Working in an outback Australian pub

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in About Jane, Australia, Solo Travel | 10 comments

Working in an outback Australian pub

We all pass through many places in our travels but how often do we stop and live somewhere completely different?  I ended up staying for nearly a year in a small (population 100) and remote town in Cape York, the far north of Australia and marvelled at how many interesting things happen in such a small community.  Having ridden nearly 4000 kilometres on my old trail bike I stopped to work at the pub in Laura.  Following is a few excerpts from my journal from that time (I’ve changed some of the names):

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I’ve always longed to have time to sit on a wide, shady verandah and watch the world go by and now I’m doing precisely that.  Quinkan Hotel, Laura, a heritage-listed, old corrugated-iron pub under a row of mango trees is my new home.  From where I sit, I can see a 17 pupil/one teacher school, a general store, 2 petrol bowsers, a fruit-fly road block, a small red post box balanced atop a green pillar, a public phone and several ‘toilet’ signs pointing in different directions.  The street is wide, tarred and very hot – and deserted.

Old Scotty is sitting at the far end of the verandah, his bony little body encased in a shirt held by one button and his baggy trousers held up by wide black braces.   He’s just scuffed back from the bar with another beer stubbie in a white polystyrene cooler and is rolling a smoke.  His dark rimmed, thick reading glasses hang around his neck and will engulf what’s left of his face above the white beard, once he’s settled.  He’s wearing a funny little frilly sun bonnet.

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Two red cattle dogs lie cheek to cheek on the dry dust under the mango trees.  Country music and cheerful voices emanate from the bar.  Another old regular staggers stiffly into the bar for another rum.

Most days some foreign tourists come through – Swiss, German, Israeli, British, – mostly German – and occasionally a lone Japanese cyclist.

Just as I was closing the bar one night, a young horse-breaker from a cattle station further north, came running in saying “I need a beer.  I’ve just delivered a baby”.  He had delivered the baby in the isolated homestead, bundled up mum and newborn and driven 40kms of rough track to the Sister in Laura, who then drove them another four hours to the hospital.  The next day the young man was back in the pub, loudly relating his exciting story of having delivered the baby.  Luckily he has a lot of experience with animals and knew what to do.

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We had our first wet-season rain today. The river came right up to the bridge and most of the townsfolk went down to look.  I closed the bar and the two patrons jumped into the back of the ute with their rums and we drove down to the river.

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A carton of didgeridoos arrived yesterday with the weekly bar supply.

Most afternoons there are several Agile Wallabies lying on the back lawn under a variety of colourful tropical trees.  The bright mauve/pink bougainvillea is a profusion of colour, as are the large red-flowering Poinciana trees.  A gorgeous red-flowering Eucalyptus with huge blossoms and gum nuts was in full bloom when I arrived.  The mangoes are now completely gone, apart from what’s in the freezer.

Tonight I held the back door open with my foot just long enough to scrape some scraps into the pig bucket.  In a matter of seconds an enormous praying mantis and a clammy green frog had both attached themselves to me.  Dozens of cane toads jump up against the glass doors at the front and a bat flew past my ear in my room.  The wet season brings a myriad of creatures including snakes, three of which were inside.

During the time I was in Laura, we had trucks bogged and stranded, helicopters land in the back yard next to the clothes line and on the road in front and a huge crocodile in a trailer out the front for over a week. I drove four hours each way most weeks to do the shopping and sometimes had to cross the flooded river in a firetruck or a boat.  It can rise very suddenly to 11 metres high during the wet season downpour.  If anyone is injured or sick, the Flying Doctor is called from Cairns.  If the plane has to land after dark, several cars will shine headlights on the strip so he can see where to land.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Laura and was very pleased that I hadn’t ridden straight through.  I still have friends there, many years later.

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Have you ever stopped to live somewhere different in your travels and found there’s a whole lot more to a place than what you see if you simply pass through?

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10 Comments

  1. info@gypsynester.com'

    What a great story. We thought that when we first set out on our post child rearing journey we would stop to stay places for a while, but seems the wanderlust is too strong and we just keep moving. Maybe someday we will spend more time in a place.

    • Thanks very much GypsyNesters. I know what you mean about the wanderlust pulling you ever onwards. Partly I stopped because I had to work, but it was such an interesting place that Laura will be forever in my heart as one of my many ‘homes’. As I’m from the mountains and love the cold, it was particularly interesting to stop in the tropics for a year and really grow to love and appreciate a place I wouldn’t normally choose to live. I’d encourage you to stop for a while, somewhere completely different and get to know the locals.

  2. traveljunkieindonesia@gmail.com'

    Nice post. I hope I’m over there right now…

    • Thanks Travel Junkie. I hope you are enjoying Australia. Please let me know if you have any questions.

  3. patti@oneroadatatime.com'

    What an interesting story. You must have had a year filled with all kinds of interesting people and stories. Were you on a bike trek across the country?

    • Thanks Patti,
      I actually set off with the full intention to ride around the world indefinitely on a broken-down old kick-start 250cc trail bike and nowhere near enough money in the bank, so I didn’t get further than the east coast and central QLD before selling the bike. Yes, I certainly have some more interesting stories – I tried to condense some of it into one short blog post, but I can always add more… You must also have some very interesting stories.

  4. madigiorgio2@gmail.com'

    That’s the pull of wanderlust right there. Are you still living there?
    Madeleine Giorgio recently posted…Latest PostMy Profile

    • Hello Madeleine. Thanks for your comment. No, I’m not living there any more. That was just for one year and was quite a while ago now.

  5. paolafuentesweb@googlemail.com'

    I bet it’s loads of fun to work in a pub.
    Paola Fuentes recently posted…Como Obtener La Visa a Estados Unidos FácilmenteMy Profile

    • It certainly is interesting and fun, especially in a remote area.
      Thanks for your comment Paola.

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