The Return from Broken Hill

NSW Trainlink Outback rail track March 2016

The REturn from Broekn Hill 2016-03-15 023

Day 9 of our Broken Hill adventure ends as it began. We re-board the Outback Explorer for our trip back to Sydney. This train leaves Sydney at 6.18am on a Monday morning and arrives at Broken Hill at 7.10pm (local time*). Then it turns around the next morning – Tuesday – leaving at 7.45am (local time*) and arriving Sydney at 9.30pm. (* half an hour behind the eastern seaboard).


The REturn from Broekn Hill 2016-03-15 033

Last look at Broken Hill Main Street and CBD from the railway station

We are barely aboard before there is a cheery “Good Morning” loudspeaker announcement from Bernadette in the buffet, who reels off a list of the items available for breakfast and lets us know she is on the run with us as far as Parkes.

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As we trundle down the track, in the distance, there is low cloud and mist hanging over the Barrier Ranges, holding promise for more rain to come. On the drive from our motel to the station, Wayne has told us the deluge we drove through the day before yesterday has given Wilcannia three months of drinking water, a welcome respite from bore water. He told us also of the farmer who was just about to offload his lambs, but has decided to keep them after all.

Trundling further down the track, I spy glints in the red clay on either side, and as we reach them, I see they are small puddles of residual water. The creek beds that we saw on our drive to Menindee several days earlier now have muddy tracks running through them, and the stands of Red River Gums, which hint at the line of watercourses, look refreshed.

It doesn’t need much rain to breathe life back into the existence here.

All the same, as we pass the Menindee Lakes on our right they are still completely dry. They will need flooding further upriver to replenish.

Little by little, we are leaving the red dust and the salt bush of the outback behind. By 10.45 am we are at Ivanhoe, where we have a five minute break to stretch our legs on the platform. By 12.30 pm we are at the unpronounceable Euabalong West, and I eye the farming land and wheat silos. This, and the land we see at Condobolin at 1.15 pm, this is the countryside I thought I knew. I thought this land was the edge of the known world, until I went further west, to the land of the great outback.

They change the team at Parkes. I mean the human team. Not the horses.

By 4 pm we have reached Orange, and we reverse up the track again, until we are switched onto the Western line. We have officially reached civilisation. At least, so far as sharing a rail route is concerned.

At 4.45 pm, definitely once more in civilisation, represented by the platform sign Blayney, we are warned in no uncertain terms, “DO NOT get off the train!“. We are no longer free agents, with all the time in the world to kill. We are no longer the only train on this track. The only train which will come through once a week (that’s an exaggeration – but only a slight one)  Oh no. Au contraire. Blayney is serviced once a day. Every day of the week. And “he who is in charge of timetables“, would take a very dim view of us wandering off to who knows where . . .

Oh my goodness! The onboard staff come through for the dinner menus, and I don’t exactly know what came over us, but Bill and I have discovered the railway meat pies provided by Garlos. Oh, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy! Often-times I am asked as to what is the national dish of Australia, and there isn’t one, not exactly – unless you count lamb in all its varieties – but a meat pie comes close. And, this one is the ‘best of the best‘. It’s probably a million-quintillion calories, and there is absolutely no vegetable content whatsoever in the chunky meat version (in your wildest dreams), but railway food the world over has an abysmal reputation, so what should you expect? Well, the Garlo’s meat pie is not only edible – it is ‘to die for’! And I see they have a store in Los Angeles. And in case you are wondering, that odd sound on their website advertisement is meant to simulate the sound of tomato sauce being squeezed on top, (I think).

And! You can buy wine on-board the train, plus it comes in a gorgeous little bottle complete with a wine glass that doubles as the twist top seal.  I accidentally recorded myself saying, “I’m keeping that. It will be great sometime I want a snifter!” – but I will spare you that experience :-).

We are, by now, well and truly back in the land of rolling, forested, hills:

By 7.15 pm (Sydney time) dusk is falling rapidly.Shortly after the Zig-Zag railway at Lithgow we enter a series of long train tunnels, and within five minutes of exiting them, it is too dark to film.

(You’ve heard those radio plays when they say, “night fell?“.  So they were inspired by the short twilight in Australia. One moment you have “daytime“, and the next it is “night-time“. . . Goodness, I miss those long twilights in all those “Just William” books I read as a child. Set in the English countryside, he was forever being called into high tea consisting of jam, bread and crumpets, then next it was “supper” and, after all that, he was still out flying a kite when it was close on midnight!)

We still have a couple of hours of this train travel to go, back over the Blue Mountains and into the rush of the outer suburbs of Sydney, and before too long, the clutter of station after station of the inner suburbs.

Already I am nostalgic for the wide-open red spaces of the inland.

I am tiring also. After immersing myself in the experience, observing, interpreting and recording, I am starting to run out of puff.

We pull into Sydney Central on time, but our connecting train to home, an hour and half down the South Coast, is only an hourly service, and of course – Murphy’s Law – the previous departure was ten minutes before. It is midnight before we finally put our key in the apartment door.

All is as we left it ten days before . . .

. . . but we have returned different people, enriched by our experience.

Thank you to all who have followed and enjoyed this journey along with us. Thank you also for your comments and encouragement, both on-line and in person. It’s been a lot of fun.

