Menindee and Kinchega National Park

Back in September 2020 when Dani and his old dad took the Outback Explorer train to Broken Hill we never got to see the last stop before arriving. By the time the train reached Menindee the sun had gone down and we saw nothing of that area. This time we were going to put that right.

The station we missed on our first visit this way…

Menindee – A Little History

The small town of Menindee sits on the Darling river about 110km south east of Broken Hill. It was the first town to be settled on the Darling river. The area also has several large lakes (some of which are dry) which when full form a huge oasis said to be 3.5 times the water of Sydney harbour .

The first Europeans arrived in 1835 when explorers were trying to plot the course of the Darling to its junction with the Murray river. By the mid 1840s large plots of land in the area were taken as pastoral land and farming began. The are then went through some troubled times with the local indigenous Barkindji people and the early settlers in regular conflict.

In 1859 a steam boat made a four day journey up the Darling from the Murray river. This proved that river trade was possible for Menindee and what was really just a stopover camp for explorers began to grow. In 1861 it was noted that the settlement had the following buildings:  a store, a hut used by the police and (the essential) public house. The population at that time was recorded as “about fifteen” which included women and children.

It never ceases to amaze me how and why anyone would want to go to such a new and remote place back then. There were no roads or recognisable tracks and the railway was not built until 1927. Apart from the conflict with the original locals the sheer remoteness and harsh environment that these people had to contend with is amazing. The fact that those early settlers (as in many parts of the country) managed to overcome the harsh conditions deserves a lot of respect.

In 1862 the (then) colonial government made it a “town” and ordered plots of land to be put up for sale. The town grew slowly from that point. By 1878 the town was recorded as having a public hospital, Catholic church, two good stores, a post and telegraph office, Court house, Police station with associated buildings and about twenty cottages. It also had four public-houses! Yes that’s right. Four pubs!

The town and the sheep farming continued to grow – thanks to the water supply from the Darling river – until the railway arrived in 1927 with the line from Sydney to Broken Hill crossing the Darling at Menindee. The line eventually continued across the continent. From being a settlement with only a river to link it to other small settlements, it was soon possible to reach Sydney and Perth by train from Menindee.

Trains

Not only did we get to see the last stop of our train journey last year but we managed to catch a freight train stopping at Menindee station. These things are huge with so many carriages it needs several locomotives to pull the thing.

Bridge over the Darling river.

Modern Menindee

The town while still small seems to be doing fine. There are still a couple of pubs and pretty much everything else a small town needs. The town is also the gateway to the Kinchega National Park. The river, the lakes and the National Park all combine to attract tourists. There are several caravan and camping grounds in the area but the scale of it all means that tourists can easily be lost in the peace and tranquillity of it all.

The mural on the side of the supermarket (or was it the museum?) depicting the town’s history from original people to the arrival of the railway.
Menindee Post Office

Dost Mahomet’s grave was just outside town. He was one of a handful of camel drivers brought over from Afghanistan especially for those long expeditions by the early European explorers. He ended up staying in Menindee and working in a bakery.

Dost Mahomet’s grave just outside the town.

The combined museum and tourist information office was worth a visit. Considering this is an outback farming community I was amazed to see some early forms of computer in the museum. The likes of which I had never seen.

Comptometer? I had never heard of it nor seen one.

This device was manufactured from as early as 1887 up to the mid 1970s and was the first commercially successful mechanical calculator.

Lakes

While solitude may be easy to find, some parts of the lakes are very popular with tourists and day visitors from the relatively nearby Broken Hill. Certain lake shorelines can get quite busy with people bringing their boats, jet-skis and BBQs with them. For a relatively large working town like Broken Hill, almost 400km from the sea, the Menindee lakes are a great playground for several water sports.

One of the Menindee lakes
This place is the closest thing to going to the beach in the outback.
Trees in the lakes make for an eerie sight.

