Drive Around The World (Australia)

One family, one car, one year, one planet

Day 3, 4 and 5 – Swan Hill – Gol Gol – Broken Hill – Port Augusta

9-11 April 2008

Soundtrack: Drive By – The Necks

The drive from Swan Hill to Gol Gol, near Mildura, took in the obligatory vineyards and orchards and hugged the once mighty Murray River. We know that the water here does not end up making it to the sea in South Australia because of the drought, and overuse by irrigators. Nevertheless, the countryside is picturesque, and the roads pretty good.

Gol Gol was our first camping experience this trip, as we had decided on a cabin at Swan Hill to allow Sandy to recuperate from her cold, and it went well. We are seasoned campers, but there are always the niggling thoughts at the back of your mind that you’ve forgotten something. Not tonight, though; barbequed fish with vegies, the tent went up with ease and, it turned out, our new self-inflating mattresses were rather comfortable.

After setting up camp we trundled into Mildura, had a beer at the brewery that once was the magnificent art deco Astor Theatre (reminding us of home) and wandered around town. A bit of a walk along the river and to one of the lochs, and it was home to bed.

The legendary mining town of Broken Hill in New South Wales, was a revelation. Typical of many boomtowns, the streets are wide, the old buildings grand and imposing, and the pubs plentiful – all built on the profits from extracting silver, lead and zinc. The soil we now tread now has a definite dark red tinge to it, which makes the clear blue skies that much more impressive, and indicates our journey into central Australia. Reminds me of a big silver bus with a large stiletto strapped to the roof. I don’t think we brought any Abba with us…

Mining is ever-present here, regardless of your connection to it. The town is surrounded by mine towers and the imposing mullock hill, courtesy of BHP – the guts of the earth exposed for all to see – on top of which a relatively new restaurant has been built, next to a memorial to – and descriptions of – miners who died in active duty. I can’t imagine what it would be like to succumb to lead poisoning, falling down a shaft, lung disease or being caught in machinery.

The town has somewhat of an eerie feeling to it, with the knowledge of past glories and a fair degree of carnage underground. We wandered around the beautiful Broken Hill Art Gallery and saw their travelling and permanent shows, and visited White’s Mining Museum – a fun and wacky tribute to the mining history of the town, run by Kevin White and his partner at their home. Kevin has converted his backyard into what looks like a mine and, with 26 years experience underground, he speaks of mining with an almost religious fervour.

Everything\'s big in Broken Hill And we were told our truck was big...

Missing from many of the official and some unofficial representations of the area is the recognition that not only were Aboriginal people displaced and persecuted by Europeans in the search for financial wealth, but were systematically excluded from participating in this new community and economy.

We are now paying way over the city odds for fuel, with diesel now at about $1.80 per litre. That was to be expected, and we made full use of it for the magnificent drive to Port Augusta, South Australia, along the Barrier Highway. Sweeping through the harsh landscape of outback NSW, we made it to the beautiful Flinders Ranges at dusk, only to be held up by an over-anxious driver in a new Subaru Forester who braked at every curve and kept studiously at 10 km/h under the speed limit. We finally lost them on a sweeping right-hander and got into Port Augusta, at the top of the Spencer Gulf, as the sun set.

We had not planned on any particular accommodation, and it was too late and dark to start investigating campsites. So, we thought we’d try our luck with a local pub. We’ve had some great experiences in staying at The Royal / Imperial / Exchange / Commercial / Criterion / Station / Terminus (insert standard Australian pub name here) in the past – the Federal Palace in Richmond, Queensland springs to mind – but unfortunately the three pubs in Port Augusta either didn’t accept lodgers, or had what would most likely be a seriously dodgy cover-band playing directly below the rooms.

We ended up at what the children now refer to as ‘fancy-pants’ accommodation; a relatively new self-contained unit with all mod-cons that Raffy discovered and roll-called even before we had the opportunity to unloaded a couple of bags. It ended up a bit of a blessing as we seriously needed to do a clothes wash, and it had the facilities in the unit. Dinner was at the obligatory Chinese restaurant (the waiters were impressed when the children asked for chopsticks) and in the morning we walked along the old port.

We turned north and headed into the Outback along the Stuart Highway, which would be our companion all the way to Darwin. This was important for us, as we had never seen this part of the country, even though we had circumnavigated it in the past, and even though it makes up so much of our collective Australian psyche. We were all set for out biggest drive so far – about 530km.


1 Comment»

  katebrenna wrote @

HI everyone,

Good blogging there. We were pleased to read about your adventures so far. Although who needs technology when we have friends here in Melbourne (Richard and Emma) who we bump into at Malvern Central and who tell us where you are up to in the journey!

You should be in Katherine by now.. We loved the Gorge at Katherine and have some wonderful Gorge photos as screen savers on the computers. Enjoy!

We open SKYPE every evening in the hope of calling you, but you are not online (so the message says). Maybe in Darwin??

Brenna is home today as it is a strike day at school. She wants you to know that the Harry Potter movies have been on each Saturday night and she has been watching them avidly.

Bye for now

Kate and Brenna

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