What an experience we have had with our nine-day trip to Broken Hill!
Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I will make the time to share the best of our stories, photos and videos from this amazing outback city.
For the moment, though, a little background information may assist my international followers to orient themselves:
Broken Hill is the most westerly city in the state of New South Wales. It is around 1150km (715m) from the state capital, Sydney, unless you are an energetic crow, in which case you may fly in the straight line for which they are reputed, and thus reduce the trip to a mere 935km or 581 miles.
In terms of regional boundaries, Broken Hill lies within the Far Western area – although most people simply refer to it as part of the “outback”. For their part, Broken Hill residents have their own classification system. Class A – for those born and bred there; Class B – married into Class A or long time settlers, and everyone else is Class C – or simply, “away people“.
It sits very close to the South Australian border, and is “only” 500km from the SA capital of Adelaide. Consequently Broken Hill, and nearby Silverton, operate on Central Standard Time (CST) which is half an hour behind the rest of New South Wales.
From Sydney, the fastest way to get to Broken Hill is to fly in the Saab 340 twin-engine turboprop propeller 36 seater operated by Rex Regional Airlines. Two flights a day, one direct, and one via Dubbo, and both are expensive options.
The most flexible method is to drive yourself, on mostly long, straight, sealed roads, with a gradually changing scenery and whatever music you have loaded up to keep you company. It’s customary to acknowledge other drivers along the way. How you do that is up to you: an enthusiastic wave, a “queenly” twist of the wrist – both work – but even lifting a lazy finger off the steering wheel will suffice.
Then there is the state-owned NSW Trainlink service which leaves Sydney on a Monday morning and arrives back there on a Tuesday evening. And, for this, our first visit to Broken Hill, what else would we choose but “The Outback Xplorer“?
And also for the edification of my international followers, here is an extremely truncated and not terribly reliable potted history:
The affectionate name for Broken Hill is the Silver City, for the very obvious reason that its roots lie in mining of that metal, plus ore and zinc. Its European history begins with Captain Charles Napier Sturt (1795 – 1869) who in 1844 had the brilliant idea to go looking for a great inland sea. He had already established that the path of several western flowing rivers all ended up in the Murray River and ultimately entered the sea in the Coorong in South Australia – a point which is still critical today and will be mentioned in many future posts. If you saw the 1976 Australian film Storm Boy you will be familiar with that area.
Anyway, no inland sea. In fact, a lot of desert PLUS a mountain range around Broken Hill which so got in his way that he named them the Barrier Ranges. He also noted the odd “broken” shape of one of the hills. (I love this knack of English explorers for naming things according to the “school of the bleeding obvious”).
Within twenty years, pastoralists were moving into the area, displacing 40,000 years of the local Aboriginal people, the Wiljakali and their neighbours the Barkindji . One of the stations which sprang up was Mt Gipps, owned by George McCulloch. He employed a boundary rider named George Rasp, who, one day in 1883, was out doing his job when his horse kicked up a stone that he took to be tin. Long story short, it turned out that he had found the largest known silver-lead-zinc deposit in the world.
By the end of 1885 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) was floated on the stock exchange. Over the decades it expanded to steel making, wartime aircraft, ship building, as well as mining and smelting operations further afield, but it actually closed the ‘Big Mine’ at Broken Hill in 1940, effectively cutting its ties with the town. In 2001 it merged with Billiton (a Dutch Indonesian company with similar history) to become BHP Billiton.
BHP was not the only mining company even in the early days. All the same, many people still associate Broken Hill with them, even though others such as Pasminco and Perilya have since followed.
Broken Hill is also famous for its artists!
And as the site of several film sets, such as Mad Max II and Priscilla Queen of the Desert – which in turn is spurring a local festival known as BROKEN HEEL.
I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride, starting with our 2016 Monday 7th March 6am departure from Sydney Central Station on The Outback Xplorer.
All aboard! 🙂