The black-box flight recorder, spray-on skin, the woomera, electric drill and Wi-Fi are all top local inventions, but none compare with Australia’s greatest contribution to the world: the road trip.
Because there is a lot of nothing across Australia, our road trips are part meditation, part avoiding death by heatstroke, snakebite, crocodile bite, kangaroos, wandering emus, drop bears, dust, alcohol poisoning, suicide sump rocks and lack of Telstra service.
No wonder last weekend I decided it was time for a road trip to bring the Weekend Australian Motoring ute back from Melbourne to Sydney … via Broken Hill.
Broken Hill should be in South Australia. The locals get Adelaide papers, listen to Adelaide ABC, watch Adelaide television and follow Adelaide sport. Adelaide is closer to Broken Hill than any other capital.
But Broken Hill is in NSW, 1200km from Sydney as the roosters, bulldogs, rabbitohs and swans fly. Melbourne to the Hill is only a lazy 850km. So it was a quick 2500km trip last weekend. Apart from a blown water hose that I thought was a blown head gasket, my tooth implant falling out, and not realising the can of petrol in the back was leaking on to the ground near people smoking, things went well.
They like their cars out here. The annual Mallee Rally at Sea Lake (named because it’s 350km from the ocean) sees a heap of Mad Max type vehicles try to do four 85km laps of nearby Lake Tyrrell. On the Queen’s Birthday long weekend Sea Lake goes off with a Friday night spectacular complete with live band, jumping castle, merry-go-round, a static display of off-road vehicles and fireworks.
After Mildura and Wentworth there is 300km of nothing to Broken Hill, not even a soy latte shop. But Mildura, houseboat heaven, has great wine, a speedway and, next week, the annual Goanna Run, presented by the Desert City Rodders with entrants from all over the globe. No, it’s not like Australia’s other major contributions to global sport: crab, yabby, cane toad and cockroach racing. While Pete Rankin did design the logo and made a promotional goanna costume in 1987, this rockabilly-themed weekend features hot rods, local wine, food and not many lizards.
Just past Mildura is Wentworth, where next year you should slip by for the Great Wentworth Tractor Rally.
Broken Hill and nearby Silverton are Australia’s Disneyland. In Broken Hill there’s the Palace Hotel, famous for a starring role in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Mario Celotto’s Botticelli murals and Aboriginal artist Gordon Waye’s murals of everything else. Across the road is Outback Whips and Leather, and one street away is the sensational Sulphide Street Railway Museum where, if steam, diesel and running through old rail carriages are your go, you can be as macho as an early train driver for $12.
On the drive to Sydney, Bogan Shire is a must. What true Australian doesn’t want his or her photo taken with the 5m tall and proud Big Bogan in Nyngan.
There he is, in all his rusted iron glory, complete with mullet, blue singlet, thongs and Warwick Capper shorts. Who said Australia was a cultural wasteland?
Back to normal transmission next week.