Garrulous Gwendoline 🙂

32 thoughts on “The Return from Broken Hill

  1. Altogether then reads like a trip well worth it. You should suggest to the Australian Tourist Board that they add a couple of links to one or two of your posts. You’ve certainly made the travelling sound interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did let the Broken Hill Tourist Office know twice, but no response. I might follow up with another authority if I get a chance. Or I could try pitching stories to magazines. Never enough hours in the day. I am in the recording studio this week, laying down my memoir as an audio book. It will come out around August/September.


      • Yes, sorry, I thought I might be stating the obvious.
        Wow – audiobook, fabulous. You must send me all the details as I listen to a lot of audio via our library. In the past I have recommended/requested they consider purchasing certain audiobooks for their collection and I have had some success. I’m not sure what their criteria is, but I’ll definitely try to get them to buy yours. I’ve noticed recently they’ve started stocking audiobooks by ‘Bolinda’ and I’ve listened to some great Australian readings!!


        • It is Bolinda who is behind this recording. They have shown great faith to offer me the role of narrator as well. I did one day’s recording this week, and will be back in the studio three days straight next week. I think the final product will be ready around August. I will certainly keep you updated. It would be great to get a listing in at least one English library. Thanks for thinking of me. How does the Aussie accent translate for you? Too many flat vowels? 🙂


          • The best, best thing about readers is when they have their own voice especially with their natural accent. I can only speak for myself, but I often choose to listen to voices from all over the English speaking world to bring genuine variety. I’ve found the Bolinda recordings I’ve listened to so far to be excellent. I really, really hope I can get our library to buy your audiobook. I’m not sure how they select purchases, but I’m certainly going to try and persuade them. I’m sure the Bolinda people have given you some reading tips. Don’t feel you need to speak quickly, my favourite readers take their time and entice you into their world. Good luck with the rest of the recording.


          • Just home from day 2. Backing up again tomorrow. You are right about the speed. I think I did get a bit fast today, but it was a very emotional piece, so I think it will be all right. We will review it when we get to the end. I definitely have it top of mind for tomorrow. Another challenge is getting into the exact microphone permission after each break. A challenge, but very enjoyable!


          • The last five years have been a wonderful journey of new experiences. I truly feel as if I have re-invented myself. It would be great if someone heard my voice and wanted me for another piece. Who knows! Just back from another day, and off again tomorrow. Today, the fellow doing the recording did have to coach me on inflection a couple of times. We are about 75% done. At the stage where I would like to go back and start all over again 🙂 But we can be so self-critical!


          • I think it’s great. And, of course, with you reading it instead of an actor it will have a genuine authentic quality as after all it is your story. All the best for the last 25%.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I just received my news-reading script for Monday for the IRT Good Life programme. Suddenly I was struck by the huge difference between the two reading styles. For the news, the auto-cue will be rolling at a steady rate, and I have to read off streams of text all at the same rate – fast –
            and yet make it sound interesting, with slight inflections here and there.
            Very, very, very different to narrating a book! I am not practiced enough yet at narrating one line while reading two lines ahead, so the expression for the book didn’t always convey the way I meant it. On the other hand, the playback sounded different to the way it sounded in my ears. And there were a few passages where I just gave complete rein to my emotions, and the guy recording it let the tape roll. I wanted to re-record them, but he persuaded me out it. I didn’t know I still retained so much residual anger. It was such a different experience from actually writing the book. I am still a little dazed.


          • I don’t think it’s surprising you’ve been caught out by your emotions and anger when reading aloud for a recording. Narrating with feeling to make it sound engaging is more like acting than news-reading. You were probably rising to the occasion and perhaps that was the trigger to let go. It’s your story and I think most people would expect there to be a natural tension in your voice when reading difficult passages. Reading for a recording is a public show, but writing, even if you know it will eventually be read by others, is in its practice a private, solitary affair.
            It all sounds thrilling and I really hope that I can get to hear it. I was in my local library today and noticed quite a few new Bolinda recordings so I’m very hopeful on that front.
            Hope you can now have some quiet down time to recover from all this excitement and stress!! 😁


          • That is very much what I experienced, even if I did read passages aloud in the privacy of my study – it was nothing like delivering a “performance”. I am recording another IRT Good Life on Monday, and then Wednesday we are off on the next trip. Three nights in a train crossing the country. I may sleep the whole way 🙂


    • It’s been a lot of fun. And so heart warming to have people such as yourself along for the ride. Now I have a few random posts with pics that I hope to post if I get the chance, and then . . . it is the big trip, crossing our continent by rail.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Gwen – well u have convinced us to do trip!!!thanks for the inspiration!!!

    Your blogs have been fantastic! Thx for sharing it all!


  3. I kind of lived the life of ‘Just William’ the long summer evenings were a boys best friend, we were allowed to stay out late (10 pm or thereabouts) even on school days the only time we weren’t was during the war for some reason or other.

    You paid for it in winter; it was getting dark around 5,


    • Lucky you! In summer at least. I well remember being in Leeds as winter approached, and the street lights coming on at 3pm. But remind me . . . . wasn’t William really just a VERY NAUGHTY BOY? I just had a dig through the cupboard to see if I still have those books, no luck. Only Biggles and Tom Brown’s School Days.


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