28 August 2002
The rain in Quorn turned out to be nothing more than half a dozen heavy drops in the early hours of the morning. The drought is palpable here. We had breakfast in the camp kitchen, and packed up our gear and headed out of the caravan park, filling our green gas bottle on the way. We stopped at the op shop in Quorn at Susan’s request, and chatted with a gregarious woman behind the counter. She was the archetypal merry widow. Susan tried on some clothes and Ruby posted off a week’s schoolwork at Quorn Post Office, and we set out on the 420 km drive to Broken Hill.
When we drove through Orroroo, we turned around and drove through it again. It was a charming place; all the shops were on a few blocks with a wide median strip running down the middle. Susie inspected a junk shop, and I walked the length of the town and back. Then we decided to have lunch in the pub near where we had parked. Ruby and Clare had calamari and chips with salad, as they had done the night before, whilst Susie and I had the battered fish, which wasn’t bad. There was an open fire and both the bar and the dining room had a comfortable friendly atmosphere. The publican was positively gregarious. We left Orroroo with our bellies full, and feeling happy that Susan had caught up on the pub meal she had so wanted, but missed out on the night before.
We refuelled in Peterborough, and headed out across the flat brown plains to Broken Hill. We stopped in Yunta to check our email, and collected seven messages including good news from home from Jim Martin. More ominously, Susie learned of mass sackings at her work.
The border town, Cockburn, was so intriguing that we had to drive through it twice. If dying industrial towns form the “rust belt” of the country, then dying rural towns must surely be the “dust belt”. The town was so dilapidated that most of the houses appeared deserted. The pub looked irresistible, but we were driving into “kangaroo o’clock” so we didn’t want to stop.
We pulled into Broken Hill about 5.20 p.m. and chose the ugliest caravan park on the trip so far. We took a cabin rather than an unpowered site so we could lock ourselves in and draw the curtains.