Driving into the city there’s the animals – emus, kangaroos, wild brumbies and even camels. Not to mention the sheep and cattle that seem to find food from nothing.
The first thing I noticed about Broken Hill itself is the mine. It is, literally, right in the middle of town, with the main street only a few metres away. The huge pile of slag and diggings towers high above the town and can be seen from everywhere. It’s a stark reminder that this is a mining town first and foremost.
Second was the size. After stopping at towns of less than 1,000 people along the way, Broken Hill came as a bit of a shock. It seems huge. With a population of around 19,000 it is a lot larger than most other places out here. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to not having people around, and we drove straight through to Silverton to camp in the bush.
Then there’s the creativity. I knew there were art galleries in Broken Hill but was surprised by just how many, and how good some of the art is. Of course, there’s lots of what I think of as “Australiana” – the type of art I think people out here think city people think is outback. You know the stuff – stick figures or silhouettes in orange and purple landscapes, chasing or being chased by emus, with ubiquitous outback dunnies or woolsheds. Pro Hart has a lot to answer for, though his gallery is amazing. I found a painting that I’d love – one of the canon painting series. It’s on the second floor of the gallery and it’s brilliant – bright, exciting, out there. If anybody wants to buy me a birthday present, that would do nicely.
There’s also music, with a musicians’ club (although it was very like a standard RSL), and live music in most of the pubs as well as Opera in the Outback (June Bronhill is from Broken Hill). There is more live music in pubs here than there is in Sydney.
As well as culture with a capital “C”, there’s kultcha with a capital “K”. Silverton, just outside Broken Hill is where Mad Max was filmed. It’s also full of history, with old sandstone buildings and new artists and galleries.
And of course, the people. Locals, tourists, backpackers, transients, miners, transvestites (it is Priscilla territory after all) all mixing it up and living happily together. There might be problems, but it struck me as being a particularly friendly, accepting town. Everybody talked to us and everybody told us where to go (in the nicest possible way) and what to do.
And fabulous wines and food everywhere!
We had a ball. Thank you Broken Hill, we’ll definitely be back. But right now, it’s off to Menindee Lakes and camping by the Darling River.