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, while camping in Mildura, we had a conversation with an elderly Australian who suggested changing our planned route. Our original plan was to go from Mildura to Adelaide, Port Augusta, and then via the Nullarbor Highway to Perth, Darwin, and finally the East Coast. However, it was the end of April, and following our planned route would leave us up north at the beginning of the wet season.
The man advised us to take a different route and go directly to Darwin via Alice Springs, and then to Perth. This option would give us perfect weather in the wet tropics and still plenty of time to drive later across from Perth to Alice Springs, and then onto beautiful Queensland.
Furthermore, he suggested we take Australia’s longer shortcut, which would allow us to count hundreds of wrecks along the famous Great Central Road.
The Great Central Road is part of this 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
We took his advice, and it turned out to be a great decision that allowed us to see even more of this beautiful country.
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 originally built as a workboat for the Victorian Government. It featured a large winch that was used to remove fallen trees and other obstacles from the river, and keep the main channel clear. Since 1966, the Melbourne has been converted into a passenger-carrying boat, offering visitors a chance to take a step back in time and experience the glory days of river travel on the Murray.
Unfortunately, the weather the next day was not so good, and we had to skip the planned boat cruise on the Murray River. It was disappointing for all of us, as we were really looking forward to it.
Drive through “Empty Spaces” to Broken Hill
The road between Mildura and Broken Hill was a bit monotonous, with a flat landscape and low vegetation stretching out before us. However, we found joy in any bend on the road and even passing cars towing a caravan made Marius ecstatic as he could finally “greet” someone. To keep ourselves awake, we sang all sorts of songs, which turned out to be great fun.
After a few hours, we stopped for lunch at Popiltah Lake, where I could easily serve food from the back of the trailer. Having a good setup definitely made things easier. Then we continued straight to Broken Hill.
Arriving in Broken Hills
Broken Hill was a pleasant surprise, especially since it’s situated in the middle of nowhere, and the next closest big town is around 200 kilometres away.
It was also the last bigger town before we went off the grid. We planned to stay in Broken Hill for the next three days since our new trailer was due for its first service at 1000 km, and we had booking at the Coromal service centre at 8 am.
The timing was perfect, as we discovered that Nell had accidentally damaged the two front legs of the trailer while using a camper levelling tool, and we needed it repaired before we headed further off-road.
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.
We set off early to Day Dream Mine – historic silver mine, located 28km from Broken Hill, which was our first point of interest. This historic mine offered an insight into the lives of miners who worked there in the late 1800s.
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 bright.
Nell was very brave during the tour and walked through narrow and bumpy corridors without any hesitation. She even instructed everyone around to watch their heads!
This guided underground tour gave us a lot of insight into the early silver mining in Broken Hill. Our young guide, who lived in a nearby town, told us the fascinating story of mining in the 19th century. It’s amazing how difficult it was to live and work there at that time. A bucket of water was more expensive than a glass of whiskey in a nearby pub, and even eight-year-old boys were forced to work as miners in the harsh conditions, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees.
After the tour, we enjoyed some amazing scones and black coffee, which tasted even better on the original enamel mugs. We also made friends with a Danish woman who was traveling alone across Australia and a farmer woman with her son.
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!
The emu ran in front of the car for a while before finally turning into the bushes
Silverton – Mad Max town
We also loved the town of Silverton (24 km from Broken Hill) and its country atmosphere. This is the place where the Mad Max 2 movie was filmed, and we were able to see the artifacts from the movie everywhere. At that point, we already felt that we were in the heart of the Outback.
Finally, we visited the Silverton Gaol Museum where we saw how people were crammed into small cells and secured at night in leg irons. It was a chilling reminder of the harsh conditions that prisoners faced in the past.
Later on, we spotted our first 53.5-meter road train (which is basically a huge, long truck; in Europe, they call it TIR). It was a weird experience seeing such a massive truck transporting a huge yacht, especially considering the nearest coast was 400 km away.
At the end of the day, we went to pick up the trailer from the service center. Nell diligently picked up everything she could find from the floor, and the mechanic was quite surprised by how many things she found. He even jokingly wanted to share the loot with Nell, but I strongly disagreed, knowing what mischief my child could do with even the smallest screw…
Tomorrow was our last day in Broken Hill, and then we would 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 the 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 the 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.
During our hike, we encountered a kangaroo, a blue-tongue lizard, and a group of huge spiders measuring 10 cm. Nell was very brave and managed to walk nearly 2.5 km without any support. I am sure she will be an excellent hiker when she gets older.
If you want to read our guide on how to prepare for an off-road trip view our off-road driving guide.
Enjoy outdoors with Tentworld equipment
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4WD Equipment Checklist
Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)
UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency
Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road
High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks
Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking
Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places