Sunday, 6 November 2011

Around Broken Hill

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is only one of many films & iconic XXXX beer ads made in & around Broken Hill. Many of the big action scenes from Mad Max II were filmed here & out at Silverton there's a Mad Englishman who is a Mad Max fanatic & has set up a museum that's a dream for any Mad Max fans.
Adrian Bennett saw Mad Max 1 when he was a teenager in 1982 & became enthralled by the style, the characters & the setting of the film. He used to travel all over Yorkshire to watch the film wherever it was being screened & in 2004 made his first pilgrimage to Australia. He exploring the area around Melbourne where Mad Max 1 was filmed & fell in love with Australia & promptly migrated with his wife Linda & 3 of their children.
Adrian settled in Silverton & built up the Mad Max museum starting with a V8 Interceptor he built himself, then adding Creek buggies used in the film & a host of left over props & memoribilia. Many Broken Hill residents worked as extras on the film so he also has a dozens of insider stories about the film & heaps of unique behind the scenes photographs of the film production. The question he gets asked most is 'what happened to the dog?' - if you're interested, you'll have to go & ask Adrian yourself.

Silverton was the first big mining town in the area but the Day Dream mine was short lived & Silverton became a ghost town for decades - now the population is back up to 50. The Silverton Hotel is the local pub & has featured in over 100 films & commercials especially those requiring authentic outback pub scenes.
But for anyone who wants to get a real feel for the outback you have to do more than look at it from a train window & you need to get out of even the smallest of towns. So I arranged a stay at the Eldee outback station (, 56km northwest of Broken Hill. Stephen Schmidt' family has been at the station for generations & with his wife Naomi they run sheep & cattle.
Stephen calls it a hobby farm as it only covers 40 sq km but its classic outback including the rolling Mundi Mundi plain & the formidable Barrier Range that limited earley explorers. It seems vast & endless with big skies, amazing sunsets & little rocky oasis' that bring countless kangaroo, emu, wild pig (Razorback was filmed locally) & thousands of wild goats.

Guests can camp at Eldee but they also have beautifully presented rooms where you can be self-contained or have Naomi cook great home-cooked meals. Visitors can do their own thing, explore a working sheep & cattle station or join Stephen on rugged 4x4 excursions or take a romantic sunset picnic at the Lookout on the top of the Barrier Range.
The Broken Hill area is surrounded by spectacular national parks, I visited Kinchiga National Park with the Minindee lake system which for years has been relatively dry but now are briming over with more than 3 & half times the volume of water in Sydney Harbour. People were camping in isolated spots along the Darling river, some with simple tents & others in impressive mobile homes. There are also shearers quarters where visitors can bunk down & use kitchen & lounge facilities but you have to bring all your own food & equipment.
Menindee is the nearest town for supplies or for a drink in NSW's second oldest pub where Burke & Wills stopped off before continuing on their ill-fated expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

For a unique Menindee accommodation experience, that's also in a good cause, its possible to stay at the Minintitja accommodation which are 1945 & 1923 refurbished railway carriages. Its an initiative set up by Menindee Central School as a training experience for local kids - building, maintenance, business development & hospitality. It is a novel experience, clean & comfortable & all meals can be provided.