We have been to Charters Towers once before. That was a day trip from Townsville where we were visiting Angela and Liam while on holiday from Kingaroy in the early 1980s. Since we had to go this way to Townsville it seemed fair to stop for a look.
It must be that we have turned and are heading for home. Majella has been waking early and eager to go. She was in the driver’s seat and we were out of the van park around 7:30 am today with just 370 km to travel and set to arrive in Charters Towers with plenty of time to look around.
We had driven Hughenden to Richmond and return for a day trip in July so we knew what to expect for the first leg of the journey. The countryside was much like what we had driven through yesterday, dry and flat with lots of grass, or earth where there had been grass, and just a few trees for most of the way. There were a few isolated hills in the distance, a few more minor rises in the road, and a few more trees visible as we approached Hughenden. The railway maintenance work replacing sleepers and ballast that we had seen in July was still going on in places.
Majella was hoping to buy fresh bread at the bakery in Hughenden but it was closed on Sundays. Instead she was able to buy a fresh baguette style roll at the Foodworks before driving on east.
Our July trip had taken us as far as White Mountains National Park before we headed south from Torrens Creek to Barcaldine. We were about 20 km short of Torrens Creek when Majella decided that 2 hours of driving was time for a break and pulled into a roadside parking space. We had coffee and the last of the fruitcake. That was the area in which we had seen many trees and shrubs in blossom in July. It was not so spectacular this time but I did spot a few flowers nearby and stepped out with my camera.
I drove on from there to Charters Towers. We paused again at the lookout on Burra Range as we crossed the Great Divide. We had been there in July but the sun was shining today and it was much warmer. As we crossed Cape River we wondered about the large derelict building there. Majella had enough reception to look it up and read the history of what had been a significant meat works from 1942-43, supplying troops and then going on to be a major employer for decades after. It was shut down in the 1990s and is now in ruins.
We arrived in Charters Towers a little before noon and drove first to the top of Towers Hill for an overview from the lookout there. The hill was the site of some early gold mines and associated processing plants and was a munitions store during the 1939-45 war. There are remnants of that history scattered about and a display of other information about the history of the town.
Down in the town area I found a shady patch beside a park where we were able to eat lunch (ham and egg with salad on the baguette from Hughenden) and drink coffee. A brief walk in the park afterward found a bandstand constructed as a Boer War memorial and several trees full of flying foxes. We heard those in one tree first and looked up thinking we were hearing birds.
Sunday in town was quiet so we had no trouble finding space to park the van while we walked around. There are some fine old buildings to look at. Majella had been intrigued by the sign on one of the reservoirs on Towers Hill that read ‘The World’. We discovered that the old commercial bank building had been converted to ‘The World’ theatre with cinemas but she had to know why it was so named. A woman in the information centre explained that in its heyday Charters Towers had a cosmopolitan population and was the second largest town in Queensland. Its stock exchange effectively set the world price for gold and its people took to calling it the world because it offered everything one could need. We spent some time there to watch a short television presentation about Charters Towers and to look at some of the displays.
On our way to the van park we drove by the nearby Mt Carmel Campus of Columba College. What was a Christian Brothers boarding establishment for boys attended by our friend Warwick Dingle for high school is now a campus of the coeducational Columba college.
The van park is well set up with plenty of trees for shade and, unlike several we have seen recently, green grass underfoot. We quickly settled in, sitting outside in the shade to enjoy the breeze and moving inside once the air conditioning had done its job. With just 2 nights of vanning to go we are becoming quite practised.