The outback journey…

The “Outback” what images that word conjures up for me. Images of a big, vast, empty landscape, stretching endlessly to the horizon. Devastated by drought, dry and dusty, the pitiless sun beating down from a cloudless blue sky.

I wonder will this be the reality.

In a hire car we leave Adelaide heading for Broken Hill. One of Australia’s most isolated cities. It is over 500 kilometres away, a 6 hour drive according to Google. So we decide to make it a 3 day journey. Day one saunter, stopping and starting,  400 kilometres to Mildura, a pleasant regional city on the banks of the mighty Murray river. Stay overnight, spend the next day exploring Mildura (more in another post) Then the final 200 kilometres to Broken Hill. This city is unique as it is the only city to be included in the National Heritage List. There is so much to see and do here that it will also be another post.

So first this is the road trip to get there… Broken Hill road trip 125_5184x3888Some people call this scenery boring, monotonous, uninteresting as they race along cocooned in the isolation of their cars. To them the journey is just about the destination. They do not stop to absorb the silence and beauty of a vast and ancient land. To notice the changing colours and wonder at plants that manage to survive these harsh conditions. But to us it is the journey, the experience. So we stop often, get out of the car and walk over the land, marvelling how some scrubby plants hang on to life. Our artists eyes take in the contrasting colours of sky and the rusty-red of the land .

Broken Hill road trip 124_5184x3888Amazed to see flowers along the edge of the road. Broken Hill road trip 116_5184x3888Broken Hill road trip 115_3888x5184So pretty and delicate looking.

The land is very flat and far in the distance a line of trees dance and shimmer in what appears to be water.Broken Hill road trip 129_5184x3888I think of the early explorers trudging day after day across this land. No road to guide them. How excited they would’ve been to see this, but imagine the disappointment as the reality became a mirage, a trick of the light. But the trees are real. We stop at this bridge made to span a wide river.broken hill jc 070_4000x3000

Broken Hill road trip 150_5184x3888

Ancient gum trees stand testimony to the fact that a long time ago there has been storms and torrential rain to fill this river bed. But it is a long time since there has been rain here. The ground is parched and cracked. This area is in the grip of a 7 year drought. Many saying this is the worst drought in living memory.

broken hill jc 082_4000x3000And signs of how harsh and difficult it is to survive in this environment are scattered around. Broken Hill road trip 138_5184x3888Just as I’m wondering about a toilet stop a Roadhouse appears. What a lonely life it would be for the young woman behind the counter.

A welcome stop and a cup of coffee. A sign says it is $1 to use the toilet if you are not a customer. Across the road movement catches my eye, 3 goats are difficult to see as they blend into the sandy soil, the camera goes into action. Broken Hill road trip 112_4907x3419Goats are the main live creatures we see along the road. We see only 3 live kangaroos along the journey. But dead kangaroos and wallabies are scattered about. Not as many as I expected, but I was later told that a meat truck patrols the road every day throwing them off the road. The days recent road kill is surrounded by healthy, well fed crows and the occasional eagle. As we approach they disdainfully flap a few feet to the side of the road, then, as soon as we pass, flock back to the feast. Broken Hill road trip 120_5184x3888The land changes again and these goats are easier to see. We are getting closer to Broken Hill now and rubbish, that scourge of civilisation, start to appear scattered through the scrub. Broken Hill road trip 122_5184x3888Along the side of the road a wide swathe of recently cultivated dirt intrigues me. I wonder what it was for. So when I spot these signs I had to stop and investigate.

I enquire about it when we get to our Airbnb accommodation and our host Jenny tells me that a new mining venture is starting up and they need more water to sustain it, so more water is being drained from the Darling River. A contentious issue. Broken Hill road trip 135_5184x3888These huge electricity pylons marching across the land are a sure sign that we are nearing our destination. A convoy of road trains  carrying machinery roars past.broken hill jc 091_3041x2024Then we reach Broken Hill and this is the first thing we pass. Broken Hill road trip 160_5184x3888Broken Hill road trip 154_5184x3888What a huge contrast to the landscape we have just passed through, now the grass is green and the water abundant. This is the main mining company operating the iconic Broken Hill zinc, lead and silver mine.

The late afternoon sun highlights the gum trees. Broken Hill road trip 157_3888x5184

We have arrived.

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This week Tina has chosen “big” as the Len’s-artist photo challenge. I live in Australia such a “big” country so of course this is what I had to show you…

 

61 comments

  1. Your artist eyes see so much. And it is very true that many people find that scenery boring, monotonous, uninteresting. It is the same in America and Canada. Such vasts areas of openness. For me they are the true parts of what makes a country different. The towns and cities are often so much of a likeness that they border on the boring and uninteresting to me. I am so glad you are going to blog about your journey, I have been looking forward to seeing BH again. My visit was in December 1998 so twenty years ago! I wonder how much it has changed since then.

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    • I agree Jude it is the country and scenery that make places unique I love driving through those endless vistas and trying to capture the vastness in an image, not easy. I don’t think BH would’ve changed, didn’t see much new building going on. Any idea what the flower was?

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      • I think I have found out what your flower is: Asphodelus fistulosus or Onion weed, a short lived perennial from southern Europe and India. The cylindrical leaves do not have an onion smell.The flower stalk is up to 60 cm tall and the white flowers have a brown centre stripe. Oddly it is supposedly a coastal plant so why it should be growing where you discovered it is anyone’s guess.

