Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published November 4th 2019
Weekend Tour to Broken Hill, Coober Pedy & Birdsville
Have you ever thought of travelling to three towns in three states over two days? Well, you can very efficiently with Zeppelin Travel.
Taking off early on Saturday morning, our charter fight, complete with forty passengers, was bound for Broken Hill. Once a thriving mining oasis and referred to as "The Silver City", Broken Hill is listed on the National Heritage List and remains Australia's longest running mining town. Silver ore was discovered in 1883 by a boundary rider named Charles Rasp.
The name "Broken Hill" was given to describe several hills, which appeared to have a break in them, however, these hills are no longer present as they have been mined away. A massive orebody, which is believed to have been formed about 1,800 million years ago, has proved to be one of the world's largest silver-lead-zinc mineral deposits. Rasp and six of his associates formed The Broken Hill Proprietary Company, later becoming well-known as BHP Billiton and now BHP.
Mining Symbol Erected in Park, Broken Hill (Author's Photo)
In our brief visit to Broken Hill, we stopped at two well-known icons – Pro Hart Gallery and The Silver Mint. Born in Broken Hill in 1928, Pro's early years were spent on a sheep station where he was educated by correspondence as the station was 130 kilometres from the town. His drawing began from a young age in which he illustrated his homework from age seven. He moved back to Broken Hill in his early twenties and although he worked long hours underground in the mines, his art provided peace after a hard day and his inspiration was obtained from his love of the outback. His artwork contained not only paintings but also many sculptures as he loved to work with metal and stone.
In 1962, Pro Hart was discovered by a gallery owner from Adelaide and from there, his popularity and acknowledgement for his unique work soared. Walking through the front gates of the gallery, you are met with a display of vintage cars, which was another of his interests. No photographs can be taken inside the gallery; however, there is a merchandise shop at the front for you to purchase special mementos from your visit. His paintings are displayed on the two levels of the gallery and are for sale.
One of Pro Hart's Favourite Vehicles (Author's Photo)
Our next stop in Broken Hill was The Silver Mint, which incorporates an Art Centre, Chocolate Factory and Peter Anderson's (or Ando as he is familiarly known), "The Big Picture". The Big Picture stands twelve metres high and approximately one hundred metres long, a circumference of a half circle around a viewing deck. The canvas captures the outback landscape with 100,000 saltbush, 20,000 trees, 20,000 small stones, 1,000 large stones, 3,000 clouds, 1,500 hills and twelve sculptures creating an awesome experience by everyone who views it, giving the onlooker a total feeling of standing in the Outback.
The Big Picture (Photo courtesy of The Big Picture Facebook)
While you are there, you can watch the Silversmith create exquisite silver jewellery in numerous designs for everyday and special occasions. As part of our visit, we were given a tour of the premises with explanations in the making of the jewellery on site. There were so many beautiful pieces of silverwork and other jewellery that it was a hard choice to make when deciding what to take home. Souvenirs of Broken Hill and yummy chocolate can also be purchased here.
Unfortunately, our stay in Broken Hill came to an end far too soon, but we had another flight to take and much more to experience before the day's end.
Landing in Coober Pedy in the latter part of the afternoon we settled our baggage into the Desert Cave Hotel before refreshing and heading off to view the sunset, where we sipped on wine and beer accompanied by cheese and crackers. The surface of the earth in Coober Pedy can reach temperatures of 70 degrees celsius, making living and working above ground most uncomfortable. Even the kangaroos have dug small caves into the hills to retreat from the sizzling temperatures outside.
Dinner that evening was held in the hotel restaurant before we headed to bed for a well-earned rest. Some members of our group were accommodated underground, with the rest of us above in air-conditioned units. Part of the Desert Cave Hotel was carved into the wall of the rock and a tunnel from the reception area to the Opal Shop and Café could be accessed underground.
Anyone who was awake very early on Sunday morning could take part in a visit to Coober Pedy's first purpose built underground Catholic Church, which opened in June 1967. St Peter and Paul's Catholic Church is large enough to hold approximately eighty parishioners and felt very welcoming. It is incredible the size and space provided once inside.
Inside St Peter & Paul's Catholic Underground Church (Author's Photo)
After breakfast and before heading back to the aircraft, we were taken on a tour of Coober Pedy by one-time miner, Jimmy. Now providing informative tours in the town, he said finding the "big one" was a very hard job that will send you broke very quickly. It was interesting to learn that millions of years ago the desert was covered in water and when that dried up, the mineral deposits filtered down into the earth to form Opals.
Mounds of Mining Hills in Coober Pedy (Author's Photo)
We stopped for a photo shoot at The Big Winch, situated high on a hill overlooking the town and a tribute erected to the town's opal mining industry. Coober Pedy's Golf Club is renown to being one-of-a-kind offering golfers a game travelling across desert flats and hills with many a golfer finding an opal while playing. The only grass found (and that is not natural) is the small pad in which to tee off before heading off on a field of dirt. The 18-hole grass-less course is listed as one of the ten most unusual golf courses in the world.
Grass-less Golf Field @ Coober Pedy (Author's Photo)
Leaving Coober Pedy, our flight took us over the mysterious geoglyph of Marree Man, which is situated west of the township of Marree. It appears to depict an Aboriginal man carrying a boomerang but no one knows how it came to be there in the first place. What a magnificent spectacular it is from the air, truly incredible!
Marree Man Etched Into The Desert Plains in South Australia (Author's Photo)
A fifty-minute flight over Lake Eyre topped our visual expectations of a view from an aircraft window as all eyes and cameras where capturing the great expanse of water and coastline around the lake. Flying only a few thousand feet above the lake, one could see the ripples of waves as they came into the edge of the lake.
For the last part of our weekend escape, we landed in Birdsville for a visit to the iconic hotel, lunch and a drink at the bar. Unfortunately, the town was experiencing a dust storm, which impeded our walk around the town, however, we were able to chat to the locals to gain an understanding of what it is like to live in the outback.
A wonderful weekend escape was certainly enjoyed, giving us all a taste of what these amazing outback towns have on offer for perhaps a return visit. Living on the coast, you have no idea what it is like living in the outback until you actually experience it for yourself. I found being in places like Coober Pedy and Birdsville gave me a more profound appreciation of the hardships endured by those residing in the desert areas.
Zeppelin Travel hosts weekend escapes throughout each year, with these and larger holiday travels being booked through their Gold Coast office. As a memento of our trip, Zeppelin Travel gave each of us a beautiful coffee table book on Lake Eyre and a Map of the area which we flew over.
Travelling by charter was a pleasant experience as the airline staff were very accommodating, remembering the names of each traveler and providing extra comforts, which made the trip a personal one.