Broken Hill, Friday 29th January 2005
It rained cats and dogs last Tuesday in Leura, Blue Mountains. I managed to remain reasonably dry using an umbrella, but had to abort a walk along the cliffs when the water on the trail got too high.
A Dry G'day
from Down Under
Photo dry HJ

I took shelter in a fish & chips shop to get a bit dry. Staring out of the window I saw the most fantastic raincoats passing by. They are dark brown, made of an oily type of canvas, with a kind of cape around the shoulders. The owners seems untouched by the rain. No matter how bad the rain gets, the raincoat copes.

These raincoats are typical Australian gear. Almost the whole country is as dry as a bone, so when in rain the Ozzies prefer to keep it dry too. That is why the Ozzies call their raincoat drizabone. Now, that is fun and humour too.

I roamed all shops in Leura, but did not find such a fine raincoat. Back in Sydney Rob and Annet immediately get enthusiastic of my raincoat story. Rob shows his own drizabone. He does not really need it in Sydney, but what the hack. It is just fun, such a dry, canvas raincoat.

Wednesday the 26th was Australia Day. The whole population of Sydney seemed to gather in the various parks. Close to the Queen Victoria building a big store caters just about any Australian gear. Yes, they sell as many drizabones as you like. They even come in various colours. Hip hip hurray!

Indian Pacific, Sydney » Broken Hill

My journey to the rock has really started. Last Wednesday I boarded the Indian Pacific, a train so long you'll have a hard time to spot the other end. During a previous journey through Australia I enjoyed a train journey from Adelaide to Perth. I'll now enjoy the missing Indian Pacific bit of Sydney to Adelaide.

Travelling on board the interstate is a slow motion affair. Choose another way of transportation when in a hurry. This thing just goes coast to coast in slo-mo and is proud of it too. Built for comfort, not for speed, hmm, I've heard that expression before.

They are right though. Travelling by train is comfortable. There is plenty of space, a reclining chair, a smoke-free environment, a fine slowly changing view, a spacious shower facility with lovely warm water, towels, a lounge, a small restaurant, a kind of hotel on wheels. I enjoy my dinner, get a towel and take a shower to flush the city sweat of Australia Day. Back in my chair, wearing fresh clothes I'm all ready for the journey to Broken Hill.

Just outside Sydney the Blue Mountains pass by. The view is well known to me, green close by but blue towards the horizon. The busy populated areas disappear, the clouds make their come back. Slowly, I see all known train stations of the past weeks: Leura, Katoomba, Blackheath, Mount Victoria (visit the museum next to the station!) and Lithgow. That is where the train halts. The police picks up a drunken passenger from the Smokers. The whole train population watches. I hear an approving He was drunk before he got in from various sides.

The Blue Mountains end shortly after Lithgow. Big planes appear, with grazing cows. Some kangaroos gather, as if they are in a meeting.

The planes get more and more dry. The grass gets more yellow. The cattle at the planes is now sheep, with an occasional horse. My mobile phone only works when passing ever scarcer villages.

Evening falls, even before the train reaches the desert. It is dark outside. My chair reclines when the movie starts. Isn't this good and this is yet the first bit of the big journey.

Broken Hill

At sunrise the desert shows. The land is dry as a bone, with just a few bushes. There is no farm in sight anymore. There is a dirt road next to the train track. Who needs real roads here?

The restaurant on board serves eggs on toast for breakfast. I wake up with a black coffee and stare with amazement at the bare desert. This place is dry, just a thousand kilometres from the wet Blue Mountains.

Broken Hill is a bizarre place of arrival. It is a large town, right in de middle of the desert. The air is dry, as dry as a bone. Yet Broken Hill is surprisingly green. It seems that water is symbol of status here. The more expensive the building, the greener the grass that surrounds it, artificially watered.

Broken Hill happens to be in the desert just because it contains lots of ores. It is a mining town, with a distinct, sturdy atmosphere. It is above all a man dominated town, full of 4WD's, hardware shops, out-door gear, pubs and clubs. Working and drinking seem of utmost importance here.

The mines are now almost exhausted. It will take a year of 2 to finish the natural resources. So the economy of the town is switching towards tourism. Tough mining goes hand in hand with the soft service industry, an odd combination. The town has lots of museums, as if the mining is a thing of the past already. There are lots of galleries too, with artists exposing their work. The light must be special here and the special environment a good source of inspiration.

Broken Hill is too big a town to explore by foot. The center is small, but the town expands quite far. The JP Keenan Lookout offers an excellent overview of the entire city, including the strange artificial mountain in the middle.

Pro Hart

Starting at the lookout it is quite a walk to the Pro Hart exhibition (corner Wyman St & Kaolin St), recommended to me by the Internet cafe annex health shop in Blackheath. Armed with 30+ sun block, hat, sunglasses and litres of water I manage to make the walk with a few stops in between.

Pro Hart's exposition is surely worth visiting. Pro Hart was totally unknown to me, but his art is creative, distinct, has identity, well made, top class. There is work of other artists too. To my surprise I am greeted by a portrait of Rembrandt at the entrance. Another hall shows a real Picasso.

Broken Hill is a puzzling combination of sturdiness and culture.

Dry as a bone

My journey is far from over yet, but the wetness of the Blue Mountains is now out of my system. And it will get more dry further down the track. The final destination of my journey, the turning point, is yet to come, right in the dry center of Australia.

So, I'm ready for the Dutch showers of spring. Should you, during a heavy rain, enjoy a SUMit training and wonder how your trainer managed to arrive dry as a bone: The answer is an Australian drizabone and an abundance of sunshine inside.

Till next Nut,