“Let me tell you of an interview, with an Old Man Emu ..”

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Monday saw us pack up and head out of Mungo NP towards Broken Hill. The roads are dirt and corrugated as expected, with cattle grids thrown in at regular intervals to make sure you keep to the straight and narrow. It was an easy drive to Pooncarie, which has a lovely grassed oval and play area for kids. From there our route took us to Menindee, famous for their grapes! The road however between Pooncarie and Menindee was extremely rough, making the trip out of Mungo seem like black top in comparison. It was about 10km before we reached town that an excited emu ran out to meet us from the scrub at the side of the road. Paul’s 4WD training and instincts kicked in, and an evasive manoveur avoided a collision. By crikey it was close though, and in the middle of the day! It was the closest we’ve been to an emu, (hence the reference to John Williamson’s lyrics!) and we could see the feathers bouncing on its back as it bolted across the road. Paul said it actually fell over and did a couple of rather gangly somersaults before getting back up and taking off again, such was the shock of nearly being taken out by the Nissan Patrol Legend. We are extremely grateful for the Redarc electric brake system, and the superb handling of the Cub camper in helping to avoid a nasty situation. 

We arrived in Broken Hill in the afternoon and booked into a tourist park, though had to ask for a different site, as the one they had given us had a lovely tree in the middle of it which meant we couldn’t open the rear folding Cub camper. Once this was sorted, we set up camp and enjoyed a pleasant evening. To be honest though, we’ve been totally spoiled by the time we spent at Blackwood, in spacious and peaceful surrounds. Being hemmed in to a small site in a crowded caravan park, is not our idea of comfort. Our vehicle did attract attention though, and another Cub camper came to have a chat about the camper trailers and our trip.

After some research, and needing to stay around Broken Hill for a couple of days while the excellent after-sales service of EvaKool helped us out, we decided to relocate out to Silverton. As we were packing up, another gentleman came over to chat, having noticed our kids helping to load items onto the top of the closed trailer, and thinking that the family packing up together was awesome. Our eldest daughter was rather taken with this man, who spoke with a wonderful accent, asking him if he was Scottish. He congratulated her on being the first person to get it right, and her face positively lit up. Paul being half Scottish, there was some chit chat about clans and affiliations to Robert Burns. This man then asked about the vehicle, the trip, and told us that “depression is a silent killer”. He had served for 20 years in the military, and seen a lot of men suffer with mental illness during this time. Our daughter was only too pleased to give him one of our cards with the website details on it so he could follow our journey.

Before heading out to Silverton and our new campsite, we explored a memorial to Broken Hill’s mining history and paid our respects to those who lost their lives. At the Line of Lode memorial, we met a touring group from the Probus Club, some members from Narrabri. They were positively delightful to chat with, so friendly! Luna attracted a lot of interest, and many of the group were intrigued to hear about a mental health assistance dog.

Silverton is only 25km out of Broken Hill, and the road between the two towns is famous for its “dips”. We have a bit of a tradition of throwing our hands up in the air as if on a rollercoaster, when going through a dip, which Paul rolls his eyes at, but grins nonetheless as all passengers partake.

You don’t go to Silverton and not visit the Hotel, which has taken on several aliases over the years as a location for many movies and advertisements. The memorabilia and photos, cheeky slogans, and relaxed country atmosphere, make for a thoroughly enjoyable visit. The wandering horses that come in to drink from the trough, later make way for donkeys, and even cattle! The kids fell in love with the place, and we’re rather fond of it too.

Paul met with some visitors there who noticed the Nissan Patrol Legend Edition, or The Legend, as we call her. Aside from thinking the trip is incredibly important, it was also nice to have one lady ask how Paul is coping with everything. Probably many assume that because we’re in the public eye and undertaking a huge journey, that Paul’s health is fine. Only those who understand mental illness will appreciate that there are good days and bad days, and often each day is a mixture of both. No-one else sees the uncontrollable leg tremors, perspiration and shallow breathing, symptomatic of extreme anxiety, when Paul gets back in the car. The nightmares and night terrors still plague his attempt at sleep. Driving Oz with the Black Dog is also a way for Paul to challenge his own illness and find some sense of normality in the routine of travel and taking care of his family. Luna is here to support him at every step, and she is the reason that he is able to do this.

Penrose Park at Silverton is infinitely more our style, and with yet another Cub camper also here, feels very comfortable! Bush setting, birds and animals to amuse the children, lovely playground. We put Luna in her boots because of the caltrop weed. We think she must have appreciated it, as she took off after the kids to have a romp, without having to worry about the nasty spiky burrs that have caused us all to attempt our own spontaneous version of Riverdance when encountering them in bare feet! The highlight of our stay here?  Hand feeding the unusual grey/black birds that came screeching at our feet this morning demanding food, which would have been sheer hell for anyone with vivid memories of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. We also spotted a NUMBAT running across the road as we came home this evening. Seeing one of those in the wild? That was a first for the entire family!

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