Mount Isa – home of my road-train driving aunt, who has lived out this way for the past 40 odd years. I think I have visited her 3 times; once as a child, once as a new mum and now with husband and 3 children in tow.
And the city has not changed very much. There is still a whopping great mine right in the centre of town.
You can’t visit the mine proper but you can visit the just-for-tourists version called the Hard Times Mine. It sounds a bit naff and the price may put people off but the experience is well worth your while. As they only allow children 7+ to visit, and as Mum and I had been down before, only Stephen and Thomas took the 3 hour tour this time.
On exiting, two excited boys told me they got to jackhammer walls, set (fake) charges, eat smoko in the underground tea-room, ride in the back of a mining vehicle to the surface and other activities replicating working in the real mine up the road. Unfortunately, cameras aren’t allowed underground but they were too busy to worry too much anyway.
Keeping to the underground theme, we also visited the underground hospital, built in the second world war as an emergency evacuation centre for the above-ground hospital. It was fully equipped for surgery, neonatal and other patient care but never used. Post-war the entry was just boarded over and covered with dirt. No one but a few brave/foolhardy local kids who used to climb in through the ventilation shaft knew it was there. That was until 1977 when someone important discovered it again and historians set about restoring the termite-chomped collapsed tunnels.
The other must-do in Mt Isa was actually not in the city at all. Lake Moondarra is just under 20 kms out of town and is a stunning place to go for an evening picnic. Go mid afternoon so you have time to cross the dam spillway and take in the views from the lookout, but then sit back, surrounded by peckish peacocks, and absorb the sunset glow.
A fitting way to say goodbye to my dear aunt before starting the long journey home early the next day.