Kinchega National Park

Crossing the Darling river to the south west of the town brings you into the Kinchega National Park. The meandering Darling river forms the eastern border of the park which covers over 44,000 hectares to the west of Menindee. As soon as you enter the park the roads turn to dirt roads but are easy enough to drive over when it is not raining.

With one of the lakes in the park called Emu Lake you would expect to see some of those flightless birds and sure enough you don’t have to wait long to spot them. We were lucky enough to see plenty.

Waiting for emus to cross the dirt road.
Odd creatures Emus. But they seem to thrive around here.

There are several options for stop-overs in the Kinchega National Park. You can pitch your tent on the banks of the Darling River or even stay in the Kinchega Shearers’ Quarters.

Camping areas are clearly designated here to keep the numbers in check
The Darling was fairly low when we were here.
The Darling river forms the Eastern boundary of the Park

A History of Sheep…

They say that no visit to Kinchega National Park is complete without exploring the beautiful, old buildings of Kinchega Station. The historic Kinchega Woolshed offers a glimpse into Australian pastoral history where in its heyday six million sheep were sheared. Now, a sheep shearing shed may not sound like much at first (certainly not to me initially) but believe me, it is impressive. And I am not easily impressed. The size, the history and the remoteness of this operation will definitely surprise you. At the height of its operations this place would have been amazing hive of activity with so many sheep being sheared.

Actually, I think this one deserves a separate post… Later…

 

Australia as a Safe Haven for Endangered Species

25th May – ‘The Australian Rhino Project’ Day

The other day (25th May) Dani’ school celebrated The Australian Rhino Project as well as raising funds. But what will those funds be spent on? Who gets the money?

Not long after I posted the article about Taronga zoo near Dubbo (back in December). If you missed that post you can read it here. Pay particular attention to what I wrote in the final paragraph. I still think that is a good idea. Read on… 

Extinct in the Wild – The Story of a Rhino Named Sudan

A few months ago Google used their doodle thing (that comes up on their home page on certain dates etc…) to show us all about a northern white rhino named ‘Sudan’. Apparently there are northern and southern sub-species of the white rhino (news to me but then I am no expert in rhino species – however for my true expertise see below).

It seems that Sudan was the name of the last male northern white rhino. He died two years ago of old age. At that time it left only two of that type of rhino left alive on the planet. Both females and both living under constant armed guard due to the threat from (local) poachers. Armed guard for f**k sake!  It’s truly pathetic.

Here’s what I do know…

What I am an expert in, is knowing full well that there is no way the Africans can protect these animals. Not a chance. The only chance these creatures have of avoiding extinction is to move them to a place where there is sufficient land for them to roam in the wild and hopefully increase their numbers. A land where such space could easily be procured as there is so much of it. A land where these animals can be safe without the need for a 24-hour armed guard. A land down-under actually! That’s right. Australia.

Giving money to charities and foundations that are supposedly trying to protect them – in Arica – is like pouring petrol on a fire. 

The Australian Rhino Project

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the cause is not a noble one. I do appreciate that they are at least trying to do something. But let’s be realistic. Their website says that their “mission” is as follows:

The Australian Rhino Project is a conservation organisation which is committed to working as part of the collective international fight to protect African rhinoceros from extinction. Together with our conservation partners, we aim to maintain a genetically diverse breeding crash of rhinos in Australasia that can act as an insurance population should the rhino become extinct in its African homeland.”

OK. Let’s be honest. This is a case of when not if the rhino becomes extinct in Africa. (Or as they say; “should the rhino become extinct in Africa”.) They go on to say:

Since the start of the project, the poaching epidemic has only increased in South Africa and the future of the rhino species continues to become more precarious.”

Yeah! No shit Sherlock! Does anyone think the poaching epidemic in Africa will subside? Ever? Of course not. But just keeping a few more rhinos in captivity (albeit in a spacious zoo) is not the answer. The answer, the only answer, is to make vast open space available for them in a safe country.

