It was a cold morning in Broken Hill with the temperature being around 3C. As we left, we stopped at the Junction mine which sits toward the southern end of the Line of Load in Broken Hill. It’s an abandoned mine that worked on rich silver ores with a shaft over 500 metres deep. The mine sat on top of the hill immediately south of central lode It was first pegged in 1884. It closed initially in 1901, but re-opened in 1906 and struggled till 1923. In October 1929, the North Mine purchased the Junction Mine from the Sulphide Corporation. It was mined again from 1946 to 1962 when it was sold to Broken Hill South Ltd. Operations continued through to 1972.
Our drive from Broken Hill to Menindi was just over an hour. It only took few minutes before we were out int he desert. There was nothing much to see ealong the way except for salt bush and an occasional animal. There were lots of dead kangaroos on the road (road kill) with a murder of crows feasting on each of the carcasses. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t pay to be on the roads at night when headlights dazzle the animals and they get hit by oncoming vehicles.
Menindee is a tiny outback settlement which is famous for two things: it was the last place where the Burke and Wills expedition stayed before heading north into the unchartered outback. Secondly, the Menindee Lakes are an inland sight to see and are source of water for the surrounding communities. Menindee is also surrounded by some 20 lakes which exist in an inhospitable desert environment. The lakes are full of dead trees and surrounded by sand, saltbush and red soils.
The Burke and Wills expedition camped at Menindee on their journey to cross Australia north from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria. They arrived here on 14 October 1860, crossed the Darling River at Kinchega Station and made their thirty-fourth camp since leaving Melbourne. While in Menindee, Burke stayed at the Maiden’s Hotel (where we had dinner tonight, but in a much later version of the hotel),
A river boat trade helped develop this area on the Darling River. Initial plans for a weir to control the flow of the river and level of the lakes to ensure river traded were shelved in the 1890’s and by the time the rail head reached the area in the 1920’s the future of the river as a transport route were doomed. There are early stories of paddle steamers coming as far north as Menindee to transport the wool crop, only to be trapped by falling water and having to wait for over a year (or more) until the next flood occurred before that could travel downstream again.
We spent a lot of driving on dusty unmade roads to get to the Kinchega Woolshed which has been listed on the Register of the National Estate. It has been estimated that six million sheep were shorn in this woolshed in its 92 years of operation. At its peak in the 1880s it stands for 26 blade shearers. It was later mechanised and shearing with machines was much more efficient.
The woolshed is located near the ruins of the Kinchega Homestead which was built of locally made bricks in the 1870s. It was subsequently used as an overseer’s house and stockmen’s quarters from 1872 to the 1940s. The only thing remaining of the homestead is a fire place and part of a chimney.
Unless you are a committed fisher, there is little to see and do in this town. Although if you are a pastoralist, you would be more pleased withe the facilities that this town offers. We struck up a conversation with a group of auctioneers who were also having dinner in the pub tonight. Tomorrow, they are holding a clearing auction on a property where the owners have retired and wish to sell off their equipment and paraphernalia. They told us that the property was not as big as many others on the area – only about 22,000 acres.
This photo that I took of the main street on leaving the pub shows about as much as you can see during the day – not much!
Tomorrow, we expect a very cold morning and a few hundred more kilometres on outback roads to drive to Mildura.