I need not pretend of our exhaustion after travelling in the heat. Days where it was almost too hot to think let alone drive yet I loved the outback.
Though the heat was demanding and equally suffocating and the flies drove me mad, the outback is a place unrivalled in its dramatic energy and remote magnificence. Dusk would see the big sky fill with colour. Pink’s and gold’s, shades not imaginable, would fade away to a huge rising moon followed by a night sky filled with a million tiny stars. Morning would come again with a sun which seemed to explode with heat and light.
Droughts in Australia are merciless. Even the feral animals, those introduced who normally thrived in harsh conditions, were dying off in these dust bowls. I lost count of the number of sun bleached bones and skeletal remains I saw…….
Broken Hill was a welcome oasis. A remote desert frontier somehow rougher and smudgier than most large tourist-friendly towns, caked with dust and baking away in the heat. And then there’s that soil. That rich burnt ochre which surrounds the town. A colour so vivid you could not dream up a better backdrop if you tried.
We stayed at the aptly named Oasis Motor Inn. A passé little place – neat, quiet, well located and scrupulously clean. I highly recommend it. Once settled, we grabbed a couple of beers and headed for the pool which was absolute bliss!
Good pool soak done and dust washed from our throats, we headed on a short walk to the town centre in search of number one on my list of ‘top five fabo things to see in Broken Hill’ – The Palace Hotel.
There are a number of remarkable and beautiful buildings in Broken Hill yet this is the most famous with its cast iron balustrades and gloriously kitschy and stunning interior of colourful murals. It also featured in the wonderfully iconic Australian movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Famished, we headed to the dining room for a meal largely held in silence. We had argued during our walk. Some vague, tepid argument which had been quietly simmering away of something I had held to weeks before leaving Newcastle.
The character of the hotel and the murals are fabulous yet the food was disappointing. Nothing was ‘house-made’ and all in all, the dining experience was somewhat lack-lustre. Thing is, I could have eaten there every night if only to sit amongst the painted murals, old furniture and the clatter of other peoples conversations.
We healed our spat over processed desserts then headed to the Sidebar. Sunday nights are good in Broken Hill as most tourists have disappeared for the night or simply moved on. There were only two other people in the bar so the cocktails, a Japanese Slipper so green and quaint it made me smile, and the Martinis were all well made.
Navigating the quiet streets, we wandered back to the motel. There was little left of the days fatigue and my spirits were lighter and somewhat lifted due to that remarkable hotels interior. The next day we headed out to Silverton.
Set amongst hot, wind-rippled sand and dust, Silverton, with its one pub and population of less than 40 people – it once boasted a population of 3,000 people – is a quirky little dot on the map. This is also another location of more iconic Australian movies.
The Silverton Hotel is one of Australia’s most filmed and photographed pubs. A great place to find a cold beer, good food and to browse the film history of the area.
On the outskirts of Silverton is an historic cemetery, a raw and harsh reminder of how life was lived in the early days of settlement. Under a brutish sun we padded about in respectful silence. Hot glittering sand filled my sandals and my feet were pricked by bone dry spines and thorns yet it mattered little just to be in this most remarkable of places.
Three nights in Broken Hill was enough for me to explore, wander and to understand why we cling, with such sentimentality, to some things and not others. I guess in the long run, most things will be okay and for me, it was all going to be okay.
There was no pressure to move on but South Australia awaited………x
Footnote: Quote in title from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Felicia – “Oh, you can’t do that with a ping pong ball?!”
Bernadette – “Do you wanna bet”
‘Ping pong ball reaction’ – image courtesy RockyMusic.org