Published: November 7th 2007August 1st 2006
Not a terribly good photo but I was hungry at the time.
We left Mt. Isa feeling rather disappointed. I guess the fantasy of a big outback mining town had not lived up to the reality. The romance was overwhelmed by the smells and the noise. Still, the people were friendly and the children's mass we attended on the Saturday evening left us feeling spiritually refreshed. Most towns only have mass once a month and this is the first time we have been in the right place at the right time.
We headed back towards Cloncurry to rejoin the road North, planning to catch up with the attractions we had missed on the way through last time. Sadly, we had forgotten that it was Sunday and the Outback was closed for the day! I'll bore you with some information anyway.
Cloncurry (Pop. 4500) was established in 1867 and grew due to the copper and gold found in the area. Like most other towns in the region it claims to be the home of Qantas and boasts that the original Qantas hanger is still standing at the local airport. One thing that can be confirmed is that the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) was started here by John Flynn in 1928 and
They are everywhere - and these were only small ones!
has since gone on to be one of the most celebrated and valued medical practices in Australia. Just as an aside, my local medical practice pulls in locums for one month every year so that the doctors can go bush and work with the RFDS for that month - entirely free, no charges, no costs
During this trip there have been several "revelatory" moments where I suddenly became aware that my knowledge of Australian history is so limited - and I think I know more than most Australians do. Here I was confronted with another.
Cloncurry has one of the largest Afghan cemeteries in Australia. What were they doing here? Aren't we trying to keep them out! They don't have any place in Australia according to our present government. Refugees are so threatening to Australia that we have even cut off our out-lying islands and deny they are part of Australia so that anyone who lands on them can be sent to Nauru instead of being granted asylum in Australia.
I found this on the Dulwich Centre website: Afghan histories in Australia
In the mid-nineteenth century Afghan camelmen played a critical role in opening up the vast Australian outback to Europeans. In these times camel trains were a crucial life support system to outback communities. The cameleers came from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Turkish empire and their labour and skills in hot, dry arid conditions made possible a number of key projects including the Overland Telegraph Line between Adelaide and Darwin, the Queensland Border Fence, the Transcontinental railway Line between Port Augusta, South Australia and Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, and the Rabbit Proof fence and Canning Stock Route in Western Australia. Cameleers were also vital to the early wool and mining industries... ...In every book which focuses on the Afghans in this country, after tracing the histories of Afghan contribution there are further chapters entitled: ‘No alien hawkers, please’ or’ The period of usefulness has passed’ or simply ‘Afghans not wanted’. By the end of the nineteenth century, racial intolerance swept across Australia directed primarily at the Chinese, the Pacific Islanders in Queensland, and the Afghans. Acts of violence and harassment at the local level, linked with the national policies of The Immigration Restriction Act, later to be known as the White Australia policy, and refusals to grant Afghan people naturalisation (even those who had been living in Australia for up to thirty years) gradually debilitated the Afghan community in Australia. Many Afghans were forced to leave the country and gradually the role of the camel trains was replaced by trains and trucks. The Afghan people who had contributed so much to life in opening up the outback to Euro-Australians were rewarded for their work with harassment and exclusion.
Sad day when our humanity is so diminished by our behaviour and
All of Sylvia's fears are realised
...and this was about 200kms from the coast!
it doesn't seem to have changed over the years. Sometimes I am ashamed of this country.
We left Cloncurry, hungry and thirsty, and headed off for the Burke and Wills Roadhouse about 200kms North. We hoped to be able to get something to eat at Quamby (Pop. 9) about 50kms from Cloncurry.
It looked pretty promising when we arrived. There were lots of cars and utes parked outside and people hanging over the rails of the pub, so we parked the van and sauntered over. "G'day", "G'day", "G'day", we got from the guys on the verandah. It all seemed pretty laid back. Inside was much the same - no-one behind the bar, no-one really caring much about what was happening. We walked through to the "beer garden" at the back where a couple of people were burning steaks on a gas barbeque. How on earth do you get served in a place like this?
We walked back out to the verandah where a woman was sitting in a rocking chair. "Can we get anything to eat here?" Sylvia asked. "Yea, but only if you do it yourself on the bbq," she replied. "I've been cooking since two
o'clock yesterday afternoon for all these buggers and I'm damned if I'm going to cook another thing today."
It turned out that the day before had been the annual Quamby rodeo and all of the people hanging around the pub were still suffering from drinking bouts from the night before. After a somewhat garbled conversation with a few of the people on the verandah - one of whom offered to buy Sylvia from me - we decided that we weren't likely to get anything to eat so we got back in the car and headed once more for Burke and Wills. (Of course I refused to sell her. He didn't offer anything like what she is worth!)
The Burke and Wills Roadhouse is in the middle of nowhere, at the junction of the Burke Developmental Road and the Wills Developmental Road. For all you foreigners, a roadhouse is a grandiose type of fuel station in remote areas of Australia. They usually offer some form of basic motel-type accommodation. Most roadhouses allow camping and parking of caravans and motorhomes, usually for a small fee. Hot water for a shower is often an extra charge. Mostly they have some form
of food service (sometimes small and limited in range, but often very good) and basic foods for sale, as well as petrol, diesel, oil, and other supplies.
Sylvia and I finally managed to get something to eat (it was about 3 in the afternoon by now) and contemplated staying at the roadhouse for the night as we had been travelling since 9am. However when we looked around, the site was a bit basic even for us. I still had more than half a tank of petrol, it was more than 5 hours till darkness and less than 200kms to Normanton, so we decided to push on. Looks as though some text has dropped off here. I will rewrite it whan I can.
Bourke and Wills Roadhouse
There are more photos below