Leaving the sobering sight of “Sunset Strip” behind us, with its lost dreams in the visions of the past, we head toward Menindee. Crossing a road bridge over the Darling River, surprisingly we see water and stop to look at what is left, in the dam, of the water for Broken Hill.
It is at a dangerously low-level and it is predicted Broken Hill will soon run out of water.Cattle and birds cluster around what is left of the once great lake system. The red dusty plain stretching to the horizon was once a vibrant, water filled lake.
A pipe line snakes over the hill toward Broken Hill taking what is left of the life-giving water.A few days ago when we arrived at Broken Hill we had noticed a new pipe line being built bringing water from the Murray River. (that was on our road trip from Adelaide, see it here) It is due to be operational next year, and looking at this dam that is not a moment too soon.Menindee is a tiny outback settlement of approximately 500 people. It is established on the banks of the Darling River and was the first European settlement to be established in the mid 1850’s when it was discovered the Darling River could be navigated along its length to Menindee.This is where a punt originally took people, stock and provisions across the river. But now you can see, in the top right corner, a bridge has been built.
Our first stop is to find the information centre. Frank had told us his mate Ron would be there. Here he is having a smoko. The interesting wheelbarrow is an updated version and a nod to the wheelbarrows that were pushed hundreds of miles by prospectors hoping they would strike it rich in this area.
But it is lunchtime and Ron tells us the Maidens Hotel is the best/only place to go. It is famous for being the last place, in 1860, that Burke and Wills stayed before heading north into the uncharted outback on their ill-fated exploration. (this is a famous part of Australian history and if you would like to discover more about it go here)
This mural on the wall of the information centre shows the time line of history of the area. From the original Aboriginal tribes to present day and the arrival of the steam train.
With the coming of the pastoralist and the opening up of the outback meant a violent time of conflict with the Barkindji who were subsequently decimated by European disease, driven from their traditional lands and forced into government missions.
This era saw two horrific massacres of the traditional owners; one via poisoning of leasehold stipulated provisions for the Barkindji people with arsenic by leaseholders and the straight-out slaughter of a tribe on the banks of Boolaboolka Lake.
In 1852, Tom Pain and his family arrived in Menindee and opened up the Menindee Hotel in 1853 and with this and the ability to supply provisions, the town established itself as Darling River Port in light of Captain Francis Cadell, accredited with opening up the Darling, establishing a store next to the Hotel in 1856.
The original hotel burnt down a few years ago and this is a new one built in its place. It lacks the authenticity of the old style building.
Jack has a beer and chats to a local while I wander around looking at the photos on the walls till lunch is ready. We had fish and chips, just mediocre pub tucker.
What a day it has been, steeped in the history of the area. After lunch we take a leisurely drive around the small town before heading 116 kilometres back to Broken Hill.Another dry creek bed…