Hugged by the twisting and turning Darling River on its eastern boundary, the Kinchega National Park, an important breeding ground for waterbirds including herons, ibises, spoonbills and black swans is one of the outback’s oldest and best known parks, covering approximately 44 thousand hectares.
Formerly, between 1870 and 1967 some of this land was occupied by the Kinchega-Kars pastoral lease held by the Hughes family with six million sheep being shorn through those years. Paddle steamers with barges bringing supplies and hauling wool would be a common sight back in those days. As many as 300 steamers operated in the Murray-Darling river system during the riverboat era.
There are no steamers on the Daring now, but we still can see something very cool and morbid at the same time.
On November 9th 1872 the crew of PS Providence returned to the ship after stopping in Menindee for a drink. They stoked the fire and headed down stream. A violent explosion followed – reportedly the boiler had not been refilled. Gunn, a Chinese cook, was blown into an overhanging tree from which he was rescued, but later died of his injuries. Captain John Davis, engineer Edward Sparkes, and fireman John Roach were killed in the enormous explosion that scattered pieces up to 300 meters away. Henry Trevorah, a miner from Wilcannia on his way to visit family in Adelaide, was the only one aboard the ship to survive the ordeal.
The rusty remains of the ship’s boiler lie under a tree by the Darling River.
At the time of our visit the water in the river was pretty low, but this is not always the case. Signs in a tree beside the road mark the water level of floods in 1983-84 and 1976. The major flood of 1976 would have swallowed us whole, the waterline being well above the roof of our tall Land Rover. It was the third largest flood recorded on Darling (with the second occurring in 1890, and the first in 1864).
After checking out the homestead area ruins, we proceeded to the lakes outlook for a quick stop before driving an easy 85 km of bitumen to Broken Hill.
Known as the Silver City, Broken Hill is a famous historical and art centre and a very touristy place. The birthplace of Australian industrialization it is home to a massive ore body, which was the world’s richest source of silver, lead and zinc. The city’s mining history shows everywhere, even streets have names like Crystal, Wolfram, Beryl, Cobalt, Iodine and Bromide, to name a few.
Broken Hill is also the headquarters for the south-eastern section of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The RFDS is the ambulance of the outback. The distances are so great, a plane is often the only option to get emergency medical attention. The RFDS is a deeply respected not-for-profit charitable organization that relies on donations to keep its aircraft fleet operational and to keep the service running. You can see collections pretty much in every hotel and numerous other places in Australia, or you can donate on-line at flyingdoctor.org.au
After checking in at Sturt Motel, and settling in we have a couple of destinations scheduled for the rest of the day. The first one is The Sculpture Symposium: After a 15-minute steep walk (or you can get a key from the visitors centre at the corner of Bromide and Blende streets, and drive up to the site), we got there just in time to catch our breath, nibble on our Hungry Jacks takeaway, and witness a spectacular outback sunset against the works of art created by sculptors from Australia and around the world.
Our second destination is the Silverton Hotel. About 25 km west of Broken Hill, Silverton is home to the filming of some famous Australian and Hollywood movies. Mad Max 2 and 3, Dirty Deeds, Town Like Alice, Razorback, Ring of Scorpio, Outback Bound, In Pursuit of Honour, The Craic, and many more. Pictures from the movie sets are plastered all over the walls in the hotel where we sat down to enjoy cold beverages and recounted the happenings of the day.
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