Today was our first full day in Broken Hill. We were all tired after our trek from Renmark the previous day with a few stops along. Venturing into Broken Hill brought a landscape change from desert to small oasis. The city has many trees planted but the surrounding areas are old mines and mostly barren land. While the city is about 20,000 the population has slowly declined over the years but hopes to make a comeback with a new mine being commissioned in the coming years after a large ore reserve found south of town.
Our accommodations included staying at the Tourist Lodge along the main drag in Broken Hill. We woke up to our usual breakfast of toast, cereal, and coffee and ventured out.
The Living Desert Reserve
After our breakfast we headed to “The Living Desert Reserve” just outside of town. This area was 2400 ha in the Barrier Ranges established in 1992. It is the 18th state park and its purpose is to protect the endemic native flora and fauna. The area features the Sculpture Symposium completed in 1993. At the site, 12 sandstone sculptures overlook the park, each one hand crafted by an artist from different areas of the world and directed by Lawrence Beck.
After the Sculpture Symposium we took a quick walk through the rocky topography from atop the hill down to the picnic area. The 15-45 minute hike depending on the pace weaved down the hill through harsh terrain. Giant rocks jutted out of the ground and many people took advantage climbing and exploring the region. A broad range of creatures and plants blanked the floor including several varieties of flowers along with a baby Kangaroo a few insects and some spiders.
After lunch around 1:00 we took our adventure to a small rural town of Silverton about 25 km northwest of Broken Hill. The town use to consist of several thousand miners but has since been decimated to a small population of only a few hundred. Run mostly on tourism, Silverton hosted several art galleries and museums. Interestingly, Silverton is a small film town with a few popular movies filmed there. Mad Max 2 starring Mel Gibson was filmed on site and coming in January 2012 Mad Max 4 will be filmed in the region too.
Daydream Mine Tour
Come 2:50 we find ourselves onto our next adventure the Daydream Mine Tour. Our tour started at 3:00 but the road leading to the mine was surprisingly long about 20 km trek over rough bumping dirt roads. Established in 1883 as silver mine it was commissioned for about 100 years before its close.
While at the mine we learned about the plant life and the reason they were planted there. Most of the plant species are not native to the area but brought in by the miners mostly to smoke in their pipes. Our tour guide, Jason, an interesting bloke from Broken Hill, took us deep into the mine. With headlamps on our hard hats and connected to a 12-volt battery around our waists we plunged deeper into the mine, the shafts became smaller and darker and our oxygen supply thinned. After 20 minutes or so we settled at a depth of about 100 feet below the surface. Here we learned about how the miners harsh work conditions affected their lives and how they hulled each rock by hand at only a few cents an hour.
Our ascent to the surface was slow to help us adapt to the increase in oxygen supply. Without the slow ascent people would have experienced a light-headed feeling, luckily no one did.
Our first day in Broken Hill proved to be one of them most challenging experiences we’ve had to date. Broken Hill and the surrounding areas are closely related to the mining industry and the lifeline of the town is still mining. While the town has since diversified in its industry to tourism and film making the roots go way back to the days of mining and the evidence is very apparent. It should come to no surprise the hard work miners had to endure just to make a living and the strain it put on them and their families. Much admiration is deserved as they were the backbone that made this small town in the outback.
By: Daniel Morgan