A wide open sunburned country

Our next stop would be the Barossa Valley, which was a six hour drive from Broken Hill.

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As we headed south it was all open spaces.

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The pictures above reminded me of Jack Absalom’s paintings.

The Australian land has very distinctive smell,
for me it is the smell of Australia and I love it!

My Country  by Dorothea Mackellar

Words adapted from the poem My Country by Dorothea Mackellar, music by Tony Hatch and Vickie Trent, arranged by David Lawrence. Origin of audio track uncertain.

As we crossed the border from New South Wales in to South Australia we passed a warning sign that there was a quarantine border station 220 km south. Unchecked fruit was not allowed in to the area south of this border, because this area was one of Australia’s main wine producing area, and they were not taking any chances of fruit fly and contamination.

Two and a half hours after reading the quarantine warning all vehicles were stopped at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Ooda Wirra.

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The road was designed so that a vehicle had to pass through this check point. There wasn’t any way of getting through without being checked. The above picture is more of an illustration, because when we arrived the barrier was solid concrete and metal, and we had to zig-zag through to the other side.

As soon as the inspector (very polite and friendly) asked if we had any fruit it dawned on me that I’d forgotten about two bananas in our chiller bag. I exited the car and opened the boot (trunk for the US) and then opened the chiller bags so that the inspector could see all our food as I removed two bananas and gave them to him.

There was a large sign stating that any fruit found would not be allowed to be consumed by the owner – hence the warning 220 km, 175 km and 100 km earlier . . . . . we live and learn as I forfeited this pensioner’s lunch.

I didn’t object to handing over the fruit as we had been warned – several times. When I saw the picture of a bunch of bananas at the quarantine station,  that’s when I remembered about the forbidden fruit in the chiller bag.

All our yesterdays

One leaving the Royal Flying Doctor we had to find a cold drink so we decided to visit Bell’s Milk Bar , which is an icon in Broken Hill, and not far from the airport.

Bell’s goes back to 1893, but is now stuck in the 1950’s.

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Regardless of Bell’s age the drinks were cold and thirst quenching – unfortunately the prices where not those of the 1950’s :-o)

Bell’s

Dancing up a storm

Royal Flying Doctor Service

Broken Hill’s airport is also the Royal Flying Doctor Service  headquarters.

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Entrance to the HQ

On entering we were invited to watch a short film about the service, which included real incidents where sick and injured people were picked up by a flying ‘hospital’ and flown to a major population centres.

It is thanks to the Rev John Flynn who was ordained in 1911 and began to set up centres for the sick and injured in the Australian bush. He had a dream of supporting the bush hospitals, miners, farmers etc with a fast medical service, and in 1928, thanks to a large bequest, he began the what we now know as the Flying Doctor Service. The first aircraft being a single engine fabric bi-plane.

The ‘Royal’ was added in 1955 by the Queen.

The explanation of each exhibit in the museum, and the educational video, brought home how important the service is to anything up to 220,000 people who live in remote areas.

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The above is a picture of ‘where does it hurt’ – the injured person could be hours flying time from the nearest doctor, so over the short wave radio he tries to describe his injuries and ‘where it hurts’ by the number & letter code system.

 At the end of the video the receptionists asked us if we would like a conducted tour of their operation. Of course we agreed, and Larry (one of the operational staff) showed us around and explained how the whole system worked.
We saw that day’s operational team, and up to the minute situations. The Service operates 24 hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. When I realised how large the organisation is, the cost of running such an operation is a question that I had to ask. The total cost is around $360 million dollars a year, split between Federal and State Governments for operational costs, but not for replacement of equipment, including about forty aircraft, which have to be replaced after each aircraft reaches about twenty years of age, or so many thousand of landings. On average the Service has to replace three aircraft a year at a cost of $8 million each.

For these aircraft replacements, and everything else from an office chair to a computer printer, has to come from public donations.

FD hanger

Inside the hanger. (Picture from the RFD web site)

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and outside.

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Concrete landing strips at HQ, but out in the bush it is a dirt landing.
The above picture is from the RFD web site.

Flying Doctor Service

Check the above link for a 90 second piece of film for some real medical items.

Australian TV made a fictional series of the Service in the 1990’s, which became very popular in Germany, UK & Belgium (no idea of  the number of repeats), but donations from the European fan club to help support the Flying Doctor service, is worth about $1 million a year to the Service!
There is also a souvenir shop with a wide range of items for sale, but the best part for me was being shown around the operational centre. The centre was ‘real’ it was not created for the tourists.

A town that grew out of silver.

Our accommodation in Broken Hill was a converted pub that used to be called the Duke of Cornwall

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I’d asked for an upstairs room so that we could use the balcony in the evenings.

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‘You know who’ on the balcony – in the background can be seen the ‘tailing’ or waste products from the old mines.

