seven or eight were involved in the mine and that the average life span of workers was just 40. The guides also gave a very descriptive account of miners using rope to sleep upright so they didn’t drown in the fluid that was destroying their lungs. It all sounds a bit gloomy but it really was a great tour. Everyone wore hard hats with a torch and down on the third level of the mine these torches were turned off and a talk was given by candlelight to simulate the conditions the miners worked in. Of course for dramatic effect the candle was blown out! The tour cost around $70 and it was a little odd that the family pass had been designed for two adults and only one child.
One last place we visited were The Mundi Mundi Plains which are a huge, flat expanse of land where you can see the curvature of the earth. Trying to capture this on camera was difficult but trust me when I say the sheer vastness of the plains were amazing. We didn’t spot any but apparently there are some left over sets from Mad Max scattered around.
We didn’t really have any plans after leaving Broken Hill (but have heard that Menindee about 120km away is great – particularly when the lakes are full) so pulled out the map book to make some. It was then that the subject of Tasmania came up. We thought we had decided not to visit Tasmania this time round and would treat it as a separate trip sometime later. It is expensive to get caravans over to Tassie (more on that later) and our budget was already tight enough.
So how was it that after some internet searching we had booked a one way trip?
Tasmania here we come!