On the way to Mildura
The road was hilly, although sometimes we had an impression that we were driving through the Italian provinces – on the right side a vineyard, on the left olive orchards. But for the most part, the road was empty. We arrived at our destination at 2 pm.
Mildura is a medium sized, well-kept town that made a very good impression on us. Luckily we visited Mildura in autumn as Mildura weather can be really harsh in winter (temperature drops to zero) or summer (over 40 degrees).
In the evening, we went to a pub for my birthday dinner. We had a lovely time, and the service was good. The food was great and Nell was well mannered. It doesn’t happen very often. We were planning to go on a cruise on the Murray River tomorrow, and then drive 200 km to Broken Hill.
First Big Decision - changing the planned route
Next morning, we had a chat with an elderly Australian who was camping next to us. He suggested we should change the planned route of our trip. Before we started the trip, our plan was to go to Mildura, Adelaide, Port Augusta, and then via Nullarbor Highway to Peth, Darwin, and East Coast. It was the end of April and if we went our planned way, this would leave us up north at the beginning of the wet season.
It would be a bad idea to be on Gibb River Road in Kimberley at the beginning of cyclone season. We should change the route.
The man recommended going directly to Darwin via Alice Springs, and then to Perth. This option would give us perfect weather in wet tropics and still plenty of time to drive later across from Perth to Alice and then beautiful Queensland.
Also, this would give us an opportunity to drive Australia’s longer shortcut, and a chance to count hundreds of wrecks along the famous Great Central Road! Yes, you heard it right. Great Central Road is part of Australia’s longer shortcut that starts from Perth and goes via Kalgoorlie to Alice Springs (1300 km dirt road with 3 stops only), then Plenty Highway (800 km dirt road), Mount Isa to Cairns.
Talk to locals or experience campers – they can give you a good advice
After a really short discussion (there were no weak points that we could find) we decided it was a great idea and we should do it.
Unfortunately the next day the weather wasn’t so good and we had to skip the boat cruise on the Murray river. I was an upset because we were really looking forward to going on this cruise.
Mildura Paddle Steamer - a missed chance
Imagine a majestic steam driven paddle steamer strolling on a slowly moving river. You can find it in Mildura. The oldest, (but still in use) paddle steamer “Melbourne” was launched at Koondrook on the River Murray in 1912. It was built for the Victorian Government as a work boat. It had a huge winch which used to haul fallen trees and snags from the river and to keep the main channel open. In 1966 the steamer was converted to a passenger carrying boat.
Drive through “Empty Spaces” to Broken Hill
The road between Mildura and Broken Hill was… boring. We were driving through a flat landscape with low vegetation, very monotonous. Any bend on the road filled us with joy, and passing cars towing a caravan were driving Marius to a state of ecstasy (he could finally “greet” someone). We sang all sorts of songs, just to stay awake – it was great.
We stopped for lunch at Popiltah Lake. I served the food from the back where I had more drawers and the fridge. A good setup is a must! Then we went straight to Broken Hill.
Broken Hill was a nice surprise, considering it is in the middle of nowhere and the next closest big town is as far as 200 kilometers.
Arriving in Broken Hills
Broken Hill was a nice surprise, considering it is in the middle of nowhere and the next closest big town is as far as 200 kilometres.
It was the last bigger town, before we went off grid. We planned to stay there for the next three days. Our new trailer was due for its first service at 1000 km, and we were booked in Coromal service at Broken Hill at 8 am. The timing was perfect, because Nell snack quietly (without us noticing) and used a camper leveling tool and damaged the two front legs in the trailer…
Broken Hills attractions
We dropped the trailer for scheduled service and went sightseeing.
Broken Hill, known as the Silver City, is situated on one of the world’s richest deposits of silver, lead, and zinc ores. Our first steps were to visit the historic silver mine. It was in the middle of nowhere (literally). Metal ores were discovered there quite by accident – the surveyor fell asleep under a tree, and when he woke up, the sun fell on the lumps of silver pieces exposed by the wind, which shone intensely. Our first point of interest was located 28km from Broken Hill – Day Dream Mine.
Nell was very brave during mine tour and walked through narrow and bumpy corridors without any hesitation. Moreover, she instructed everyone around to watch their heads…
This guided underground tour has given us a lot of information about early silver mining in Broken Hill.
The young guide, who lived in a nearby town, told us the original story about mining in the 19th century. It is amazing how hard it was that time to live there and mine. Bucket of water was more expensive than a glass of whiskey in a nearby pub. Eight years old boys were forced to start working there as miners. Considering temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, it must have been a very hard job.
At the end we ate amazing scones and drank black as hell coffee that tasted especially good on the original, wooden tableware. We made friends with a Danish woman traveling alone across Australia and a farmer woman with her son. Great, open-minded people.
Daddy - do not step on Emu!
On the way back to the main road, we met an emu rushing along the road in the same direction. The emu was about to cross the road in front of the car. Nell panicked and shouted:
Daddy, don’t step on the emu!
Marius cursed and told the emu to disappear. Fortunately, it was a very intelligent bird and after a few hundred meters of treading on its heels, finally gave up and turned into the bushes.
Silverton - Mad Max town
We were also delighted with the town of Silverton (24 km from Broken Hill) and its country atmosphere. This is the place where they shot the Mad Max 2 movie, and we were able see the artifacts from that movie everywhere. At that point we already felt intensely that this was the real Outback.
Finally we had a quick visit to Silverton Gaol Museum where people were crammed into small cells and secured at night in leg irons.
Later on we spotted our first 53.5 meters road train (which is basically a huge, long track in Europe they call it TIR). It was a weird experience – a massive truck was transporting a huge yacht, although the nearest coast was 400 km away…
At the end of the day we went to collect the trailer from the service. Nell picked up everything she could find from the floor, and the mechanic was quite surprised how many things she found. He even wanted to share the loot with Nell, but I strongly disagreed, knowing what my child can do with even the smallest screw …
Tomorrow was our last day in Broken Hill, and then we should be on our way to Port Augusta.
Last day in Broken Hill we decided to see the project “Living Desert”. It is a state park where people can visit and learn about protection of native flora and fauna and better management of our ecosystem and sustainability. We visited this place after a few showers and the desert bloomed and turned green.
Broken Hill is a pretty dry place without much yearly rain and last time it rained heavily was a long time ago, in 1974. Now, everything was blooming and humming, we were making our way through plants, we lost paths … I really enjoyed it.
We managed to meet a kangaroo, a blue-tongue lizard and a herd of huge (10 cm) spiders. Nell was very brave and walked almost 2.5 km without any support. She should be a pretty good hiker when she gets older.
If you want to read our guide of how to prepare for an off road trip view our guide.