Snap Shot 93 – Broken Down in Broken Hill

So here’s the thing – I initially wasn’t planning on going to Broken Hill. Once Perth and then Victoria were eliminated as summer holiday options, thanks to Sydney’s Christmas Covid Cluster, I decided to head west to White Cliffs. When I looked at the map and realised it wasn’t nearly as close to Broken Hill as I had thought, I figured I’d give the mining town a miss. But stopping by for lunch with friends in the Blue Mountains, they spoke fondly of their visit a few years earlier. So I figured what the hell – may as well check it out. The drive from White Cliffs was enjoyable and scenic with emus, goats and cattle crossing the road. Entering Broken Hill, I was surprised to see the huge hill of rocky rubbish that runs the length of the town. I learned later that this is the called the ‘mullock heap’. I knew this was a mining town but I didn’t realise the mine was actually in town. On top of the heap are two weird looking space age structures – very out of place compared to the rest of the town’s classical 19th century buildings.

Broken Hill’s Mullock Heap
Barrier Social Democratic Club

It was around two. I figured I’d get some food and then head about 30 kms north to Silverton, which I had been told in White Cliffs was worth checking out. I’d then return to Broken Hill, spend the night, then head to Menidee Lakes the next day. Or at least that was the plan. It was while I was struggling to eat a way too sweet mie goreng at the Barrier Social Democratic Club (great name – crap food) that it happened. Hail storm. With buckets and buckets of water. The locals rushed to the windows, excited to see such a deluge in what is usually a very dry place. I was just happy to be inside and not on the road. After I picked out what was edible from my plate of sugar noodles, I returned to the car. It was raining slightly but the worst of it had passed. Or so I thought. Suddenly the sequel was unleashed. Hail battered my wind screen, the sound deafening. I managed to pull over next to a modest tree which provided little protection. I decided to drive up onto the footpath and under an awning, figuring I was unlikely to encounter any pedestrians. When the worst of it had past, I decided it was time to find a motel. As I drove, I was shocked to see rivers of red water gushing alongside raised gutters. As dry as Broken Hill can be, it seems that they’re prepared for this type of deluge. Even so, entire streets were flooded and I turned around, avoiding them. I now regret not videoing any of this as it was really like nothing I’d ever seen. But my focus was elsewhere. Spotting a petrol station that I wished I’d seen earlier, I figured this was a good place to get some shelter in case act three of ‘The Hail Storm from Hell’ was about to commence. Bad move. Turning into the driveway, there was suddenly a loud ‘BANG’ as my Subaru lurched and swerved. What the? I continued into the entrance, dreading what sort of damage I was about to see. I got out and was relieved that, apart from the front corner being knocked loose, there was no dent. Then I saw the flat tyre. Bugger. Still, if you’re going to get a flat on a road trip, a petrol station is a pretty good place to do it. With a bit of fumbling, I managed to put on the spare, with its yellow hub and warning that it wasn’t to be driven beyond 80 kph. Although it was still well before five on a Saturday afternoon, I was informed that the town’s only tyre shop was closed and would remain so until Monday. Bugger. Stuck here for twice as long as I had planned. Oh well. Decided to make the best of it. Rocked up to the Day Dream Motel and did some laundry. Then wandered around town and discovered that not only was much of it shut but it was going to stay that way, in some cases, until February. It seems that when summer hits, much of Broken Hill pisses off, never imagining that Covid closed borders would usher in desperate tourists. Still, the architecture was interesting. This is something I especially appreciated the next day, taking lots of photos of a town in various states of sun damaged decay. Then there was the art – on the walls and in the main gallery. I even bought something – an extraordinary desert mosiac constructed entirely from glass. It’s to be shipped to me once the exhibition closes next month.

My new favourite piece of art

So by Monday morning, I had pretty much been won over by Broken Hill’s charms. Then I went to Good Year to get my tyres and finally hit the road to Silverton. Or so I thought. Turned out my tyre couldn’t be fixed. And I had another one that looked dodgy. So two new tyres were required. Which they didn’t have in stock. Would take a couple of days to get delivered. Bugger. Oh well. Would still do Silverton and Menidee and get them on the way back. I got in my car and… the battery died. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Still, once again, if your battery is going to die while on a road trip, the parking lot of somewhere that actually sells batteries is a pretty decent spot. It seems that once again, I was lucky in where I got unlucky. Except that they didn’t have the battery I needed. Of course. But at least they were able to source it in town and, a couple of hours later, I was finally back on the road towards Silverton, being very careful not to exceed 80 kph. Getting another flat, with no spare, would not be good. Even at a petrol station.

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