Outback Adventuring

Waiting for the train

Waiting for the train

Friday morning we got up early to take the train to Dubbo. We stayed over in Dubbo for two nights on our way to the town of Broken Hill. On the train, we talked with one of the conductors, Bernadette, for a while. She and her husband are planning a six week tour of the US and she was happy to talk to us about travel. The train route to Dubbo winds out of the Blue Mountains and into the drier ranch country of New South Wales. Along the way we noticed some kangaroos under the trees beside the train—pretty cool! All in all, the train journey to Dubbo was over six hours and the scenery was quite enjoyable.

Stormy Sunset in Dubbo

Stormy Sunset in Dubbo

When we disembarked from the train in Dubbo, we found it was a lot hotter than Katoomba. Way hotter. We were glad to finish the long walk to the campground with our packs and get settled. The heat seemed unbearable after all the cool weather we’ve enjoyed, so we upgraded to a cabin for the night, rather than sweating it out in the tent. It was a good thing we did, because a big storm moved through at sunset bringing heavy rain for a few hours.

Saturday morning we got up and had a run along the river into town. It was quite a hot day again, so we lazed around by the pool, watched TV indoors and used the internet at the public library in town. Sunday we checked out of the campground and walked to the train station to check our bags for our bus departure later in the afternoon. It was another hot day, so we killed the time in the air-conditioned public library again.

View from the bus to Broken Hill

View from the bus to Broken Hill

At 2:15 we boarded a coach bound for Broken Hill. We decided to visit Broken Hill because it’s the farthest west in New South Wales that we can travel on our Rail Passes. More importantly, it’s the closest we are likely to come to an Outback experience without taking a flight to the interior of Australia. The coach actually afforded us a good view of the scenery as we traveled westward until dark. There were plenty of kangaroos in the bush and all around us, the red earth I’ve come to associate with the Outback; also lots of sheep and goats. For as arid as the Outback is known to be, I was surprised at how green the bush seems, and simultaneously parched and dry. We arrived at 10:45 pm in Broken Hill and walked to the Palace Hotel, where we stayed for our two nights in town. Despite sitting all day, I fell right asleep. The Palace Hotel is an interesting old hotel, best known for the detailed murals throughout the lobby area and being featured in the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Today was Australia Day, a national holiday commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet of convict ships from Great Britain in 1788. It’s tempting to think of Australia Day like our Fourth of July holiday, but it’s really a bit different. ‘Australian of the Year’ awards are presented on this day, and many people are involved in citizenship ceremonies. We watched the festivities televised from the capital, Canberra, for a while this morning. Despite Broken Hill being very quiet for this holiday, nationally, Australia Day feels like a celebration of citizenship and Australian achievements. Later, we found a cafe open for breakfast, but otherwise, Broken Hill was a ghost town. Surprisingly, the visitor information center was open, and the staff there recommended a few sights to see on a walking tour of town.

Photos from the Palace Hotel:

Broken hill line of load

Broken Hill Line of Lode

Broken Hill is a mining town that prospered in the late 1800s with the discovery of silver and lead in a geological feature called the Line of Lode. The ore body was remarkably close to the surface and was rapidly exploited for profit. Nowadays, Broken Hill is shrinking as mining operations come to an end. We took a walk to get a view of the massive slag heap that borders the town and is topped by a miners memorial. Most of the mining operations were previously based here, but now that the lode is mostly mined out, there’s only a big pile of mine tailings.

At dark, we met Trevor, who transported us to the edge of town for an Outback Astronomy presentation. His wife, Linda, is an amateur astronomer, who gives a terrific show about astronomy in the southern hemisphere. In the deep darkness of the Outback, beyond the lights of Broken Hill, she pointed out constellations, planets, nebulae and other features observable with only a set of binoculars. I can now easily spot the famed Southern Cross! It was a very enjoyable presentation. I even got to see a few moons of Jupiter with a high power set of binoculars!

We’ll be up early tomorrow to get the train back to Sydney for one night (it only goes once a week!) and then on to Canberra.

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