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  2. What is a ‘yabbie’? It if is like a wallaby, I do not need to know.
    When we went to Oklahoma, I found the fastness of the prairie to be fascinating because I had never seen anything like it before. The flat parts of California are surrounded by mountains.
    You know, Adelaide is the city in Australia that supposedly best resembles San Jose.

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    • You’d be safe Tony, only saw dead wallabies…. a yabbie is a small fresh water crayfish and very tasty when boiled alive 😱…. I haven’t been to San Jose but I like Adelaide, very hot dry summers, no humidity, but very cold winters.

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      • Hot and cold? That is not much like San Jose. The flora that I see in pictures suggest that it is a similar climate. If it were too cold in winter, the Mexican fan palms would not be so happy. If it were too hot in summer, the maples would roast (in conjunction with the aridity). It probably just seems cold relative to your climate. I have heard that San Jose gets hot, but I do not think of it that way. It seems mild to me because it gets hotter, as well as colder, in other regions.
        Crayfish are rad! We know them as crawdads. However, we can not eat them from the Guadalupe River and tributaries that flow from Los Gatos and Almaden through San Jose because of the mercury. Almaden is named after Almaden in Spain because it is the second largest mercury deposit in the World. The only larger mercury deposit is in Almaden in Spain.

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        • I was in Adelaide during summer in 2010 and though the temps were in the 40’sC there was no humidity so I found it quite bearable, but they do get frosts in winter, don’t think I would like that

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          • 40s Centigrade translates to the 100s Fahrenheit, which is warm for us, but still within the normal range. It is not as hot as inland regions get, and is not as unpleasant as more humid climates. The weather in Palm Springs gets hot, but is still quite bearable at about 50 degrees Centigrade (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit). That is what people like about summer in California. It is no cooler than anywhere else, but it is more comfortable. I really do not know how people tolerate it in Florida! ICK! We get frost as well, and some of the hottest desert regions get much more extreme frosts. However, the frosts here are quite mild. It gets just cool enough for most of the plants that need a winter chill, like the fruit trees that once grew in the orchards. Los Angeles does not get as cool in the winter, so apple and pear trees do not get enough chill.

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  3. I think we have those flowers in the dry soil of the Algarve hill country, Pauline, though I’ve never seen them in such profusion. Yabbies? I must admit to not being a fan of flatlands. I don’t mind sparse but I like a few lumps and bumps. 🙂 🙂

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  4. Interesting post Pauline.
    Being born in Australia I would like to explain the rubbish approaching Broken Hill is mostly caused by the wind not by irresponsible Aussie motorists.
    The strong wind not only carries the fine red dust that penetrates into every nook and cranny but blows the rubbish before it can be covered over at the rubbish tip.
    Borne in Australia does not make me a fair dinkum Aussie the true Aussie is black.
    Like the song “We are one but we are many.” from all the lands on earth we came..

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  5. It is the flatness of the land which always fascinates us on this type of journey too. Even though we already know, the vastness still astounds us each time we journey inland like this. Aren’t the crows funny! I think they must wake up every morning wondering what’s on the menu after the road trains have been through in the night. And we love how they only hop just out of the way as we go past. They’re so brazen.

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  6. Great to revisit that landscape with you, Pauline. We approached Broken Hill from the east, and the number of dead animals on the road (each accompanied by a small flock -‘murder’ of crows) was really quite distressing.

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  7. I’ve been waiting for this! I love what your eye sees in places familiar to me. It’s not all that long ago that I drove down the Silver City Highway. You’ve done the highway proud with your artist’s eye and lyricist’s words. Drought was pretty awful, but they have had a bit of rain since I think. I wondered about the pipeline: I might’ve known it was for the big end of town. You are such a curious traveller, and you really absorb the places you visit.

    I was very glad to see that roadhouse – I’d been a bit cavalier about filling the petrol tank.

    I have four memories of the highway from my time around BH: getting bogged in the red dirt verge when I’d had my first car for three weeks and my licence for two and being unbogged by two travelling salesman in immaculate white shirts – that was 1967, and a holiday; changing a tyre in 40° heat; watching ducks sail by on lagoons by the road after torrential December rain; and my two daughters nearly dying of heat and thirst when they were hitchhiking up to visit me from Mildura where they were fruit picking.

    I’m really looking forward to your Mildura – I stayed in Wentworth – and your Broken Hill.

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    • Amazing memories you have of the area Meg. I find it very hard to visualise ducks on a lagoon near the road, but looking at the dry river beds I can imagine the torrential rain.. Your daughters were brave hitchhiking along such a deserted road in the heat. and lucky to get a safe lift. I had a chuckle at the thought of those 2 gallant knights in white shirts coming to your rescue. I’m a bit slack with the blogging at the moment, the garden is luring me outside before the heat sets in. But I have some more photos sorted so more to come soon… Hope you are enjoying your blogless time.

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  8. Such a beautiful landscape in beautiful colours, Pauline. With your keen artist’s eye you will paint wonderful memories too. The vastness and emptiness reminds me of Iceland, but the colours and climate is totally different. Thank you for taking us!

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  9. I loved this tale of your outback adventure. I really felt like I was travelling along with you. The photo of the mirage is terrific. I’ve never been able to photograph one. It’s interesting they are people cleaning up the road kill. When I went it was everywhere. I can remember those clouds of crows that flew up whenever a car approached. I look forward to reading more.

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