So after leaving the comfort of our couch in Townsville, we decided that we wanted to head inland in an attempt to see a bit of the Australian outback. We followed the 50m road trains along dead straight roads across miles of nothingness to reach the small town of Charters Towers. Back in the 19th Century, Charters Towers was a very important gold mining town, so much so that it was named The World as it was such an affluent area. Nowadays however it's pretty lame! There was nothing but a main street with a few querky shops and a couple of old buildings that were reminders of it's mining past. We stopped off at a tiny museum that was had a range of random artefacts from the mining days which was quite interesting, but after a wander down the main street we were pretty much done with the town itself. It wasn't even really the outback, more like what Aussies call the bush, and I think the drive there was better than the town!
We had heard there was an even smaller place on the route back to the coast that used to be a mining town so we decided to stop there and stay overnight. We turned off the highway onto a dirt track and watched the sunset over the barren landscape as we passed tiny villages and the odd dead kangaroo on the side of the road! We arrived in Ravenswood at dusk to find two pubs, a grocers and an arts and crafts shop. That was it. The town had a population of 100 plus a few more hundred miners who live and work out at the local mining site. We stepped foot into one of the pubs, a tiny but comforting bar where the people were extremely friendly (I guess we were the first foreigners for a long time!) and let us park up in the back garden. It felt so strange to be in the complete middle of nowhere but yet still have somewhere to drink. It was starting to get pretty cold, so after cooking up a strange mix of rice, eggs and sweet and sour sauce, we went back upto the bar and drank a beer among the miners. There was a big rugby league game happening between Queensland and New South Wales which we watched and cheered along with and when Queensland won everyone went mental! We wandered down to check out the other pub and the whole population of Ravenswood must have been in there, and they were all wasted! With music blaring and a big fire outside, we chatted to a few of the miners who lived outside the town which was really interesting. Everyone was really friendly, but at the same time we were stared at a lot (everyone obviously knows everyone) and they all seemed to be a little strange. Nevertheless, it was great to be able to see this side of aussie life and it was totally different to the east coast.
After waking up in our boiling van, we found out there was a golf course near by (god knows why!) and so the pub gave us a set of clubs and we drove up there. We saw the landscape in full daylight it was so barren for miles around! The golf course itself was nothing but a course and a shack, and unfortunately we had no golf balls! After wandering the course, we met a guy who lived outside and gave us some balls. The course itself atleast had some grass on the greens but apart from that, the fairways were a mixture of brown grass, dirt and stones, not ideal for us rookies and there were plenty of 9's and 10's on the score card. So after a free game of golf in the outback, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at the pub, and we got the biggest burger we could!
We spent the afternoon driving back to the coastline and were told of a road that was a shortcut but was unsealed. According to the local miners, it hadn't flooded recently and would just about be suitable for driving, so we decided to take the risk and go for it. After passing the mining site, we were right into the middle of nowehere and the road soon turned from tarmac to gravel to huge great ruts and stones and the campervan rattled and shook even more than usual! The views and landscape were amazing and the few times we stopped, it was so silent with miles of nothing but dust, trees and grassland. After an hour or so, we emerged back into reality and the van did pretty well. We were now on our way back down the coast towards the Whitsunday islands, our next stop.
Was great to be able to experience some of the aussie outback, even though it wasn't real desert, we got to feel what it would be like to live in the middle of nowhere, cut off from the outside world. The people there were definitely different but friendly nonetheless.