Red Dirt, Day 4 – Mildura to Broken Hill

Tuesday 23rd October 2012 Mildura to Broken Hill

Back on the road again and it’s only a short drive to Wentworth, passing through vineyards and groves of olives and oranges. We are fascinated by the contrast between the red desert and saltbush where the soil isn’t tended, and the green swathes of lush crops where it is. We have a stroll around Wentworth, the Darling River is broad with grassy banks, the town is neat and tidy and has a lovely mix of historic buildings, it would be far too easy to stop a little longer.

Paddlesteamer on the Murray Rver at Wentworth, NSW

Away we go into unchartered territory on the Silver City Highway, within two kilometres of town it is flat and dry with scrubby trees and damn we’ve got a headwind! The gas intake plays up once again, it doesn’t seem to like the undulating road, so we switch over to petrol for the rest of the day. We see eagles, sheep, wild goats even an emu, but not a building until we pull in for lunch at the Lake Popiltah wayside stop. The lake is milky green and huge, with a lot of dead trees, the rest area is thankfully shaded by white cypress pines. As we pull out onto the road an emu races hell bent across the road in front of us, whoa, that really tested our new braking system!

Lake Popiltah

We stop a few kilometres further on at the Coombah roadhouse, the only roadhouse on the Silver City Highway. The sign on the ‘Blokes & Sheilas’ says that if you want to use the toilets then you must make a purchase or else pee in the scrub, fair enough, we buy a drink. Behind the counter there is a picture of the roadhouse as it was in 1963, funny, it looks much the same as it does now, progress is obviously slow in these parts.

Coombah Roadhouse, Silver City Highway, NSW

We continue on over each undulation, they seem to be about five kilometres apart. There is not much in between but scrub and saltbush and herds of happily munching goats. At last odd-shaped hills appear in the distance, the Barrier Range, and then rusting machinery and suddenly, its Broken Hill slap bang in the middle of the desert, mullock heaps and a city. Lots of mullock heaps. The road signs tell us we are now on Central Standard Time (Adelaide Time) even though we are in New South Wales and our clever little iPhones suddenly drop back a half hour.

Filled with excitement we check into the Broken Hill City Caravan Park, set up the van and discover that NSW has larger water tap fittings than Victoria, we have an assortment on board, but not this size. We have a woodchip-based site as grass, is charged at the premium rate. Actually, the wood chips prove to be a good base and very little dirt is tracked inside, I think we won. There is plenty of shade from pretty pink flowering gums. We are however jammed in ‘cheek by jowl’ and one daren’t even fart for fear of waking the neighbours! Once we are settled we scurry off into town to explore this strange new place.

We soon learn that the enormous hill which towers above the city is the Line of Lode, 7.5kms long, 1.6kms deep, a 300 million tonne body of ore and still being mined to this day. Perched on the very top is a monument to the miners that have lost their lives on the job, eight hundred of them, thankfully the numbers have lessened over recent times. Beside the Miner’s Memorial is the Broken Earth Restaurant, with a fabulous view over the city below. We walk along the main street which is called Argent Street (the streets have metallurgical names) and have a cold beer at the Mid City Bar. The city buildings are beautiful, many have been huge old pubs, but sadly no longer. The quality of the administrative buildings attests to the wealth that has been created here.

Argent Street, Broken Hill
Trades Hall building, Broken Hill
The local newspaper office – Barrier Daily Truth
The Palace Hotel with the Line of Lode and Miner’s Memorial behind
Miner’s Memorial atop the Line of Lode
Broken Earth Cafe
View of Broken Hill from Broken Earth Cafe

We find that there is a supermarket and shopping complex only a block from our van park, so we grab a cooked chook make up a Greek salad and settle in for an early night.

Gee, we must have been green we hadn’t even figured out how to use the awning!

2021 Note: Adelaide is closer to Broken Hill than Sydney hence the use of the South Australian Central time zone. The curious location of Broken Hill has caused many problems during Covid border closures as many Broken Hill children do their secondary and tertiary education in Adelaide.

Deposits appearing to be tin were discovered here in 1883. It was soon to be proven that this was silver, lead and zinc “the largest and richest (orebody) of its kind in the world”. (Wikipedia)

And speaking of discoveries, this must have been the first time that we discovered the economy and suitability of a cooked chook (BBQ chicken) to caravanning.

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