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53. Australian Road Trip: Adelaide and Broken Hill
The ordered grids that make up Adelaide city centre. Despite our situation, we find the city unusual, surprising and worth another visit, but when?
City Of Light
Adelaide is an attractive city. Unfortunately, there is not much more I can say about it based on our visit. We have trouble finding a cheap hotel but end up in an adequate hostel in a trendy suburb within the inner city grid. Despite Sheila suffering from a mystery illness we manage to take a scenic drive around the city and in the evening, while Sheila goes to bed early to recover, I wander off in search of a decent nearby pub. I find one; and not just a pub, but one with a live, Irish-type band playing. Though I am on my own, I end up having a good night, scoffing beers and tapping my foot to jigs and reels and some good old folky songs. Sadly, Sheila spends most of the following day in bed and what with the weather being a bit rubbish, and us both suffering from roadtrip burnout, our overall Adeliade experience falls way short of expectations – not to say that Adelaide isn’t a very attractive and elegant city.
Adelaide could be considered the Gateway to Central Australia - head north for Cooper Pedy, Alice Springs and Darwin
There is party in the hostel that night, held on the balcony overlooking the high street. It is really cold but nevertheless 20 or so people hang out on the verandah for several hours, I am one of them. I even get to meet a few local Adelaidians, if that is what they are called, amongst the foreign travellers who are staying at the hostel.
There’s something about Adelaide that I can’t put my finger on. It is a peaceful, calm sort of place - elegant architecture, nice orderly street layout – all reflecting the fact that the city was founded by a free settler, for free settlers. No low class convict stain for this metropolis. No, it is pure, and clean and good, just like its founder Colonel Light. There is none of the anarchic urban chaos or brash flashiness that Sydney is built on, but then I am a Sydney boy who knows there is no place quite like home. Speaking of which, we are now desperate to wrap up this journey.
The road to the Silver City
On the Road - again
The next morning we are on the road again for what I consider the final leg. We decide to head north to the outback city of Broken Hill. We don’t need to follow the coast anymore – we have already driven the Great Ocean Road and the south east coastal corner during our spring trip to Melbourne and Tassie. Also, I have never been to Broken Hill, the “Silver City”, and it is probably the quickest route back to Sydney.
North of Adelaide, the ordered European agricultural landscape gradually breaks down. The road passes through high country then emerges onto a flat desert plateau reminiscent of many outback regions that we have already travelled through over the past 5 months. We leave behind picturesque villages and gentle countryside and in the afternoon we pass through derelict ghost towns, abandonded roadhouses and vast plains tamed by fences of rusted barbed wire.
The Silver City
We arrive in Broken Hill in the late afternoon and head straight for the tourist centre, a big modern facility that reflects the confidence and importance of this big desert town. Not only is Broken Hill home to the world’s largest mining company, BHP, it is now regarded as the artistic capital of rural Australia. There is a school of artists that have grown up out here, “beyond the black stump”; artists who have captured the spirit and the sense of the region in their amazing painting, sculptures and artworks. The artists are collectively know as “The Brushmen of the Bush”, and include amongst their number such names as Pro Hart, Jack Absolam and Eric Minchin. Broken Hill is a hard man’s mining town with elegant and grand Victorian architecture and an inordinate number of art galleries. There are colourful murals everywhere and a fabulous regional gallery in the old corn exchange.
A bit about Broken Hill Properties
Get Dystopian - Mad Max Trilogy
We rent a cottage for two nights. It is brass monkey weather once the sun goes down and after a few beers in a cosy local pub we hunker down to a home cooked meal and some TV in front of the gas fire. The next day we drive to the populated ghost-town of Silverton, a few dozen kilometres out in the desert. This is where the film Mad Max 2 was made. It’s a scattered collection of old stone buildings and tin sheds. There are several art galleries and a bric-a-brac house and junk yard that contains some of the Mad Max sets and props. There is a view too, from the crest of a nearby hill. The view looks west over a flat red desert. It is so flat and so vast that you can see the curvature of the earth, truly a fitting last glimpse of the huge landmass that we have almost circumnavigated. There are 1100 kilometres left to go.