Red Dirt, Day 6 – Lime spiders, flying doctors & bush art

Thursday October 25th 2012, Broken Hill

After a very warm night, we have a nice lazy start to the day. It is now overcast, cool and breezy. We drive over to South Broken Hill to walk through historic Patton Street village which also has been used as a backdrop for several movies. We call into the famous Bell’s Milk Bar which has been on the same site since the early 1900’s and hasn’t been altered since the 1950’s. They make their own cordials so they certainly have quality control over their products. We sit down and enjoy a perfectly delicious lime spider and wish we’d also ordered the waffles that seem to be popular and smell great. The place is quite busy, the milk bar paraphernalia is wonderful and it’s pretty much a living museum to the good old Aussie milk bar.

Not far away, also in South Broken Hill is the airport and headquarters of the regional Royal Flying Doctor Service. We tour the museum and see their radio room in operation as well as the maintenance hangar. Amazingly all residents within the range of the Broken Hill base can expect an air ambulance within an hour of making a call to the base. We buy an RFDS Xmas pudding for our sister in law back home. It should be the real deal, having been made by the ladies of the outback.

RFDS – Broken Hill, NSW

We stroll along Argent Street looking for a fresh roasted coffee outlet, but to no avail, we’ll have to use the plunger coffee onboard. Damn, we must remember that we are in the outback, not Melbourne. So we divert our attention to the Broken Hill Art Gallery which is housed in a beautiful old building. They have an interesting collection, which includes some Heidelberg school, Lloyd Rees, Norman Lindsay and naturally some works by Jack Absalom and Pro Hart. There is an inspiring tactile craft exhibition. All of this is enough to make one hungry so it’s back to camp for salad rolls in the sun. 

Late in the afternoon we go to the Palace Hotel for a drink in the Side Bar and to see their wonderful decor. Every inch of wall space is devoted to murals and the furnishings are from the fifties. There’s a huge collection of aluminium soda syphons lining the window ledges and a great array of mismatched old furniture. This town is seriously into retro! The foyer has 3 stories of murals running up the walls across the ceilings and under the stairs. Even the hallways have murals. On top of that, it is a really nice pub to have a drink in. Oh, and it starred in the making of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. OK, movie making and retro.

Before dinner we have a drink with our near neighbours N & D, they have an old Millard van that they are towing with a Ford falcon. They are planning on taking it up to Darwin and back down the East coast. With one small snag, the Falcon doesn’t have a large enough petrol tank to make it between petrol stations on the Stuart Highway, so N is airing out an old varnish can under the van, which he intends to fill with extra petrol, hmmm. We have a chicken curry from our frozen stocks for dinner, watch a bit of TV and hit the sack.

2021 Note: Lime spiders: lemonade, lime cordial and ice cream all frothy and yum.

The RFDS or Royal Flying Doctor Service is the saviour of the bush. This efficient service provides medical care for the people of the outback across Australia’s inland. It was founded by Reverend John Flynn (since known as Flynn of the Inland) back in 1928. These days, the work continues to give urgent care to those in need and fly them to the best hospitals as quickly as possible. They also bring doctors and nurses to remote communities to conduct clinics. Every bush pub has a donation box for this important work, give generously.

Jack Absalom and Pro Hart were members of an artist group known as the Brushmen of the Bush.

Don’t fret we’ll be off air for a few days as we’re making a quick trip to the ‘Bahamas’. No, not the popular one, this ‘Bahamas’ is just a little off the beaten track.


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