Looking back on our train journey to Broken Hill just over two weeks ago….
Part Two: Parkes to Broken Hill
After a short stop in Parkes station and a little walk around the platform the train set off on the second half of our journey.
It had taken almost seven hours (including the 20-minute unscheduled stop in the Blue Mountains) to reach Parkes. There was another six hours and fifty minutes still to go.
Parkes to Eubalong West
The scenery noticeably changed after Parkes. The green, rolling countryside look was well gone and the landscape was very definitely bushland. Plenty of trees still but smaller and less of them. Certainly not the expansive forests you find nearer the coast and in and around the Blue Mountains.
There are only four more regular stops between Parkes and Broken Hill. Plus one called Darnick where the train only stops if there is a passenger waiting there to get on or one who needs to disembark there. On our train there were neither. I never even noticed us passing Darnick station it must have been very small.
When viewed from the train the area looks wild and untouched but the land is still made up of many large farms (or stations) in this part of the world. You can occasionally spot sheep and cattle but there are also local wild animals like kangaroos and emus. There are also wild (feral) goats that have thrived after being released into the wild. The area is perfect for them. Later in the week in Broken Hill I was told by a local that there are so many of these feral goats that it has spawned a large industry, capturing and selling them for their meat.
For several years now NSW outback farmers have rounded up the feral goats and sold them to halal meat processors for sale in Sydney restaurants and also for export to the middle east. The feral goats have now become big business. There are millions of wild goats in Australia and the country is the biggest exporter of goat meat. Some farmers capture over 100,000 of the creatures and can make millions of dollars from them. I am not kidding (pun fully intended). Look it up for yourself…
Next Two Stops
The first stop, about an hour and ten minutes after Parkes, is Condobolin. A small town of just over 3000 people. There was a gold mine in the area years ago but now the town survives on the surrounding agriculture.
Another forty-five minutes of the journey brings you to the unusually named Euabalong West. As far as I know there is no Euabalong East. In any case this is a very small town of less than 70 people and probably only survives due to service the train line. Although there are still signs of farming in this remote area.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, one or two passengers left the train at both these remote locations.
Dani was asleep at this stage of the journey but there was no way I was going to let him sleep for the next stop. The fantastically named Ivanhoe. I thought it was a great name for a small town and it really is named after the book by Walter Scott about an Anglo-Saxon medieval knight of the same name. The book spawned several movies and TV series so the name Ivanhoe should be well known.
Close to the station are a few houses and a (so called) ‘farm prison’ where the inmates are used to tend the local land and basically do some honest hard work. I had a quick chat with the driver at the station and he told me that the place had just closed, only a coupe of weeks ago. That will definitely affect the local economy. The main part of town is on the other side of the tracks and out of sight but there are supposedly just under 200 inhabitants. I would not mind returning and spending the night there.
I really hope the small town of Ivanhoe can survive.
The classic red earth of central Australia is already visible before reaching Ivanhoe. But this is still bushland with the wild animals regularly visible from the train. By the time we reached the final stop before Broken Hill – Menindee – the sun had set.
The light had faded into dark and my mobile phone memory was full while the battery level was almost gone. Before that however it was possible to witness the transformation of the land into a scene of mostly rusty-red soil. We would notice this much better on the way back to Sydney, but that was several days away and we had plenty to see and do in Broken Hill before then.
Nightmare Arrival in Broken Hill
It was not the best of starts to our visit. We were among the first off the train and out of the station but when we got outside there were no taxis. Zero! None! We needed one. I knew the motel was a reasonable walk, we were tired, it was dark and we did not know exactly where to go. On my own that would not be a problem, but with a six year old and luggage?? Different story.
All the other passengers eventually made their way to their nearby hotels or were picked up. Only two others needed a taxi. I spoke to them and they were as surprised as I was that this once a week event of a train load of potential customers was not greeted by eager taxi drivers. Clearly taxiing is a lucrative job in Broken Hill. They obviously don’t need to hang around for a train. We were stranded after nearly 14 hours on a train!
I phoned the motel and asked them if they could send a taxi. The girl at the motel said she would do that but was not sure how long it would be. Then the battery went flat on my mobile phone. Great!
In the end we were the only train passengers left standing at the station entrance, waiting for a taxi that never actually showed up. In the end the taxi that had taken one of our fellow stranded passengers returned and we finally made it to the motel. Tired and hungry we managed to get something to eat before going to sleep. Tomorrow would be the first of several busy days in the Broken Hill area.