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Part of the balcony overlooking the main street of Broken Hill.

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We were able to drive to the top of the tailing and view the town below.

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On the top of the tailing is a monument to all the miners who have lost their lives in the mines.

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We walked inside the memorial and found that every miner who had been killed while working a Broken Hill mine is recorded. The deaths start in 1885 and carry on to the early part of this century. The names go on and on

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Of course around Australia we have the Big Banana, Big Prawn, Big Crayfish, and Big Marino sheep to name just a few. Here in Broken Hill they have the BIG SEAT!

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People used to be able to use the seat, but I don’t think the artist intended that it should be used as a real seat, because I couldn’t see any access to reach the seat (steps etc). As you see it is now surrounded by a fence, perhaps to comply with health and safety and make sure a user couldn’t sue the town council if they fell off or through the slats of the seat.

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The city is not busy – Maureen standing in the main street of Broken Hill outside our accommodation.

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A short walk from the ‘Cornwall’ and we came to the town centre. This is all that is left of the original town hall. Behind the façade it is a now a car park, where the remainder of the building used to stand until the 1970’s. It is thanks to the Broken Hill historical society that they managed to save the front aspect of the building.
Fortunately the post office next door is still operating as a post office.

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Not far from the town hall is the Palace Hotel made famous (or should that be more infamous?) after the release of Priscilla Queen of the Desert in 1994. While we were in Broken Hill part of the Palace Hotel was being refurbished.

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In addition to the fame from being involved with the film, the hotel is also famous for the inside murals. We were allowed in this area even though the area was being refurbished.

MuralsEntrance area of the hotel.

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Broken Hill in the evening, taken from our balcony.
A very pleasant area after the heat of the day.

The old tailing of the now worked out mines dominates the town, but the man made hill doesn’t take anything away from the town. I found Broken Hill to be an very interesting place and a restful place compared to Sydney. Life is slower, with a strong link to yesteryear. One day we will return.

Road trip to mines and dust.

The Silver City Highway took us out of Mildura, and we headed north to the home of the largest mining company in the world.

Charles Sturt, the explorer, in 1844 saw, and named, the Barrier Range, and commented in his diary that he had seen a ‘broken hill’, as part of the Range. Later silver ore was found at the ‘broken hill’. The hill is no more due to the silver ore having been mined and mined.
Some called the town ‘Silver City’, others the ‘Oasis in the West’ and yet others called it the ‘Capital of the Outback’, but today is is Broken Hill.
Although Broken Hill is in New South Wales, over 1100 kms (680 miles) west of Sydney, the nearest major town is Adelaide in South Australia, which is more than 500 km (311 miles) south west of Broken Hill.
The average rainfall is 235 mm (9 inches), so it is an ideal place for hosting one of the largest solar powered generating plants in Australia.

Broken Hill is an interesting ‘old Australian’ town, with wide streets, friendly people and plenty of places to visit.
During our road trip last year we (my wife & I) decided to stay in Broken Hill for three nights.

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Wide streets and friendly people.

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Broken Hill is quiet, but not dead.

During our stay we planned to visit Silverton, which is a ‘ghost’ town about twenty five kms from Broken Hill.

On the way to Silverton we decided to visit an old mine called Day Dream Mine. We thought the tour of the mine began at 10.30 am, so planned to arrive just before the start.
The sealed road out of Broken Hill was fine until we came to the turn to take us to the mine, which was about thirteen kms along a dirt road.

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The picture above is of the beginning of our thirteen kilometre drive. We had to go through two or three barred gate accesses. Maybe the gates were to comply with health and safety at night, because there is nothing worth stealing, unless you are big in to dust.

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I was glad that I hadn’t cleaned the car earlier.

DSC03613rEventually we arrived at the mine. A young lady was the only occupant of this ‘office’  (the lady in the picture is my wife, Maureen), and she told us that we had missed the start of the tour by half an hour, but we could join it if we wished. The next tour would be about an hour and a half later.
We declined her offer and just chatted about the mine as she pointed out various items of interest, which were old rusty mine equipment from the 1800’s, and where the old town used to be located. DSC03607r

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The picture shows the remains of the old ‘town’, more like individual houses, built by the miners. The settlement flourished between 1882 and 1889.

We didn’t wait for the next tour and with hindsight we made the right choice. The following day we met a husband and wife, and the husband’s elderly mother.
They were on the mine visit while Maureen and I were in the ‘office’ of the mine. They commented about not having the correct footwear to climb down a steep ladder to the bottom of the mine. The elderly lady was 81, and she was glad when it was all over, but her son and his wife also found it hard going, and they were in their late fifties. Having been down a deep slate mine in North Wales (on a vertical train) we were quite happy to miss the Day Dream Mine – perhaps if we were younger we would feel different.

Our next stop was the ghost town of Silverton.