Here’s What We Can ALL Do…

I would urge anyone who is concerned about the future of endangered animals not to give money to the usual charities that claim to help them. Instead lobby those organisations suggesting to them that the only way to save those animals is to make a space for them in a safe country like Australia. Start your own online group to argue the case. Start your own charity even, to raise money to buy the land. But please don’t waste your money on round-the-clock armed guards. That is so obviously NOT the answer and never will be. At very best that method is only prolonging the inevitable. 

Contact your nearest zoo or endangered species charity to specifically ask why they are not shouting for that type of conservation policy. Get their angle on it and dig deep with probing questions. Africa cannot protect these animals. It’s that simple. Contact your local politicians too. They should be able to raise the matter at the highest level.

Pretending that African countries can do it is total bullshit. It is patronising in the extreme and let’s be honest; racist.

A country like Australia however can do something. Just look at how well non-indigenous animals have done in Australia, such as camels, goats and buffalo. Land issues are a big deal in Australia for sure, but this is different as it is not about humans. Surely Aboriginal Australians will appreciate the greater good in helping endangered species from another continent?  

And a new charity name?

Actually without realising it I have a created a new charity name. The title of this post no less. “Australia as a Safe Haven for Endangered Species” – ASHES. Maybe that sounds a bit too much like a cricket match but certainly catchy eh? But it is definitely apt, because if nothing is done, the rhinos will indeed be ashes. 

I will be forwarding this post to the Australian Rhino Project. If they respond I will make another post about it. But don’t hold your breath. I have met similar animal charities face to face in the past and believe me the results were not pretty. 

Return to Broken Hill

That sounds like a title for a Western movie eh? – ‘Return to Broken Hill’. Well, for Dani and myself it was a return. Dani’s mum never came with us when we went on our little adventure back in September of last year.  You can read about that trip here, here and here (plus the links to Silverton)…

It was quite strange really . Most places were open but it was just very quiet. Much quieter than our last visit to the town. As we have seen from other places in the outback, it seems that the height of summer is not the time people visit places like this. It made it seem less friendly somehow, it was just a little odd. It did however have advantages. If you wanted to take a photo without other tourists there was a much better chance of doing so.

Broken Hill centre. Not long after Christmas and daytime temperatures over 40 degrees

Covering old ground…

We returned to Silverton and saw a few new things. We did the tour of the line of lode again but this time with hardly any other people. Similarly with the Palace Hotel. It was empty when we called in there for a thirst quencher and something to eat. But it was a great opportunity to take better photos of the famous ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert‘ movie setting.

Last September the adjoining restaurant was packed and getting a table seemed like trying to get an audience with the Queen. But in summer it was quiet so we booked a table one day. It was eerily quiet and I have to say a bit disappointing. Odd isn’t it how places so often fail to live up to expectations.

Silverton – Again.

Classic Silverton outback scene

They could film another Mad Max movie here right away. Sets already made

Clever Christmas decorations in the summer heat

Less crowds means better pictures. No cars parked in front of the iconic Silverton Hotel

Pro Hart and Murals

We never visited the Pro Hart gallery on our first visit here. This time we did. “Pro” Hart – real name Kevin Charles – was (and still is) a very famous artist who was born in Broken Hill. The Pro Hart gallery is not free to enter but it is well worth it. The Rolls Royce car collection – the odd one that also doubled up as a canvas for the artist – are as famous as his paintings.

As famous for his Rolls Royce collection as his paintings.

Pro Hart’s gallery

Rolls Royce as a canvas. Artist: Pro Hart

The town also has many murals – which of course are free to look at. This time we saw more murals, some we didn’t see last time and some which we managed to get better photos of this time around.

Even the local radio station is decorated with a full mural

This one looks like a work in progress

Interesting mural on the side of a take-away

A better photo of this celebration of the Ghan train

With so much free art out on the streets it’s a wonder anyone bothers to open a gallery and pay for the premises.

Tourist-Free Photos!

Line of Lode Memorial. Free of tourists

We never saw these last time… Great idea.

These novelty chocolate sweets are self explanatory

And we were told there are no dingos in this part of the country.

