Today was a special someone’s 6th birthday. And what a lucky boy he was to spend it on a 470km stretch of highway in the middle of next to nowhere! You’d think there might not be much out here to please an excitable young boy on a special day, but today proved there is always something to see and do in the outback.
Firstly, we walked in the footsteps of Mick Dundee at the Walkabout Creek Hotel (really called the McKinlay Pub in McKinlay, population 30). It nods its head to the famed movie but abounds in plenty of other wall-stapled tat to interest you as you slurp on your cold drink of choice.
Thomas had visited 7 years before as a baby. We tried somewhat to recreate the photo.
But the highlight for everyone was when the bar girl brought out Oink, a 3-week old feral pig. Not many could say they’ve cuddled a baby feral pig on their birthday.
And what boy doesn’t want to explore a ghost town and abandoned mine on their birthday either?! About 30km from Mt Isa was the township of Mary Kathleen built to accommodate the workers in the nearby uranium mine. When the mine closed in 1982, the once sizeable township was dismantled leaving behind only the town square, the roads and concrete foundations. So of course we took a detour here before heading into Mt Isa.
Nowadays those concrete slabs seem to have been taken over by dozens of caravanners looking for a flat place to park up (and the streets do resemble a caravan park although there are no amenities). Although not all the town is accessible to a 2wd, what we did get to explore was certainly interesting.
But the real highlight is the uranium mine. To get out to it, a further 6kms past the ‘town’, you follow an alternating potholed bitumen or gravel road (40 years of neglect has not been kind, but it is better than I expected). I was a little concerned with how our low-sitting Prius would cope, but I never had any issues, only stopping about 500 metres from the end when the track became decidely 4wdy.
But it was definitely worth the effort to get out. What a view! Just don’t go swimming or you might grow a second head!
My aunt was telling us later that she drove the last bus into the bottom of the mine on the day it closed. I’m proud to have that connection.
Finally in the mid-afternoon, 6 dusty travellers swung their even dustier car into the driveway of our accommodation in Mt Isa, the largest city in the world in area. In the immortal words of every GPS ever: “You have reached your destination”. Now that should be a birthday to remember.