Ross’s initial plan for Easter was a chilled long weekend with his lady friend, sampling the good wine and food that Orange is famous for. That was until Sam and Emily upped the ante considerably by suggesting that they return Ron, their Subaru Outback, to his roots.
The plan was Sydney to Broken Hill return, with a stop off in Mungo National Park on the way back for good measure.
We took the Tuesday off work, giving us 5 days to play with, and the right balance between driving and exploring. Setting off after work on Thursday, we raced through the Blue Mountains, and finally set up camp in the Mudgee Showground in the early hours.
We woke at sunrise, smashed some breakfast and a coffee, and hit the road.
We passed Dubbo before reaching a sign signalling the end of coastal NSW, and the beginning of the Outback. As if on cue; the vegetation thinned, the trucks got bigger and we started to see Emus left, right and centre.
Wilcannia has a rep as one of the roughest towns in NSW, with a drink and drugs problem to match. What we found couldn’t have been further removed.
We stayed at Warrawong on the Darling and took their pet Emu for a walk, had breakfast in a tea house that was stuck in time and had a good yarn with the locals about the wild boar one of them had caught the night before.
Our next stop was White Cliffs. Famous for opal mining and the fact most of its inhabitants live underground to escape the heat, as well as the proud owner of the world’s first solar farm.
To give you an idea of its size, at last count it had a population of 103.
We checked out the famous Underground Motel, grabbed a beer at the local pub and then set off for Broken Hill via the Mutawintji National Park.
This isolated stretch of dirt road was where Ron decided to have his only tantrum of the trip; bursting his tyre and shredding it for good measure.
Once the girls finally got him back up and running, we coasted into Broken Hill while keeping watch for the suicidal kangaroos that popped up each dusk and dawn.
We checked into our Motel and headed into what felt like a real frontier town. Broken Hill is famous for giving birth to BHP Billiton and its cameo in Mad Max and Pricilla Queen of the Desert. Dominated by a mining slag heap, its rough around the edges character belies the fact this sleepy town was once responsible for much of the wealth in NSW.
After curried soft-shelled crab for dinner (as bizarre as it sounds), we got up early to check out the Living Sculptures and the memorial to all the miners who have lost their lives, often in horrific ways, working the surrounding area.
In the afternoon, we headed out to Mundi Mundi lookout, a view so expansive you can see the curvature of the earth, before heading to the Silverton Hotel for a drink or three. The Silverton has been in more films you can shake a stick at, and the bar ladies have a charming outback approach to customer service. Namely, they don’t give a f*ck.
Leaving Silverton, we were now on the return leg of our journey, with the only significant stop off being the Mungo National Park.
Mungo National Park
After several hours off-road, we arrived at Lake Mungo. Once a massive lake, it is now a barren expanse of shrub, ending in a sand dune barrier referred to as the ‘Walls of China’.
The remains of Mungo Man, the oldest human remains discovered in Australia, and Mungo Lady, the oldest known human to have been ritually cremated, were both discovered within the park.
Being this remote, the stars were as vivid as I have seen, and the sunset from the Walls of China isn’t one I will quickly forget.
We woke early on the Tuesday, conscious of the fact we had a monster drive back to Sydney to contend with. We climbed the dunes for sunrise and our morning coffee ritual, and then set off for home.
It wasn’t until we got home 8 hours later that the enormity of the trip hit us. We had covered a distance equivalent of London to Istanbul and seen sights the vast majority of Sydneysiders have never seen. All while never having left NSW.
Ron did us proud.
All photography by @em.franke