Following our March road journey to Melbourne and back, and encouraged by the enjoyment we experienced on that occasion, we set out just over two weeks ago to South Australia, a trip that covered 4500km, and provided us with many wonderful experiences, from strikingly diverse scenery to dining on delicious seafood and much else in between.
I’ve long wanted to visit Broken Hill, the outback city almost on the border between New South Wales and South Australia. Approximately 900km away from where we live, this city is, for us, a two day car trip through semi-arid country on a long grey ribbon of road.
Broken Hill is Australia’s only heritage listed city. In addition to its long mining history, there are many old buildings of significant interest (including twenty pubs), houses built of corrugated iron or local stone and mining apparatus all set in a vast landscape. Visible from anywhere in the centre of the city is a hulking hill of tailings called the Line of Lode, from the top of which the visitor can see the city, the mines and the surrounding semi-arid countryside.
Silver, lead and zinc are mined here, and have been for more than 130 years but the supply is running out and the population dwindling. There were 35 000 people living in Broken Hill in the 1950s: now there are 17 800. Once there were 70 pubs: probably most of them are still there, but many of them are empty, idle buildings. They still have their charm though, with their wide verandahs stretching out over the footpaths and their intricate lace balconies. Below is the Palace Hotel (still very much patronised) which featured prominently in the movie 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'.
One of the most amazing things about Broken Hill is that after driving just a few minutes in the car in any direction, it’s possible to be out in the sere countryside, and from the top of the Line of Lode mullock (or tailings) mound the view is boundless: red earth and harsh scrubby country with an overarching blue sky in every direction. Dramatically crowning the mound is the Miners’ Memorial. Constructed from steel, its rusty colour echoes that of the surrounding landscape and commemorates every miner who lost his life working here: just over 800 of them.
The photo above illustrates just how close the city is to the bush. This emu has dropped into the suburbs to see if it can find something to eat!
So far this year, Broken Hill has had 18.4 ml of rain. Less than one inch, in seven months. The reliable eucalypts go on doing their thing, but a majority of houses lack any kind of garden and definitely have no lawn, merely bare dirt in front of the house. However, it is possible to garden in this climate- more about that in another post.
Broken Hill is a fascinating city: for its rawness, the tenacity of its people (and many of them are doing it hard) its architecture, its industry and its remote position in the almost-desert countryside. Although there is a lot more to see there and I could easily have stayed longer, I'd satisfied my curiosity up to a point, and it was worth the long drive. But we had to move on. We had more ahead of us!