Our Last Day in Broken Hill

Our first stop after leaving Port Augusta on Saturday morning was Wilmington. Wilmington is a town in the southern Flinders Ranges region of South Australia. Originally named “Beautiful Valley”, Wilmington is a farming community known for sheep, wheat and barley, but more recently the temperature conditions and rainfall have contributed to the increasing popularity of the planting of olive trees. The reason for our visit was to poke around in some of the many antique shops in the town. We are finding little treasures in the most unusual places.

Our next stop was at one of those ‘cut off your nose to spite your face’ places. Earlier this year we stayed at the lovely Peterborough and had a great stopover so we thought we would spend another night there. Peterborough is a town in the mid north of South Australia in wheat country, just off the Barrier Highway. It is also an old railway town. The railway line runs through the centre of the town and on our earlier visit, the local Council allowed self contained travellers such as ourselves, to park for the night in the railway siding in the centre of town. This was brilliant as it was only a short walk to top up with food and water. However since our last stay the Council has had a change of heart and travellers must now stay at one of the allotted free stops 2km out of the town, one to the east and one to the west. I asked at the Information Centre if many travellers stopped at the town now and the response was ‘I can work a whole day and see no one’. We wonder why?? Without so much as spending a cent in the town, we moved on.

Rod relaxing at the bar in the Mannahil Hotel along the Barrier Highway

Rod relaxing at the bar in the Mannahil Hotel along the Barrier Highway

From Peterborough we made our way onto the Barrier Highway. The Highway runs from Adelaide in South Australia to Nyngan in New South Wales, a distance of 1007km. The Indian Pacific railway line runs beside the Highway so there are many small villages along the highway that services both the rail industry and the agricultural industry. Our first stop along the Highway was at the small village of Yunta. Yunta township was established in 1887 after the discovery of gold at the nearby diggings at Teetulpa and Waukaringa, when more than 5,000 miners made their way through there. In the early 1890s the village was a busy railway town on the Adelaide to Broken Hill line. Today Yunta is a small service centre for travellers and the surrounding properties. In total contrast to Peterborough, Yunta provides a free overnight stop with all amenities at the old railway siding in the centre of the village and directly across the road from the local hotel. In appreciation of villagers support, we made Yunta our overnight stop on Saturday night (as did a number of other travellers). The word soon gets around.

On Sunday morning we continued along the Highway and stopped for morning tea at another railway village, Mannahill, one of the easternmost settlements in South Australia. According to the landlady of the local hotel, the towns population currently stands at nine. The hotel was a historical treasure trove of the villages past and still serves as the local’s watering hole. In the shearing season the hotel is very popular with Kiwi shearers who come across from New Zealand to work in the area. We were made to feel very welcome.

At the Mad Max Museum at Silverton, NSW

At the Mad Max Museum at Silverton, NSW

After ‘coffee’ with the landlady we continued eastward toward Broken Hill. The plan was to stay overnight at another free spot about 36km out of Broken Hill but instead we decided to hook a left just before Broken Hill and visit the village of Silverton in New South Wales. The village is famous for it popularity as a television and movie location in movies such as A Town Like Alice, Mad Max 2 and countless TV commercials. After a very nice lunch at the local hotel we visited the Mad Max Museum before making our way 25km back to Broken Hill.

Broken Hill is an isolated mining city in the far west of outback New South Wales. It is Australia’s longest-lived mining city with the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, having roots in the town. The “broken hill” that gave its name to Broken Hill actually comprised a number of hills that appeared to have a break in them. The broken hill no longer exists as it has been mined away.

We spent a good part of of time in Broken Hill just cruising around and having a look at the area. It is definitely a town of two contrasts. It seemed to us that most of the residents still seemed to reside in original late 18th and early 19th century miners cottages. Some have been restored and are in superb condition while others are looking very sad and unloved. On the outer edges of the town there were an abundance of new residences. We were told that when miners retired they often decided to stay in the town and build new homes with all the modcons that can handle the area’s climatic conditions.

A typical Broken Hill cottage (in much better condition than some)

A typical Broken Hill cottage (in much better condition than some)

We made our home during our Broken Hill visit at the town’s Racecourse. The Racecourse was a jewel as it had areas of beautiful green grass which the caretaker insisted we parked up on (they have a brilliant underground watering system in place) and all amenities were provided if needed. Not too bad for $15 per night. Somebody emailed us a few days ago asking ‘where do we find all these strange places to stay’. A lot is word of mouth from other travellers but there is also a number of websites and travel blogs we follow to find where other travellers are staying and to get their feedback on their stays. It’s all part of the gypsy community.

One of the things we have been battling for the last three days is the unseasonal high temperatures. The daytime temperatures since leaving Port Augusta have been around 40C each day and then only losing about 1 degree per hour once the sun goes down. At midnight temperatures are still around 35C. It is making getting a good nights sleep a little challenging. In saying that it is 3pm in the afternoon as I am writing this and the temperature is 35C – a slightly cooler day today. We are not complaining – its all part of the journey and we have had to learn to deal with it.

Tomorrow we are making our way 270km south to the Murray River. The reason is twofold. The first is that we are catching up with friends who we have not seen since May when we were in Alice Springs. They are currently camping on the River at Horseshoe Bend at Merbein Common. The second is we are hoping that by being on the River temperatures may be lower. That was our experience when we camped by the River in February of this year anyway.

We are not sure if we will have cellphone or data coverage at Merbein Common. If you are trying to contact us please leave a message and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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