Silver City and road hazards

One early morning run (50 mins) later around town to scope out the situation gave me a rough impression of Broken Hill. Broken Hill, otherwise known as the Silver City, is basically an old mining town, population 19,000. Since the silver mining boom in the early 1900's, it's been fighting for it's reason to exist in the middle of nowhere.
To give an idea of the place. Has anyone seen the movie Silent Hill (think it's based on a game?)? Anyway, if you haven't, don't as it's crap, but basically remove all the smoke, and that is Silent Hill. Wide streets, some tumbleweed, lots of shacks where the 1960's-era car outside looks in better condition than the inhabitants and the house. The old mine (or at least it's waste) stands prominently above the main street giving a very grim feel to the place.
Poverty seems pretty bad out here – the Salvation Army ran a daily food stall for free on the main street and with numerous memorials to the “men killed in the wars” and “the miners killed in all the effort that developed Broken Hill”, this place seems to have stood through a long and difficult history.
But, of course, in between all this sombre history, the town seems to be making a name for itself in (what else) tourism and art. With some huge caravan parks, and the outback on it's doorstep (litterally, you only have to drive about 100 metres past the last house in any direction to be surrounded by, well, nothing), it's an adventurous place. Huge RV's were found everywhere, and several coffee shops and restaurants seem to have sprung up to cater for all the tourists. The art boom is due to the influx of artists who arrive to use the stunning sunrises/sunsets for inspiration.

Which moves me on nicely to our first outing: to the major art exhibit. 12 artists were flown in from around the world, given 8 tons of stone each and told to start carving. So, perched on top of the highest hill in the region is 12 lumps of rock in various shapes. Hope you like the photos.

Our own take on art :)

Pretty beautiful view also. Of course, it being Austalia, no-one walks here due to the distances, so there was a road to the top of the hill. Amazingly enough, we didn't have to dig ourselves out on the way.
Which leads me even more nicely onto to the vehicles. If there's anywhere that deserves the use of one, this is it! Every second vehicle here is a Landcruiser or a LandRover, armed to the teeth with a 2nd spare tire, a snorkel for the air intake, dual GPS units (for backup), 4 night-sun lamps strapped across the roof, and armfuls of camping gear. You'll remember our trusty vehicle from the previous entry. This is not a 4x4. Gulp.
See, my 'ideal' was to get out to one of the nearby national parks and set up for the night.
So, with some vague directions and a confident belief from the helpful woman in the tourist office who informed us the road was passable (maybe we should show her our car – gulp), off we go.

Chris doing his best to collapse our roof. He looks like he's enjoying himself though :)

Sean testing how deep the mud is.....see below :)

65kms from the nearest town, after driving through numerous floodways (with measurements up to 2 metres high! - no wonder the jeeps all have snorkels), we hang a right onto our final 75km run to the national park. Firstly, having not driven in the past day or so, guess who the lucky guy was driving. I was loving it of course :)
Still though the road slowly disintegrated from tarmac to gravel to mud to gravel/mud to water, we started to wonder...... I managed to get about 30 kms in and across some 'interesting' mud paths and holes before we eventually arrived at a pool of water (yes, covering the width of the road) about 10 metres wide. By now, I was rstarting to get worried (I'd already had to floor it to get across a large hole in the ground without getting stuck). Cause while we thought this was a hazard, about 10 metres past the water hole was a sign that read: “Caution: Road Hazard Ahead”. What the hell was the pool of water?!?!?? A speedbump? A quick inspection of the real hazard turned out to be 100metre long section of mud (what they call a road out here) that had as much consistency as milk. okaayyyyyyy :)

Naturally enough, we turned the car around, rallied across the worst of the mud and set up camp where we were. Disappointingly, we'd failed on the ambition to get to the park. As the locals who kept driving by in their tanks, sorry jeeps, kept telling us: “oh, pity, the national park is really pretty”. Jeez, thanks for rubbing it in :) Still though, we were 80kms from the nearest town, how cool is that?!?! One major fire, hot chocolate and Baileys (you know who to thank for that!), and a fab evening was spent out under the stars listening to wild stories from everyone's previous adventures. Can't get much better than this. Well, actually you can if you own a 4x4, but we were making the most of it :)

Sunset in the Australian outback

Tee standing beside our fire. Moon in the background (unedited photo)

For future reference, I'm definitely coming out for a proper outback experience. Anyone got a Toyota Landcruiser Amazon they can lend me? I'll pay the fuel bills! ;)

Now, all we have to do is drive the 1100kms to the Blue Mountains. At least I know the others won't be complaining too much as my 'idea'. Must tell them about the rest of them. He he he.

amusing (but unsettling) signs you see while driving in Oz

Today's recipe: car packing!