Friday, 23 October 2009
Richmond to Mt Isa
As we journeyed west, the country got hotter, dryer and redder. Only in the little towns was there any change of scenery.
At Cloncurry, we took note of the ominous sign on the side of the road.
Cloncurry is where the famous Flying Doctor Service was born, and we visited their museum to read about its beginnings. The brainchild of a Presbyterian minister, John Flynn, who enlisted Qantas founder Hudson Fysh to provide a plane, it has gone through many changes, but is still a vital link in the outback.
Also acknowledged was the start of the School of the Air, which allowed children on far-flung sheep and cattle stations to tune in with pedal radios to lessons broadcast over the airwaves.
Towards Mt Isa the scenery changed for the better with dramatic rocky outcrops, and low hills pockmarked with shrubs.
Finally, the tall chimney of the Mt. Isa mine came into view.
Well, what to say about one of Australia's oldest, largest and most profitable mining towns?
Last year the mayor of Mt Isa made headlines for saying that young single women who were looking for a husband should move to Mt. Isa as the town had a surplus of single males. Asked to comment, one woman remarked,"The odds are good, but the goods are odd."
There are none of the grand edifices that other, smaller towns built in their heyday. Instead of restaurants and cafes, there's a generous selection of clubs and hotels with gambling and bars and an afterthought of a bistro, if that isn't too grand a name.
We ate at a hotel across the street from the caravan park and I can honestly say that it provided the worst pizza I've ever had, and I've eaten bad pizza all over the world.
It should have been a warning when the waitress who took my order said that it was pretty large, or rather that "nobody ever finishes it". I now know why.
When I objected to the lipstick mark on the rim of my wine glass, the barmaid poured me a fresh one, but short-changed me on the amount. It didn't matter - the chardonnay was room temperature in a room that was an open terrace still feeling the effects of a 32º day. As we ate, a large cockroach scuttled across the floor and flung itself onto a french fry that an earlier diner had dropped.
Back at the caravan park, a very basic establishment, a foursome of loud young Aussies shared their mobile phone conversations, and later their drunken chitchat, with the rest of us.