04 August 2011

29th July 2011 - Charters Towers

Okay, I’m sure that most of you have worked out that there is something funny about the date that this has been posted – I write it using “Word” (lot easier to edit), then download the photos, then go online and copy it across. All of that happened, except the last step. I Didn’t realise until 5 days later. Sorry.
Since our last post we have had 4 nights in Townsville and six in Charters Towers. Townsville was, as expected, a very large country city with numerous shopping malls with everything so standardised that you wouldn’t know if you were in Perth, Hobart, Canberra, or Cairns. The waterfront area has been recently re-built and it is quite marvellous. Locally, it is known as ‘The Strand’ and truly deserves that elegant title. Great areas for kids, teens and adults with a glorious view to Magnetic Island are all built into the design.  Another area that former residents may not recognise is Palmer St on the south side – it now rivals any trendy yuppy cafe latte street in the country.
Our van site adjoined a Sizzler’s outlet, and we couldn’t resist a couple of visits (Shirl had Ribs and I had Steak & Prawns). We decided that we really miss Sizzler’s now that they aren’t in Canberra.
On our run up to Charters Towers on Sunday we came across our first road train. I noticed him slowly catching me so I backed off a bit to let him past and was amazed to find that he was hauling a dog trailer plus a B double: 4 trailers in all. I guess he was empty because he was certainly moving it along.
Charters Towers was once the 2nd largest city in Qld and even had its own stock exchange: these days it is about 8,000 people. There are many old buildings that have been restored and the entire commercial/shopping area looks great, and there are many “touristy” things to see and do. A general theme of some has to do with ‘Ghosts of Gold’ where they have various means to have 3D or ephemeral ghostly images pop out and tell their story.
 the former Stock Exchange, and Australasian Bank.
Not all Target stores are over 100 years old. All original inside.
 Shirl finally go to see a cattle auction, and was somewhat underwhelmed. Some bloke that she couldn’t understand, yelling at a heap of other blokes who didn’t seem to move – then another bloke painted a coloured letter on the rumps of the cattle, while all the other blokes wandered along to the next pen. More fun watching the horsemen move the cattle in, out, along, and into different pens.

I know that it may sound just as boring, but we spent a bit of time wandering around the local historical cemetery (which is also the current one), and discovered some interesting items. A bloke was killed way back in 1904 when he fell in between two railway trucks and was run over. He was buried in section 4, 6 & 9.  Another was working at the bottom of a mine shaft, when a hopper fell 900 feet and squashed him. His grave occupied all of section 24.
Queensland’s last official bushranger is buried here – he and his brother were both convicted with the brother being hanged, and this guy got ‘life’ only to be released after 14 years. He lived for another 24 years!
And poor Bridget Clancy, here she was enjoying a bit of slap and tickle with her sisters hubby when the so and so dies. Rotten sod he was. Bridget was so upset that she goes to the pharmacy and gets some strychnine “for her sick dog” and tops herself! What was she thinking? She was a good looking 30 year old who owned a pub – I repeat, she owned a pub. Surely a line of eligible men were all hers for the asking.

It offered some amusement when we found that when the gold was discovered, the authorities decided to establish the town at what is now an outer suburb of Charters Towers (because that was where the nearest water flowed) and called it Millchester, but the miners said “up yours”, or something similar, and set up their own town closer to the gold. A number of other mining towns have such actions written into their history – West Wyalong vs Wyalong in NSW, Yerranderie in the backwater area of Warragamba Dam are but two that spring to mind. You have to love the larrikin Aussie attitude, dontcha?
The official gold stamp & mill were established at Millchester and this mill still exists. It is not in full working condition, but it did continue working up until 1973. The tour of the complex explained the very detailed process needed to extract the gold dust from the ore. We were fascinated to the extreme. 

The School of Distance Education is another place that we visited and listened to a class of Yr 1 & 2s being taught by telephone. Gone are the days of radio, the system now works over the telephone network and uses computers (doesn’t everything?). Again, the process involved to get books, reading info, homework, and parent guidance out to the students homes is amazing. We were also intrigued to learn that the students include those on outlaying properties (many hundreds of kilometres away), students whose parents chose home schooling, students who have been subjected to school bullying, as well as overseas youngsters.
Yesterday we drove over to a small gold mining town called Ravenswood. This was Queensland’s first inland town in 1869 and remained a large and vibrant gold town until WW1. Interesting to see photos taken in the early 1900s and compare with today. Many very large and substantial buildings have simply totally disappeared with not even a foundation left. There remains about a half dozen decent buildings with two of them being pubs. Fascinating fact as to the quality of the gold at both Ravenswood and Charters – it was, and remains the highest grade ore in Australia at twice the grade of any Victorian field, and 75% higher than WA Kalgoolie.  Ravenswood already has a big hole being dug right on the edge of the town, and I’ll bet my kids will see another “Superpit” developed at both these Qld towns – pity about the actual towns, because the richest seams are under them.
 They don't make pubs like this anymore
 I had to do it - my artistic streak just bubbles over sometimes.
 Post office - tough times mean that you just need to diversify into other fields.
Parked out front of the other pub - I think the drivers are on a bit of a bender.
Mr & Mrs Butler raised 21 kids in this tin house. They lived in it until 1981

Off to Hughenden tomorrow, then Richmond, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Camooweal, Barkley Homestead, Tennent Ck, Devils Marbles, Ti Tree, and finally we will get to Alice Springs.   Since most of these places will only delay us for a single night (Mt Isa will be 5 nights), we won’t be posting another update for about another fortnight or so.

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