Is the emu’s diet more varied or did they need to use up the white chocolate?

We stayed in a rented house which was a nice change from all the motels. Something we need to look into again on future road-trips. From here we visited Menindee and the Kinchega National Park. More on that to come…

1994. A Great Year for Movies

If you were asked to pick your top ten movies of all time could you do it? In less than one minute? I mean reel them off, not in any particular order, but quickly?  Give a list of ten movies without having to think too hard about it?

It’s not easy is it? But I can do it. With a fair few notable mentions for those movies which I love but didn’t quite make my top ten.  And of that top ten, three of them were made in the same year: 1994.

Why 1994? I have no idea. I probably went to the movies a fair bit in that year but I only saw one of the three in the cinema. I have subsequently watched all three of them many times.

Why am I writing about this now you may ask? Well even if you are not asking that question I will tell you. I just watched one of them (again) using a free service from our local library. It’s like a Netflix style thing and it is free using your library membership number and password. Fantastic! In fact I may just cancel Netflix (as it is becoming increasingly crap anyway) but I need to see just how good this library service is. A quick look tells me it has a few old movies that Netflix does not…

The three movies from 1994 in my top ten are: Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption and Leon

Leon

The one I watched on that library network was Leon. Also called Leon. The Professional and it is possibly French film director Luc Besson’s best film. It stars Jean Reno and Natalie Portman in her film debut (and before she disappeared up her own backside). But for me Gary Oldman steals the show as the corrupt cop Stansfield. He is absolutely fantastic. It is one of those movies that contains certain scenes that I can watch again and again. That scene with Gary Oldman in particular, is out of this world. What a great performance.

“I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven.”

Brilliant! It is my honest opinion that he should have won an Oscar on the strength of that one scene alone. And here it is on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elx5n_uIEEM

Speaking of memorable scenes… That site also has the 1979 movie The Wanderers. A bit of a surprise as that is a difficult movie to find these days in any format. For anyone who knows the movie that one great scene is worth watching again and again. That scene is still available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2OGNhKILBQ

Oscars?

None of my three 1994 movies won any Oscars for the acting. Pulp Fiction won a screenplay award and I think that was it. A few acting nominations but no winners. Forrest Gump won most Oscars for that year’s films. I like that film but it’s not in my top ten.

Also in 1994 one of my favourite Aussie films was made – which I have mentioned before: The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. That one won an Oscar – for best costume. No real surprises there eh?

First Teeth Lost

Dani lost his first teeth today. Finally. I suppose that is some kind of milestone in his young life. They were pulled out by a dentist. A robbing bastard of a dentist to be exact. No longer a full set of baby (milk) teeth. Mind you, the two new lower incisors were already there growing behind – like a shark!

Tooth Fairy vs Ratoncito Pérez

In the UK (Anglo world in general) the tooth fairy comes for your lost teeth. In Spain it’s a mouse. A character called Ratoncito (little mouse) Pérez. Not sure who gives the most money per tooth. Is it the fairy or the mouse? What is the going rate these days for a milk tooth?

Dani informed me that in his old school in Madrid, Ratoncito Pérez left one of his friends some Lego under the pillow. Lego! That’s more than the one or two dollars I had in mind. That’s settled then. No mice getting in here tonight. Mouse traps set and fairies only.

Forget the tooth fairy. These people are thieves. 

I thought that his four lower front teeth needed to come out but in the end only two. It cost $360 for two teeth pulled. In fact, just twisted slightly, hardly any effort. It would have taken less than a minute to pull the other two FFS! Now it will (probably) need another visit (2 hours +) and of course, more importantly than that, another $360. What a robbing bastard!

I have been in the wrong game all my life. I wonder if there are any online dentistry courses I can take? Or maybe jut learn it off YouTube? I am sure there are dentistry Apps! There’s easy money in pulling teeth. First lesson: Tying string to door handle!

