Chillagoe began its history with a smelter. The smelter was located here in the red earth outback and melted metals. Copper, lead, silver and gold. In 1943, the smelter was closed. The mine never managed to become profitable. However, the remnants of the old industry remain. Three chimneys on heavily contaminated land. The thousands of jobs disappeared to Mount Isa.
Today, not many souls remain. Only 192 of the 10 who lived here during the city's glory days. Accommodation varies from houses to caravans. The caravans often have an extra protective tin roof and often also a fence around the site. In a climate that never gets cold, you don't need much protection against the weather, but against the sun's hot rays.
We pass the old bank vault, the only thing left of the former Bank of Australasia. Over a hundred years ago, a bank stood here, in a simple wooden building. Amazingly, the vault has survived a hundred years longer than the bank itself.
We look into the city's business. The store displays advertising signs for tires, batteries, ice cream and Coca cola. Tourists buy ice cream, residents buy tires and batteries for their cars. No one wants to be stuck in the outback with a bad battery or flat tire. In the heat of the summer, it's easy to get dehydrated and mobile phone coverage is poor. You simply cannot count on being able to call for help if something happens. Here you need to fend for yourself.
There is at least one small motel in town. Chillagoe Guesthouse. Doesn't look too overbooked. However, you will find more motorhomes and caravans at the campsite. in Chillagoe, you go camping, not going to the spa.
We have lunch at the local pub. We are greeted by the "thought of the week" at the entrance. "There is nothing more frequent than an occasional drink". Life wisdom written in chalk on a tin wall in the outback.
On a table in a corner are the collected winnings for the upcoming rodeo. A quilted patchwork. A 12-pack of beer. An air mattress. A board with an old black and white photo. A gift basket with soaps and shampoo. A bag. And the best price. A chainsaw from Husqvarna. Only $5 per ticket for these ten great prizes. Considering that only 192 people live in the town, the chance of winning is quite high.
We each order a hamburger and a cold soda. We sit outside. The regulars sit inside. Drinking water can be collected in a plastic can. Old flip flops, black and white photos and military signs hang on the walls. There is a pool table, but no one is playing.
The soft drinks come to us in separate styrofoam coolers. Anders takes his first sip. I can't help but squirm with laughter. Even more life wisdom from the outback is written on the bottom of the cooler. Australian humour.
We move on towards the caves that the city is famous for. The caves that were created by coral reefs millions of years ago. There are supposed to be old paintings of the indigenous people inside the caves, pictures of animals and life in this area hundreds of years ago. Life wisdom for real.
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