In and Around Broken Hill

We’re at the Starview Campsite in the outback about 10kms north of Broken Hill. It is tagged as a “primitive campsite” although, in truth, it isn’t really that primitive. It has two flushing toilets en suite with excellent showers, together with a single “portaloo” to supplement the facilities should they be full. One of the toilet/shower rooms also has a baby change facility. If you want to change your baby, apply in writing to the town council.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are 15 pitches and a tent area. What it’s missing is electricity and running fresh water, though there is a rainwater tank which could be used for topping up the van’s flushing water, for example. Neither is there any Wi-fi and any4G signal is sporadic. Daytime temperature is a very pleasant 33°C which drops to 17°C overnight so it isn’t difficult to sleep. Last night was quite comfortable. [That’s Busby II in the bottom righthand corner pitch.]

Francine fancied a poke around Silverton, a former silver mining town about 30 kms north, so after a normal early morning making ready, off we set.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt really is like the wild west and featured heavily in the Mad Max II movie, hence the Mad Max II museum which (happily) was closed. There is a more appealing movie star in the form of the Silverton Hotel, which featured in A Town Like Alice, as well as countless other films where an outback setting was required.

On the same street was the Silverton Bakery advertising pies and coffee so we succumbed to a lamb pie each with a short black coffee to serve as brunch. Very pleasant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere quite a few old VW Beetles littered about – I counted five I think – mostly not defaced like this one. Some call it art. It seems like a 3D version of Jackson Pollack (said the art numbskull]. The artist is actually John Dynon who does very nice but very expensive cartoon-like emus.

The VW outside the Silverton Hotel (above), complete with front-mounted engine obscuring the view through the windscreen, looks related to Mad Max, too (?) and there was another parked in the grounds of a church making me think God might drive one … but then I remembered some of Marc Cohn’s lyrics:

If there’s a God in heaven
He’s got a Silver Thunderbird

Having had our fill of the wild west of Australia, we dawdled back into Broken Hill itself to take in a few art galleries [yawn]. The first was actually quite interesting as it is home to the world’s largest acrylic canvas depicting an outback panorama which measures 100m, arranged in a wraparound fashion a bit like an iMax cinema [not that I’ve ever been in to an iMax cinema, you understand]. It’s housed in its own round room, onto which projects a central viewing platform. The painting is fronted by a diorama of a classic Australian outback filling in the floor space.

Largest Acrylic Painting

Next stop was at the Palace Hotel for a beer, just because it features in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – a movie about three drag queens which everyone should see just for the sheer spectacle of the costumes. Terence Stamp camps it up magnificently as one of the flamers. We love it. I have also seen the stage show but, really, it pales compared to the movie, in my view. The hotel, however, paled compared to most things.

We made our way to a second art gallery which proved to be closed “for some reno” [read “renovation work”]

Miner Memorial 1OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABroken Hill is a town surrounded by vast spoil heaps making it impossible to forget that this is a mining town. Attractive, it isn’t. It is dominated by a heap topped with a memorial housing the names of those miners who lost their lives making someone else rich.

Bells SpidersBroken Hill has an historically famous (?) old milk bar called Bells. I haven’t seen a milk bar for many years but we thought a visit would be a hoot. What we know as floats are called “spiders” here, for some unaccountable reason. Francine ordered a ginger beer spider while I had a green lime spider. Refreshing but a little on the sweet side, just right for a type II diabetic. [What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, there’s no alcohol involved.]

Pro Hart RollerBro-in-Law had told Francine of yet another art gallery: the Pro Hart Gallery. “Pro” was, we were told, a shortened nickname from “Professor” since he was always experimenting. There were two very impressive things: some of his artwork featured very stylized damselflies and there was an impressive collection of four Rolls Royces just outside the main entrance, one of which was painted in the Pro Hart style. Bizarre but delightful. I’ll take this over the “Jackson Pollack” Beetle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABroken Hill SculpturesI bought a Pro Hart damselfly stubby cooler and repaired to the Starview Campsite to try it out before subset dragged us up to a collection of 12 Broken Hill Sculptures. Francine got aan all-encompassing view of the set but by far the most impressive is one with a hole, through which, if you’re lucky, you can get a starburst of the setting sun.

Posted in 2024-01 Australia