Wednesday October 24th Broken Hill
A beautiful clear morning, Woody hooks up the TV aerial and the TV works a treat. After breakfast we head out to Silverton a little west of here. We turn off the made road and take the 6kms of unmade road out to the Daydream Mine, the drive alone is worthwhile as it really does have an outback feel, what with the red dusty road, the saltbush and rocky outcrops, one could wander around here for hours. We arrive at a ramshackle disarray of diggings and rusting equipment. There is an old, corrugated iron house, with pressed metal ceilings which serves as the office, cum souvenir shop, cum tea rooms, which really needs a serious marketing makeover. The fly wire door makes that wonderful twang sound as we enter. (That sound that only a farmhouse fly wire door can make which for those of us who grew up in the country is the soundtrack to summer).
Seventy dollars lighter, a group of us follow our guide Kev (the boss) around the various aspects of the mine site as he describes the vegetation, powder store and the short lives of miners. The miners used to sleep sitting up, because their lungs were too damaged (by lead and dust) to allow them to sleep horizontally. The mine was originally worked by Cornish miners who had traipsed all the way up from South Australia when the copper ran out at Burra, it was begun in 1882 and closed in 1983. We then don helmets, hook on our lights and battery packs and scramble down into the mine in a crab like fashion.
We all thank our helmets constantly as there is only four feet of headroom in some places, those miners must have been small. It was a great tour, we saw outcrops of silver and Kev explained a lot of the whys and wherefores of mining both past and present, heavily interspersed with his views on world politics and economics. I guess he was something of an underground taxi driver! Back on the surface we wolf into tea and hot scones inside the cool of the tea rooms. Over tea we chat with a somewhat talkative couple from Morwell who are making their way to Bourke. I’m glad they’re not camped beside us.
Our tired ears intact we set off for Silverton, or what is left of it. There is a shop which is aptly named “Beyond 39 Dips” as we have crossed 39 flood dips on the highway coming out here. The building was originally a Kidman butcher shop. By now it is very hot and dusty, so we call into the famous Silverton Hotel to slake our thirst and stay for a counter lunch of fish and chips at the bar. A true curiosity hotel it is filled with jokes, beer cans and the walls are plastered with photos from the twelve movies that have been made here. Not bad for a town with only half a dozen buildings! Mad Max2, A Town Like Alice, Razorback and more. The pub conducts what they call a “Test” and the names of hundreds of winners adorn the wall, the likes of TV and movie stars, politicians etc. Two guys front the bar and ask to perform The Test. The patrons are given potatoes to put on their foreheads and large funnels to put down their pants. They practise rolling the potatoes down their noses and into the funnels, which all seems pretty straight forward. The barmaid then asks them to close their eyes and roll the potato down on the count of three, at which point she pours water into the funnel. Much hilarity breaks out and two stunned guys are standing there with wet pants and a free drink for their trouble. We drive a little further down the road to gaze over the Mundi Mundi Plains. The view is amazing we can see for miles and as they say, you can see the curvature of the earth. We pay a quick visit to the overgrown Silverton cemetery and then head back into Broken Hill. It is now mid-afternoon and around 34 degrees (we must buy an outside temperature gauge for the car) and very hot, we pick up a few supplies and return to camp for a cooling swim in the pool.
At 6pm we slip out of town again, this time to the Living Desert Park, which is 12kms away, to see the Sculpture Park at sunset. The sculptures are made from Wilcannia sandstone and almost glow in the light of the setting sun. The views of both the desert and back to Broken Hill are excellent and it is wonderful to see the changing colours of the desert as the sun sets. People have brought wine and are sitting on rocky outcrops quietly toasting the end of the day and the beauty of it all.