Country: Australia by Lisette
Though I have heard many good stories about train travels in Australia, I wouldn’t advise it personally. My only train experience was going and coming back to Broken Hill and it wasn’t too pleasant. Loved the way the train looked and I am sure if you booked a sleeper, you’ll be fine. If you didn’t… I hope you change your mind!
What I would advise is for you to go to Broken Hill if you have the time. The hostel was great to start with, and there is quite a bit to see. And of course I had to go to Broken Hill, as I was a fan of the series “Flying Doctors” that was mostly shot here.
It was low-key, being there in the low season, but it was truly nice after the hustle and bustle of the past few months. The city itself sprawls out even though there are only 20.000 residents. It is not even truly summer, but the dry heat did get to me.
In the middle of the town is the very first silver mine that started the city in 1885! The mine is closed of course and tourists are able to go down to 130 meters. The guide was an ex-miner who worked here for thirty years and he shared many a story (and much jargon!).
The rest of the city shows the diversity of its immigrants with Aboriginal paintings, Afghan mosque built by camel drivers, etc. The views are very nice and there is a huge amount of art to be discovered here with 32 art galleries. Just outside the city is a place where the sunset is gorgeous while you enjoy viewing sculptures made by 12 artists from monoliths.
The artists come here to enjoy the nature and paint landscapes, the old homesteads, animals and people. Two painters have made the place famous, Peter Anderson and Pro Hart. For those that know me well, will understand my preference for Anderson’s paintings. He is mostly known for “The Big Picture” which is a circular painting of 12 meters long with Broken Hill’s landscape. Just smashing!
In an effort to involve young children in the community, murals are painted all over the place. Naturally, I was on a mission to find Aboriginal art and I was pleasantly surprised to see traditional and modern art mixed together; it is quite splendid but unfortunately these explosive colourful paintings are not within my modest budget…
For an impression about Broken Hill, view this slideshow. Some of it is a bit boring (hence my own lack of photography), but it gives you a good idea.
I went on a trip to Silverton, a real ghost town with a population of about ninety folks! The town was alive before the silver was found in Broken Hill and everyone left trying to find their luck 25 kilometers further. It was amazing to see quite a few building renovated and restored, I felt like the car was a time machine placing me back a hundred years ago.
Now then, let me take you to opal-rich White Cliffs, the place to be in New South Wales! Again, a place where people tried to find their luck, though most never found a gemstone. It was quite horrible how people used to live and work; many died of lead poison, contaminated water and lived in dug-outs (literally a place that was dug out in the rocks) or tin huts.
Most of the tour was spent underground, which is where the action takes place in White Cliffs. We spent some time with Jock, an elderly who busies himself with living the dream and bringing history back to life. Couple of years ago, he decided to live here full time, in his dug-out. It is large with a huge amount of items from about 60 years to a century ago. He showed us the places where he was trying his luck until a few years ago. He threw in a refrigerator, a simple cooking plate, an old bathtub and a bed and made this his living space.
Another place we visited was PJ’s Underground B&B, which is quite the opposite of Jock’s dug-out. The owners did an amazing job with cleaning the dug-out, painting the walls white, and enlarging the air shafts for better ventilation and light. It has a homey feel to it with some old fashioned furniture and you can now choose to stay overnight here.
I really enjoyed the outback, but I was also really happy to leave it behind me. It would be interesting to go back and see how I would feel about it some 8 years later. Time seems to make my memories more sweetly!