Sunday, July 10, 2011

Silver City Sojourn - Day 6 - Silverton, local Broken Hill sites and the Sculpture Symposium

Tuesdsay 26 April
A fairly good night, then I decide I had better catch up on the journal which is a couple of days  behind.  Mum reads her bible and then does her exercises as I work.  It’s an easy day today, so there’s no need to rush.  No point heading out before things are open.  
Before we have a chance to get too far Mum realizes that she hasn’t got her glasses.  She goes through all her stuff and then rings SSSF and sure enough they found her glasses on the floor of the plane.  We head out to the Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum.  They aren’t open yet.  We go and fill the car with petrol and then decide to head to the park in town to check out the ant sculpture.  The garden is called the Conservation garden and it has been established to demonstrate the different performance of a range of exotic plants and native plants.  There is a large shining white sculpture closest to the road but I do not find any plaques or information boards to tell us about it.  The Ant however is, as one would guess from looking at it, by Pro Hart. 

The Ant has a dedication plaque which reads: Dedicated to the workers of Broken Hill & their struggles to extract the wealth we all live from. There is also an interpretive board that explains the significance of the ant to Pro and it comes from his devout christian faith. The sculpture represents the dedication that each miner must show to his mates. Underground he is important only as a member of a team working as closely together as ants in the common interest.  No matter what a miner's personal feelings are towards another miner, he cannot let them interfere. In this way he learns tolerance.  The sculpture was inspired by Proverbs VI, VI: Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.
I find this information very enlightening and I am surprised that the Pro Hart Gallery did not explain that about his use of ants in Pro's work.  

I wander around the paths in the garden and admire the flowers.  Some fragrant wattles are flowering, so I warn mum to avoid that bit as she's allergic to those.  

Then I go next door to the rotary park to photograph a lovely pink flowering gum and across to the next lot to have a look at the Kintore Head frame and read about its history in the interpretive panel provided.

Back in the garden there is a yellow flowering eucalypt with comparatively coarse bright yellow blossoms of heavy substance. The fruits of this tree are ridged and gnarled. 

On the edge near the grass a beautifully flowering pin cushion hakea.  

Time now to head out to the airport and get mum’s glasses which goes smoothly. Then it is an easy skip across to the flying doctor base. An hour too early for the first tour. Hmm.  Maybe we have time to duck back into town for the geo museum.  Back in the car and in no time we’re paying our small entry fee and heading in.  What a surprise! This place is fascinating. I’m not generally interested in minerals or geology but this museum houses the city’s collection and it includes a remarkable array of specimens many of which do not exist in the local area any more, some very rare, or unusually large.  Even the specimen of galena which is common in the area is really interesting to see, and very pretty.  If that is not enough, the silver tree is huge. Much bigger than we expected and the craftsmanship is exquisite. Under the tree itself which once would have supported a cut crystal bowl, there are aboriginal hunters, emus, roos, a boundary rider and some sheep.  I came so close to skipping this museum but it was great. I am so glad we came in here.  We have run out of time but there is also a corrugated iron miners shack in the backyard, that I would really have liked a closer look at.  Maybe next time.  We have to dash out to the flying doctor base. The tours run from the Bruce Langford Visitors Centre and the Clive Bishop Medical Centre is across the courtyard.

It’s only a few minutes out to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) base and we have a look in the shop for a bit until time for the tour.  The tour heads down through the operations room where we get an overview of the range of services that the RFDS offer.  Everyone knows about the emergency evacuation side of things, but many people don’t realize that the RFDS offer a regular clinic round in remote areas and this is the only medical services available to those communities. They even have a dentist who goes around with her gear and portable dentist chair. Everyone is covered all services are free of charge.  The RFDS also does evacuations when people are taken ill or are injured on the ghan or tours, so while city people may think the RFDS is not relevant for them, it serves everyone.  We move on to the hanger to hear about the planes.  

Operating expenses are covered by the government, but the RFDS has to supply their own planes. These cost 6 million to buy and another 2 million to kit out for the role.  So 8 million AU$ all up. Fundraising is essential and 100% of donations goes to the purpose, none on administration. Give generously. We have a quick look around the museum, but there's not much we don't already know having read the book about John Flynn by Ion Idriess and also having had a good look at the Adelaide House museum in Alice Springs which also is closely involved in the history of the RFDS. We buy some things in the shop, all profits go towards funding the planes.  A maroon and white shirt for Hubby, a first aid kit; a couple of pairs of earings; a cookbook. We've really enjoyed our visit here  Then time to move along.   
Where to now? Straight out to Silverton, but first we stop at the lookout over the mundi mundi plain.  Not really anything we haven’t seen already over the course of our trip.  However the views are expansive and as with everywhere else around here at the moment, it's green rather than the "normal" red.

We decide to explore out to Umberumberka Resevoir and then make our way back. It doesn’t take long to get there.  It’s kind of a ramshackle sort of place, but there is a pleasant picnic area up from the actual reservoir wall.  Nothing to keep us long when we have limited time.

Next we head back to Silverton keen for some lunch.  First we head up to the café but it is bedlam there. No tables to be had, so we decide to head down to the horizons gallery for a better look down there.  We are really thrilled to read on the interpretive sign outside, that the gallery is in what was originally the butcher shop run by Sackville Kidman and is where Sid Kidman worked when he was about 14.  Coool.  I acquire a lovely framed print here called West Fall of the Barrier Ranges. Beautiful work and completely evocative of the local landscape. I have just the place for that. Very reasonable price too already beautifully framed by the artist.

