A googlemaps look of "Broken Hill, NSW" brings me to a flat barren map with little red markings labeled "Broken Hill Visitor Center", "Broken Hill North Public School", and "Broken Hill Conveyancing". I zoom out a few clicks and see some spots of green where the regeneration reserve is, and way out on HWY B79 there is a Broken Hill Airpot. If I keep zooming out and out and out, Broken hill becomes close to water, close to Mildura, close to Victoria, close to the ocean. Tazmania becomes just a little dollop of land dripping off of the edge of Australia, and a few clicks later, Broken Hill is only a few inches from where I am now. You wouldn't ever think it by being there though.
Just earlier this year, I was driving down a long dark road stamped smooth and straight right through the Desert. After packing the rental car and the van full of suitable snacks and large amounts of gear, we drove for hours through those little Australian towns peppered with Op shops where you will always find something hand made or untouched by the present mess of the last two decades, and bakeries claiming to have the best vanilla slices in the land. Before too long the miles between towns grew in number. The dirt changed colour and the buildings ceased to exist. Unexpected wild goats with the most noble goat faces, like kings and queens, ran free through the land, their hoofs kicking up the bright red dirt as they went. They seemed to stop what they were doing as we drove by. Turning their heads hung with beards, looking with their earthen wild goat eyes under all knowing brows as if to say " What on earth are you doing out here?"
They were not the only animals to be seen, further off the edges of the road where wild Kangaroos, hopping up dust trails with their long feet. I wonder if their strong tails leave tracks in the dirt, as they search for the odd clump of grass to have for dinner. The earth was so red, the sky was so blue. No other cars were in sight.
As the night fell faster it stole the red colour from the ground and sucked the blue from the sky. Sparkles began to shine from the blackness that had replaced it. Suddenly headlights were the most precious things we had. There was nowhere else to go but straight. We were headed to The Palace Hotel, a time capsule of a Hotel from the early 1900's when mining was booming. The guts of the earth blasted out from underneath the deserts crust, bringing riches and unlikely populations out to the barrenest of land. Its a giantess of a building. Unlike here, Hotels in Australia especially out in the country are the centre of everything. You can stay there, you can drink there, you can eat there, you can live there. There is nowhere else to go really. The first time I pulled up to The Palace Hotel, It's presence filled me with a special kind of safe haven feeling, the feeling you get after being out in the sun all day and walking into a nice huge cool place prepared to take care of you. But that feeling is also mixed with a sense of uneasiness, a tilted reality sprinkled with led dust. It is stemming from the fact that you don't know who else is hiding away in those rooms upstairs, and what it is that brought them all the way to Broken Hill? Its giant hotel walls are covered in murals of desert style fantasy and renasaince paintings withbig blue painted skies. The carpets are deep maroon and lush, the ceilings are high, there are staircases long and wide that can take you all the way to the top. There are empty stages that echo still of wild nights to be sure.
But I am getting ahead of myself, we had not yet even arrived.