The sand-ravaged Mannahill Hotel 150km short of the NSW border presents as a stark and lonely presence at the edge of the Barrier Highway on the way to Broken Hill.
The rendered stone structure stands defiantly on a vast, dead-flat desert plain spotted with saltbush and the occasional mulga tree, the pub languishing as a reminder of just how despairingly desolate the outback out here truly is.
This South Australian frontier hotel materialised in 1889 as the result of a gold discovery in the district and was once only accessible through a painful and laborious 100 mile steam train journey from Peterborough to the southwest.
Today the pub survives as an unexpected yet welcome watering-hole for outback highway travellers.
Publican Di Highet emerges from somewhere at the back of the hotel to serve at the bar, announcing to us that we’re the first customers she’s had in three days.
Keen to yarn with visitors from the outside world we learn her passion is transport – in particular trains and Mini Minors – pictures of which adorn the pub’s walls.
I question how the pub manages to survive at all, to which Di says it’s chiefly due to occasionally passing tourists who stop by.
The only tourists I’ve seen out here in the desert are driving petrol and diesel-fuelled four wheel-drives towing caravans.