In September 2016 and in April 2017, we made trips to Broken Hill, called the "Capital of the Outback". The first trip was with the family and the second one with Professor James Deschner from the University of Bonn. The "BH" in the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton, refers to "Broken Hill" and its early operations in the city. The closest major city is Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, which is more than 500 km (311 mi) to the southwest. Unlike the rest of New South Wales, Broken Hill (and the surrounding region) observes Australian Central Standard Time (UTC+9:30), the same time zone used in South Australia and the Northern Territory. This is because at the time the Australian dominions adopted standard time, Broken Hill's only direct rail link was with Adelaide, not Sydney. Driving a few kilometres outside the town sets your mobile phone’s clock half an hour back as the time Adelaide time zones applies only inside the town borders.
We visited Silverton—I am not into "Mad Max” movies, but the Mad Max 2 movie was filmed in Broken Hill and Silverton. While Mad Max tourists stop at the Silverton Hotel for nostalgia, we actually had a good lunch there just because we were hungry.
Our drive to Silverton:
After lunch, we drove to the Mundi Mundi plain overview, where much of the opening of the film was shot. We mostly enjoyed the breathtaking view despite the wind. The wide, flat Australian outback extends seemingly forever—in fact it is so flat and so devoid of trees and shrubs that you can see the curvature of the earth.
We visited the Day Dream Mine located northwest of Silverton and about 20 kilometres outside of Broken Hill. It was established in 1882 and now serves as tourist attraction. We were allowed to walk into the mine down to level 4 - a welcome change as the outdoors were extremely windy due to a strong cyclone over Southern Australia that caused major power outages and damages near Adelaide.
Afterwards, we stopped by at the Line of Lode Miners Memorial and Visitors Centre, on the edge of the mullock heap.
Broken Hill is home of one of the largest Solar Plant in the Southern Hemisphere due to its extensive daylight hours of sunshine—temperatures can go up to 47 C (116 F).
I had dinner with the local health administrators was in The Palace Hotel, formerly known as Mario's Palace and the place where The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) was in part shot. The Palace Hotel Broken Hill was used as a stop-over for the characters in the 1994 Australian iconic movie. Many favourite scenes from the movie were filmed in and around Broken Hill and throughout various locations within the Hotel.
I got a tour of the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) base in Broken Hill that sends airplanes with doctors, dentists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc. to many of the remote communities. The services include evacuations of patients that need help in hospitals and the transport of medical equipment. Residents have to make a “roo run” on the airstrip prior to the landing to chase kangaroos and emus away. Airplanes land on dirt airstrips near mobile clinics that often serve only 20 residents living in an outpost. The airplane waits until all patients have been seen and returns with the medical personnel and the equipment to the base (most remote locations have no sterilisation, so everything is carried back to base for cleaning and sterilisation). Recently, an airstrip lost power prior to a night evacuation (none have radar or any other electronic landing help) and the pilot had to instruct the person on the ground how to soak toilet paper rolls in diesel and set them on fire with the help of petroleum to mark the landing strip. Each two hour trip costs about $10,000 using modified $7.5 million King Air propeller aircrafts: The modifications include higher landing gear that elevates the engines farther from the ground when landing on dirt, a $1.5 million interior change that allows to change the inside of the plane in 30 minutes to an intensive care unit when evacuations are needed and a larger door for hoisting stretchers into the plane. The RFDS proudly reported that they transported 90,000 patients last year. We also learned that they maintain "Medicine Chests” in remote areas where, after teleconference advice from centrally located doctors, residents can get prepared medicine for self-administration.
We went with a guide to the Mutawintji National Park, driving for hours on dirt roads with a 4-wheel drive bus, going on bush walks with a guide and exploring the rich Aboriginal history.
Many cars have roo bars (called bullbar or push bumper in other countries) installed to protect them from crashes with kangaroos.
The area around Broken Hill is characterised by sheep and cattle farms, each between 50,000 and 180,000 acres of size. We saw kangaroos, emus, Bearded Dragons and Shingle Back lizard.
We also enjoyed the art at the Living Desert and Sculptures site.
In the evening, we enjoyed a stargazing session with Outback Astronomy—a guide explained the constellations and we could look through a telescope and observe the rings of Saturn and other spectacular objects, including nebulae, star clusters and other galaxies in a sky not polluted by other light sources.
More pictures here.