Finally, a Trip to The Jenolan Caves

Looking down towards the Blue Lake, through Carlotta’s Arch

After being closed due to the covid lockdown and then more recently the heavy floods, the Jenolan Caves are once again open to the public. They are currently open but still with a limited capacity. However, we managed to book a night and a couple of tours there for my birthday.

Secluded Limestone Caves

The list of Jenolan Caves tours. Only three were open though…

It was quite cold when we arrived – about 2ºC – and there was definitely an Alpine feel to this secluded spot.

Only three caves were open to the public and we visited two of them. Btu looking through that list it is easy to see how you could spend a week here exploring the caves.

It is so secluded I had to ask our first guide how the hell this hidden valley was discovered. It turns out that authorities were looking for an escaped convict who had been in a chain gang working not too far away. It seems he had taken shelter in the valley realising how remote it was but in order to survive he had also been stealing from farms not that far away. He was tracked from some of his crime scenes back to the caves area. Then the cave systems were seen and the rest (as they say) is history…

On the ‘Six Foot Track’ that goes all the way to Katoomba

There are some huge stalagmites in parts of the cave

Folds of rock like sheets hanging to dry or large curtains.

Formations

Everyone knows that caves like these have stalactites (the ones that grow downwards) and stalagmites (the ones that grow upwards). But what I learned here was there are other formations called straws and shawls. The straws tend to hang down but are small in comparison to a typical stalactite. They are exactly like the tubular drinking straws, if you broke one off you could drink through it.

Also there were plenty of “shawls”. Water at the roof of a cave does not always form drops. Sometimes it trickles down a rockface, depositing a narrow strip of calcite, that eventually grows into a thin sheet at an angle from the wall. Shawls often contain interesting folds and can look like hanging sheets, curtains or even rashers of bacon. I don’t recall seeing these formations in other limestone caves we have visited. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention? But at Jenolan caves these formations are plentiful and some are huge.

The Caves House hotel

Heritage listed ‘Alpine’ retreat

Caves House is an icon of Blue Mountains accommodation.  Built in 1897, NSW Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, as a true wilderness retreat.  He designed it using the alpine, picturesque  ‘Federation, Arts and Crafts’ style. Caves House is on the NSW State Heritage Register.

I started to wonder which cave systems were the biggest/most visited etc. I wondered if the Jenolan caves were on any “top ten list” (or similar). After a quick look online I found out that this cave system is nothing compared to the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, USA. That one covers around 80 square miles of limestone caves, with a network that gives it the title of the longest cave system in the world. 365 miles of the cave have been explored to date. That takes some beating.

That said I think the Jenolan caves are the best that I  have seen (so far). They are said to be the best of their kind in Australia and I would have to agree with that.

Getting there?

There is a saying that one of the best parts of a journey is the getting there. Something like that anyway. I beg to differ. And this journey is one example of why. The direct and shortest route was closed. It has been closed for some time after storm damage, rock slides etc… We had to take a longer route to get to the caves. It added another hour or more to the journey time. Not the worst possible outcome but with a moaning seven year old in the back seat…

At least we got to pass through and see a couple of out of the way places en-route; the small village of Tarana and the town of Oberon. Also on arrival the descent into the valley is quite spectacular from that side. Bends so tight you wouldn’t fit them on a hair-pin!

Duck Billed Platypus

Another great reason to visit the Jenolan caves was always to see the nearby Blue Lake. Sadly the Blue Lake is basically no longer there. At least it isn’t blue but full of gravel and access to it is closed off. Again the heavy rains caused so much flood damage and washed so much crap into the lake they have closed it off and it is now undergoing repair works.

The lake itself was home to possibly Australia’s favourite and certainly oddest animal; the duck billed platypus  – or simply platypus. We were told that some burrows have still been seen but it remains to be seen of the animals will continue to make the Blue Lake home.

Bloody hell! If it’s not covid it’s the weather.  Hopefully the Blue Lake will return to its former glory and with the main access road re-opened we will just have to try again.