Back up at the café we end up sitting at a table with a Broken Hill local and have a lovely chat over lunch and a slice of quandong pie. I had a pretty good milkshake, mum had an orange spider.  Our waitress comments that it's always people of the older generations that order the spiders.  Meals we shared: sausage rolls and a serve of damper – which was rather like a giant scone. Nice and light and quite tasty. We buy a large bag of quandong seeds for making necklaces with the grandkids when they get a bit older.. and in fact we'll need to have some more too I guess (haha I'm always thinking ahead!). We also bought a jar of quandong jam which mum and I shared over following weeks. Absolutely delicious - don't skip that!! I wish I'd bought more.

Next we have a quick look at the coin carver and at the various old buildings. The Mad Max Museum is next to the cafe, but we both find we can cheerfully skip that one.  We’re finding Silverton more interesting than either of us expected.  We stop by the leaning dunny of Silverton and check out the gallery next door, cost of entry is a gold coin donation. Apart from the tea towels we don’t enjoy this gallery much.  Seems to me the souvenirs and prints on offer are overpriced.   Another of the stores we checked out was called Beyond 39 Dips. This is chiefly a leadlight studio.  The name of the store is a reference to the large number of dips on the road out from Broken Hill.  It’s an entertaining road to drive though you can’t go overly fast with the dips coming up pretty frequently.

It’s a tough decision but in all the living desert and sculptures have to take priority over the Silverton goal museum, so we head back in to town, then out again to the Living Desert.  $10 entry per vehicle. It’s about the time that we flew over yesterday.  We follow the signs to the sculptures and this involves climbing up to the ridge top where we are met by wonderful views around the ranges and back to Broken Hill. It is simply a stunning location.  Other visitors are wandering around in awe.  Some are so overwhelmed they cannot help but turning to eachother to exclaim how wonderful it all is. So much better than they were expecting.  Some of the sculptures are in themselves a little underwhelming, but there are a few that we really like,  Even simply as lumps of rock in this position among the gardens on the ridge top they are collectively wonderful. 

Having taken our fill of the sculptures we decide to drive around to the living desert just as a reccie. It closes at 5pm so isn’t open now in any case, but it’s interesting to see the picnic area.  There is a walk up to the sculptures and that would be the way to go if you have no issues with mobility. It's only 1.2 kms or about 20mins walk.  In warmer months you are advised to take water and in the cooler periods a wind proof jacket is recommended..  We don’t stop at the picnic area though and turn to head back to Broken Hill hoping for a rest before dinner.  On the way out we pass a sign pointing to a display of Sturts Desert peas.  At first I don’t see them, you would probably miss them if not for the sign. They are about 50 metres or so away from the road in great splashes of red.  Awesome. 

I pull over and we each climb out and head to the peas with cameras at the ready.  How awesome to see the peas in their natural environment. We have only seen them in gardens before.
We pause a couple of times on the way out to admire the sunset and try to capture it but photos seldom do a sunset justice.
A brief time to relax before heading to the Broken Earth Restaurant high on the line of lode for dinner. On arrival we are greeted by a delicious aroma which bodes well for the meal.  We are seated promptly but there are a couple of large groups who are currently using all the menus, so we order drinks and wait.  Eventually and soon as a couple of people have ordered at the large table, More apologies and menus are provided.  We decide to go with entrees for both savoury courses.  Our first round is the best with a haloumi and mushroom stack for mum and quail for myself.  Both delicious and we both agree that the haloumi is the nicest we have ever had.  We are surprised at the colour of the cheese when it appears as it has been cooked to almost black on either side, but it defied its looks and didn’t taste overcooked in the slightest.
Our next course mum went for honey soy prawns with crispy noodles.  This was interesting with more honey in the flavor than I have typically found in honey soy flavoured things.  Quite reminiscent of honey prawns.  It is garnished with coriander which is unfortunate because mum doesn’t like coriander at all. The coriander was not listed in the description. It would probably have broken up the cloying aspect of the honey if mum had not been inclined to remove every tiny coriander contamination. 
My second course was ravioli with chorizo and feta.  When it came out it turned out to be massive. Absolutely massive.  For entre dishes both these second round arrivals have been very big.  I also ordered a salad and that too is massive.  I would have been happy with half the size.  I asked later whether they had made these two main sized but was told no, that’s the entre (starter) size.  We concluded they must be portioned to accommodate very hungry miners who do physical work all day.  I am keen to try the deserts and though tempted by  a couple, I decide to go for the pumpkin and orange and apricot pudding with orange infused yoghurt cheese.  This was very very sweet. Only the yoghurt dressing which was not plentiful breaking up the sweetness.  Apricots in the base but they are the whole dried sort that I’m not overly fond of.  We were not all that fussed with the pudding, but I think to myself that I have been spoiled when it comes to desserts.  The high end places in Sydney are really extremely good and most recently our dining experience was at Aria.  Its really not fair to compare a $13 dessert with a $25 dessert is it!  Tonight’s dessert was fine really. It needed a bit more to offset the level of sweetness, but the biggest problem was that the portion sizes on the entrée dishes was just too big to have you arrive at dessert with enough appetite to do the offerings justice.
We are a bit horrified by the time. It was 8:45 by the time we were even ordering dessert.  Three staff on the front of house and they seem to be coping very well with a full house.  The delays seem to be in the kitchen, simply servicing the number of people, though I did note that the big groups where receiving their meals in quick succession from each other and all ordered al la carte.  Many places in Sydney simply won’t let a group of that size order a la carte. 
It is quite late before we fall into bed. 

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