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London, Paris…Thargomindah

The rain had set in as we departed Cunnamulla for Thargomindah, with road closures and flooding causing havoc for tourists all over the Outback. Luckily for us the highway out was unaffected. It’s been amazing to see the landscape so green and lush – I gather I am seeing the Outback looking very different to the last few years!

Wet roads and lots of clouds.

After 45 minutes of careful driving we arrived in the little town of Eulo. Our first stop was to the large sculpture of Kenny, the local friendly diprotodon. The largest marsupial to have ever lived, in 2012 scientists including those from Queensland Museum found the fossilized skeletons of up to 40 diprotodons at a site in Eulo. The name means ‘two forward teeth’ and we were both very fond of Kenny’s wee grin.

Two happy faces in Eulo.

Eulo is also renowned for a very interesting local – the Eulo Queen, after whom the pub is named. Isabel Grey was a clever businesswoman and a mysterious individual, who may have been born in England but alternatively suggested she was from Mauritius. She was married three times, and her love for locally found opals meant she engaged in all manner of nefarious dealings to obtain these beautiful stones. After a tumultuous life, she died in poverty in Toowoomba, but is fondly remembered in Eulo. We also enjoyed discovering the site of the Eulo lizard races and a rather epic town sign. The local flood truck was also lovely to see – raised high on its axles, it ferried food, supplies, mail and passengers across the Paroo River in flooded conditions between 1990 and 2017.

Lizards and flood trucks make for a happy MDO.

From Eulo we continued westwards in the rain to Thargomindah, on the banks of the Bulloo River. This little town punches above its weight when it comes to exploring heritage, and we spent a wonderful day in the sunshine exploring the heritage buildings and trails. Thargomindah’s claim to fame was its adoption of hydroelectric power – it was the third place in the world to switch on lights powered by hydroelectricity, after London and Paris! The heritage sites in Thargo are accessed by a swipe card from the visitor’s centre, and connected by lovely walkways through town, making a 5km stroll. Each site – the old hospital, the jail and the hydroelectric plant – contain a mix of photographs, audiovisual content and actors telling quirky and moving stories of each place’s history. We particularly enjoyed some of the stories of the hospital where quick thinking and ingenuity was required to save lives, and of the town bore being used to cook corned beef!

Matron Freda Tait telling tales at Old Thargomindah Hospital.
Bore drains and windmills feeding into the old hydroelectric plant.
And then things began getting a little weird…

Our final stop was at Leahy House, the oldest house in Thargomindah. Made of local mud brick, the house is open to the public at all hours. After a great chat with the team at the Visitor Information Centre we’re hoping the MDO team will be able to assist with maintaining this iconic Thargo location. We also really enjoyed finding out all the ways the Council are working to make Thargo a wonderful place for locals and tourists alike to live and visit, including new housing, schooling options and lovely leisure activities.

Next up is Quilpie, where we discover a new appreciation for pigs and goats…

One of Thargomindah’s fabulous local murals.

Underground Hospital Museum – Mt Isa

Ewen McPhee at the Underground Hospital Museum, Mt Isa

Jo Wills and I recently visited the Underground Hospital in Mt Isa. The underground section of the hospital was built after Darwin was bombed by the Japanese in February 1942.  There was a belief that Mt Isa could also be bombed and that precautions needed to be taken to secure the operation of the hospital. Local miners volunteered to work in their spare time and on weekends to build the facility.  A  H-shaped underground “bunker” was dug out of the solid rock in the hill beside Mount Isa’s Base Hospital over a sixteen week period.  After the war the hospital was forgotten about and in 1999 it was rediscovered and restored over time.  Today the museum also includes a substantial hospital and medical equipment display above ground as well as an underground experience complete with objects and props.  The underground experience details how the hospital would have operated if it had become operational.