57 Years Old

Today I am 57. It’s a number that always make me think of the food manufacturer Heinz. From when I was as young as Daniel I can remember my mum telling me it was something to do with the Heinz company having 57 varieties of tinned and bottled products. Back then I couldn’t even begin to imagine myself reaching 57 years of age.

Heinz 57. Why 57?

Thinking about it now I am turning 57 it seems a bit odd. There would have been a short time when they probably had 57 products on the market. But that number would have soon gone up (or down) as new products were brought to the shelves of shops. In fact, by 1892, four years before the slogan was created, the Heinz company was already selling more than 60 products. Somehow “Heinz 60” just doesn’t work does it?

Henry J. Heinz – the founder of the food company based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, USA –   introduced the marketing slogan “57 pickle Varieties” in 1896. Apparently he was inspired by an advertisement he saw in New York City for a shoe store boasting “21 styles”. The reason for “57” is actually not known for sure. Heinz said he chose “5” because it was his lucky number and the number “7” was his wife’s lucky number. Although “7” is generally considered a lucky number for many people so it could just be that.  Whatever the reasons, Heinz wanted the company to advertise their large choice of pickles and foods.

Older, Wiser, Richer?

I saw a couple of phrase the other day that seems to fit reaching the Heinz age. ‘The older you get the wiser you get’ – and I suppose that one is true. But they also say that as you reach retirement age you should be more financially secure. To that one I say this:

When I was young I was poor. But after decades of hard work, I’m no longer young.

All that may change now. Dani bought me a board game . Monopoly! He loves it. More on that one to come…

NAPLAN Week

This week was a hectic one in school. Dani’s school year (3) did their first NAPLAN tests. I had no idea what it was all about even though I did read the email from the school.

First of all what does it stand for? I knew it had to be an acronym so when the school email clearly assumed we knew what it was (when we didn’t), I had to look it up.

It stands for: National Assessment Program – Literacy And Numeracy (NAPLAN). the three-yearly sample assessments in science literacy, civics and citizenship, and information and communication technology (ICT) literacy, and participation in international sample assessments.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is the independent statutory authority responsible for the overall management of the Australian National Assessment Program, in collaboration with representatives from all states and territories and non-government school sectors.

NAPLAN is an annual assessment for all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. It tests the essential skills for the kids to progress through school and life. The tests cover skills in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy. These assessments take place every year in the second full week in May.

So there you go. Now you know as much as me.

Some of the parents were getting worked up about it but I was not bothered. This is for the national government to see how those age groups overall are learning – or not! I think they have similar things in UK schools now (definitely not when I was in school!). I think they may be called SATS? Anyway, I was not worried and nor was Dani. I will probably write something about the results – if we ever get to see them…

He said it was easy. But then he has said that about other tests in the past and not performed that well. But as I am sure I have mentioned before I can see that his reading and writing is quite good so I am not really concerned. I am particularly impressed with his spelling – for  seven year old – what with English being a complete bastard of a language when it comes to spelling!

 

White Cliffs – Part Three

To the east of White Cliffs, a little way past the cemetery, the road turns to an unsealed outback road. A 30-odd kilometre drive took us into the Paroo-Darling National Park. This is genuine outback landscape.

Paroo Darling National Park

Some of the roads were perfectly passable. Even the emus were crossing…

But then after the rains we had some were only passable in a 4×4 vehicle

There wasn’t plenty of wildlife but the emus were out in force.

A family of emus keeps their distance in the bush

The Paroo-Darling National Park is huge. Over 178,000 hectares. There is plenty of space to tour, either in your car or walking. However after the recent heavy rains some roads were not passable for our two-wheel drive vehicle.

With all this space there is always a chance you will find an old abandoned vintage car. It seems to be a thing in these parts…

 

Sheep station at the edge of the national park

The young kids raised in this harsh environment grow up to be tough farmers.

Working Mine Trip

Dani and myself had been in opal mines in Lightning Ridge but Dani’s mum had not. This mine trip in White Cliffs was a fully operational mine that took visitors only at certain times/days. We got to see the mechanical digging machine followed by a chance to chip away carefully at the new workface.

