To the edge of the Outback – from Trangie to Broken Hill
After a lucky escape from the Hotel California* haha, I leave Trangie and the clouds behind. After a while I turn off the audio cd story and just focus on the road ahead.
Over the next few hours I notice the changing landscape: light green grass on the roadsides and leafy green shrubs and gums casting shadows on the black ribbon of the tarred road. All of a sudden, and ‘how is that possible?’ I wonder, ‘what have I been thinking about while driving along, that I suddenly notice that the trees are smaller and sparser and the dirt is redder?’
I stop to take in the change. My heart sings. It begins to expand. There is room to breathe here.
By the way, the road is really good. There appears to have been a program of road works for some time – the tar is still black, the lines are clear and solid. At no point did I think, ‘crap, this trip is going to be awful’. Perhaps the ‘grey nomads’ are having a good impact on the outback.
Arriving at Cobar, you can’t help but know instantly that it is an old mining town. A monument to minerals dominates the Eastern entrance to the town: the former Administration Building (c1910) of the Great Cobar Copper Mine houses the Great Cobar Heritage Centre and the Visitor’s Information Centre and, like many buildings in the outback, the building has seen it’s heyday and a period of abandonment. I love a good museum and this one promises much treasure but mindful of the distance I have to travel, I content myself with the gift shop, and then look for car and personal fuel!
After a good break, I head on out and notice sudden movement to my left. I catch a glimpse of a group of goats. Oh the goats, I heard about those wild goats on the road between Cobar and Broken Hill. Goat rustling and everything! So I am on the lookout for more goats and find a few smaller groups of them, thankfully they are skittish and run from the road when your car approaches. They also run away when you approach to take a photo! Neither will they stick around for a selfie, haha, I want proof!!
Did I mention that it is a dream drive? That the road is really good? Well, I have to commend the rest stops too. The Baden Park Rest Area was particularly good, with a very airy loo and great shady picnic tables. Sadly, no water in the tank, but that’s to be expected! Always be carrying water with you anyway, and wet ones!
Anyway, driving, driving, driving, landscape still changing. The foliage is being stripped away to reveal the contours of the land. Such gentle contours, even little rises give fabulous views of the land.
I approach Wilcannia and decide that I don’t need to stop for fuel and drive through. After about 10kms, I re-think that and double back. Apparently there is a BP station, the sign says ‘turn right at any street and turn left’. Hmmm, after driving around a few blocks, I give up and stop at the Liberty Station on the main thoroughfare. After filling the tank, I step inside to pay but realise that without mobile reception, I can’t transfer what I need to my keycard account. ‘Hang on, I’ll get cash from the car’. Mildly perplexed by the strange look on the attendant’s face, I grab cash from my unlocked car and head back inside. Later, I hear that it wasn’t such a good idea. Perhaps you can call me the ‘Naïve Traveller’!
Heading out of Wilcannia, I am starting to feel sickened by the number of ravens that take off when cars approach. The number of roos dead on the side of the road is so sad – I wonder if there are any left, but there must be. Every 10 metres there is a carcase and I guess the roos come off bad every time. I don’t see any evidence of the vehicles, perhaps they are cleaned up much more efficiently than they are at home, where accident glass stays on the road for months after a collision. There is no discrimination: small ones and big ones, and later I see pig road kill but no goats. Perhaps the goats are cannier? It feels the most difficult part of the drive, the carnage on the side of the road on what is, otherwise, beautiful country. It makes me spur on to get to Broken Hill before dark! I put my headspace in to mission-mode and put my foot down. After what I refuse to acknowledge as eternity, I notice the approach of a ‘hill’, Dolo Hill rest area. Stopping and looking back at where I had come from: the expanse of land is unfathomable and indescribable. My photos are just a token of the experience, a quick moment in time, in this ancient timeless land. The feeling of diminishing significance is palpable.
Back in the driving seat, my attention is drawn to a truck slowly catching up to me, and I pick up my speed: I take it as a sign to get a move on. For the last 15kms approaching civilisation, with the truck hot on my tail, I see a solar farm on my right, wooden structures on my left. We are travelling so quickly that I miss the entrance sign to Broken Hill!
I have to go back, it is a momentous occasion in my travels that I have to document.
I have arrived at my destination before dark!!
*Hotel California is a joke – the The Trangie Imperial Hotel was lovely, friendly and comfy. I just had to leave before staff open up for the day. Luckily, the manager had shown me a back entrance to the verandah which I remembered after panicking that I couldn’t get out. I stayed there again on my return trip. At $40 a night, I would recommend it to anyone travelling on a budget.
Jo Durand, Gwandalan, 17 April 2017