Thursday, 3 November 2011

On the road with Mad Max

I have a soft spot for the Mad Max movies which led me to Broken Hill as it was the nominal place where they filmed Mad Max 2 better known in North America as The Road Warrior. In fact, it was mostly filmed at various locations around Broken Hill, most notably, Silverton. The latter was my destination on Wednesday, and at 25 km out of Broken Hill, a middling distance there and back. Only fate had other ideas.
About 5 km from Silverton, I was lured by a sign to the Old Daydream Mine Tour. The sign said it was 20 minutes away (implicitly by car) which I "translated" as about an hour by bike. I had been flying along on the bike so I felt up to the challenge. Also, they promised fresh scones. The road to the mine site was unsealed and as a partial consequence had so much washboarding that my mirror fell off after about 500 m. It had been loose. I didn't notice until about 5 km later. When I did, I decided to hope for the best and keep an eye out on the way back. Along the way, I saw a fox, a wedgie and a line of ants.
Line of ants
I arrived at a ramshackle collection of buildings a few minutes before a tour was about to start. Along with a gaggle of grey hairs, Peter, our guide and an ex-miner at the big Broken Hill mine, showed us first around the remnants of the community that had grown there in the 1880's. I won't say prospered as despite the rich galena deposits, it must have been a miserable existence. Galena is an ore that produces silver, lead and zinc.
This is the remains of one of the huts the miners lived in.
Anyway, these hardscrabble miners dug and backfilled a fair number of shafts. Peter took us down one of them. It was very low, dry and dusty. Luckily, I was able to keep my claustrophobia in check. All very interesting to hear but not to retell. One interesting bit was that someone, starting in the 1960's, had been going through the leftovers and doing some treatment to the ore before selling it to the big processing plant in Broken Hill.

The fresh scones were quite good.

Peter, the guide, was concerned about my water supply and topped up one of my bottles. For the record, I was carrying over 4L that day, the only day I had bothered with the 2L flexible bottle.
On the way back, I saw some feral goats descended from those the miners had brought. I saw something that I first thought was my mirror, but which turned out to be a large scaly lizard with a fat dumpy tail. In retrospect, I think it was a shingleback or Tiliqua rugosa asper. Later, I found the mirror.

In Silverton, I was greeted by...
...some emus......and some camels. I went to the town museum. I was about to park Leonardo in the shade of a porch when I disturbed a long (roughly 1 m), slender lizard which had been there.
I asked the volunteer in the museum lobby if he knew what type of lizard it was, showing him the digital image that I had managed to snap. He said it was a lace monitor or goanna. I am going to have to read up on Aussie lizards.

The museum was an exercise in clutter, a lot of the rubble relating to Broken Hill and not Silverton. One piece was a cheap reproduction of a Spanish sword the same as the one Philip got in France in 1984! There was one artifact whose significance I only twigged to when I was in bed that night. It was an announcement from the Australian government in Chinese from the 1880s. The translation provided said that four wicked bandits had shot three government officials and stolen a lot of money. The bandits were still at large and sometimes came out of the hills to buy grain. The government wished that people tell them if they knew where they were and not to help the bandits. I can't remember if there was a reward mentioned but there must have been.

Maybe I am slow on the uptake or maybe Silverton is a long way from the ranges North-East of Melbourne. However, I think the museum would have done better if they had added a card saying the notice referred to the Kelly Gang! I'm just saying it would help the foreign tourists such as myself.
One thing I didn't need explained was the various Mad Max related things. Outside the Silverton Hotel (itself famous from films including A town like Alice), was an VW Beetle tricked out as the Pursuit Special's Love Child, complete with a particularly pointless supercharger sticking out of the front hood. I say "particularly pointless" because the supercharger in the original didn't actually contribute to engine power and the engine in the Beetle is in the back.

Re-reading this section, I realize that many of the references probably fly over the heads of many of my readers. I'd apologize, but this is my blog about what interests me. It will become clearer when get home and post pictures.
Anyway, next door there was a souvenir shop with a bad reproduction of the Pursuit Special and a couple of dune buggies modeled after those in the movie. There was an Australian cattle dog that looked very much like the one from the movie and as if he was waiting for Mel Gibson to come back and drop off his percentage, possibly in the form of Dinky-Di dog food. After buying some souvenirs and a cold drink, sat on the veranda and shot the breeze with the owner.
He surprised me be saying that about six months ago people were in the area practicing stunts for Mad Max 4 Fury Road. I'd thought that movie was in development hell and would never see the light of day. The guy said that they had been doing test shoots with 3D cameras complete with special vacuum cleaners to keep dust out the lenses. Apparently, further shooting had been halted because the land was currently too green. He told me where some scenes in The Road Warrior had been shot, particularly the Mundi Mundi lookout a few klicks further on.
I biked to the top of a nearby hill to a small private museum dedicated to Mad Max, featuring several original artifacts including a piece of perforated steel plate used as armour on the tanker wheels. There were also a couple of more accurate replica Pursuit Specials among other clutter memorabilia.
Afterwards, I headed on to the Mundi Mundi outlook. The Mundi Mundi Plains are staggeringly flat.
Some foreign tourists (possibly Italians) said that it was one of two places where you can see the curvature of the Earth. My comment was that I have been to three of them! I have seen the curve of the Earth on the plains around Montreal as well as any sea coast. For that matter, I think I can see the curvature at my Metro Station.
The road next to the Mundi Mundi outlook has been used in several movies. It shows up two or three times as different places in Mad Max 2, most notably in the climax where the tanker goes off the road after running into the Humongous' truck. In an earlier bit of the film, there is actually a sign saying "Mundi Mundi overlook". This bit of road is also used in Reckless Kelly as a part of the montages of Ned going to and from Kelly Island.

Going back, I stopped at the Silverton Hotel for a cold beer and peanuts. Thus fortified, I rode the 25 km back to Broken Hill seeing only 11 cars and one cyclist, whom I passed.
Total distance was a hair under 90 km.

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