I say “we”  but it was really the kids on the trip, and Dani was one of those that got to try his hand at unearthing a fresh opal underground.

The mine owner and guide. Informative, entertaining and funny

Dani inspecting the rock with his torch

Entering the mine

Not looking like he wants to enter this abandoned area

The latest live work face

The way up to the surface for the excavated dirt

Outside the mine

There was plenty more to this trip and the mine owner was more than willing to share his expert knowledge and walk us through all parts of the mine including those that had caved-in. It was very well attended too.

Making a couple of travel mates…

It’s always good for kids to mix with other kids even if they are not exactly the same age. In White Cliffs, during the mine tour, Dani was lucky enough to meet two brothers aged 11 and 12. They were really nice, well-mannered kids (I wish I could say the same about Daniel!). They too were on an outback adventure holiday with their mum.

Dani gives the thumbs down to the ice cream. But he really enjoyed the company of these two older boys.

I think they found the extremely talkative little seven year old a bit comical but they were very tolerant of him and great company for Dani on our last night in White Cliffs.

From here is was on to Broken Hill. A return visit to one of our favourite places for Dani and myself.

White Cliffs – Part Two

I quickly realised when I wrote the first White Cliffs post that this place needed at least two articles to do it justice. That’s the thing about places like White Cliffs (Lightning Ridge and Silverton also). As small as they are there always seems to be some quirky thing to see and photograph. And of course the surrounding scenery helps…

Quirky White Cliffs

One thing you can be sure of in these kind of places is that there are always good examples of the quirky or even crazy (in a nice way) nature of the people who live and work in them. To outsiders all of these outback mining towns have a certain level of craziness. ‘The largest unfenced loony bin in Australia,’ is how one person in Broken Hill supposedly described the town of White Cliffs. I see what he/she meant.

In White Cliffs some of the ‘highlights’ include several toilets dotted about the opal fields.

Nobody’s Toilet

Everybody’s Toilet

Somebody’s Toilet

There was another one called Busybody’s Toilet but I can’t find the photograph of that one.

Right in the heart of the town/village/hamlet*  there is an interesting type of art gallery. I think it was called Doug’s Place but I cannot find the information anywhere. Someone decided to make use of the number of railway line nails that were left lying around the outback.

Doug’s Place? Or whatever it was called… Let’s take a closer look…

A little bit of blacksmith-ery and welding and the result is a lot of unique little ornaments cum sculptures. Most of which can be bought. Just about every possible theme is covered. Below are just a few examples, there were so many more…
(* – delete as you see fit. Personally I think it is barely a village.)

Combat sports

More combat

Railway nail ‘people’ working on the railway

Taking a ‘selfie’

Dani loved this one of Ned Kelly

A larger sculpture of Ned Kelly.

An old fashioned deep sea diver

For something so simple it is easy to spend some time just walking around staring at these odd works of art. I am sure we still managed to miss a lot of them. There are also a large collection of old bottles which might interest a bottle collector. They are not exactly laid out on display but littered about the place.

There are even some Kama Sutra models

Buy your own nails and make your own…

And here is how to make them…

Then there is the ‘Stubbie House’ built with some 60,000 stubbie bottles. It operates as a shop and art gallery but sadly it was closed while we were there. For those who do not know a ‘stubbie’ is a small, squat beer bottle. It gets hot in White Cliffs so there would have been no shortage of used beer bottles. Still, you would think it would be easier to build a house with normal bricks.

The ‘Stubbie house’, in the wonderfully whacky White Cliffs

Built with thousands of old stubbie bottles – and a fair bit of mortar it has to be said.

Cemetery

The cemeteries in these frontier towns are always interesting. Not in a morbid sense but in an historical way. The cemetery at White Cliffs has that mix of first settlers and pioneers buried alongside recently deceased opal hunters.

There’s a little more to come of White Cliffs and the surrounding area…

By The Way…

This is the little railway nail sculpture we bought… in action.