Travelling east from Flinders Ranges in South Australia to Broken Hill in New South Wales involves a long, monotonous drive with few distractions. I love the big outback sky and the low rugged scrub but 469 kilometres of straight road can drive one a little bonkers. I found two things that caught my eye along the way. This sign amused me. As we waited for the light to change, I envisaged strange scenarios of what might happen if it didn’t.
The other highlight was the drive towards the small settlement of Cockburn. The idea of having a beer in the Cockburn pub was very appealing, which lead to a lengthy discussion about strange English spelling contractions and how the ‘cock’ part of this name can miraculously blur into ‘co’. Try telling this to the average rooster, or adolescent male.
We arrived in Cockburn only to discover that the pub had chosen to call itself the Coburn pub. Hugely disappointed, we drove on.
On entering the outskirts of Broken Hill, we noticed mobs of feral goats grazing along the roadside and nearby bush. It is interesting to see that in the Flinders Ranges, 100,000 goats have been ‘removed’ over the last 15 years by pastoralists, park rangers and volunteers working together to remove this pest. Perhaps a roundup is needed here too.
Postcard from Mr Tranquillo
Arriving in Broken Hill from South Australia is a visual jolt after driving through seemingly endless kilometres of arid country. It was a monumental feat to build a city in such a hostile and dusty environment.
Broken Hill has bold Victorian architecture, flamboyantly celebrating its wealthy heyday, like the gold rush-era towns and cities of Victoria. In the back streets, corrugated iron miners’ cottages predicted the modern Australian love for building homes in this material by a century or more.
The city celebrates its working and mining history, claiming credit for the introduction of the 35 hour working week in 1920 after a protracted strike, and proudly displays its view of the importance of egalitarianism.
To a casual visitor the landscape around Broken Hill may seem like just another desert vista, in hues of grey blue saltbush, coloured earth, and big skies, flattish, with a smattering of low hills. However, the city and surrounds have inspired artists, with about 25 art galleries in Broken Hill and nearby Silverton, the latter almost a ghost town. Film-makers have been similarly attracted, with Wake in Fright, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and Mad Max films as well-known examples.
Broken Hill’s destiny is changing, as a reflection of the winding down of mining. The population has fallen to about 20,000, and numerous old pubs, having lost their miner clientele, have been converted to other uses.
Will tourism and the arts sustain Broken Hill?