It was the public holiday for the local agricultural show the day we arrived in Charters Towers and as we drove through the town it was very quiet as all the shops were closed and there was little pedestrian traffic. When we reached the caravan park we found the park was quite busy with most sites occupied by other travellers. We were allocated a site and set up for our stay for the rest of the week.
The history of the Towers is steeped in mining principally for gold and there are many relics and other reminders of this bygone era to be seen throughout the city. There are also many lovely old buildings which reflect the wealth of the area from the mining days.
As a child, I lived in Charters Towers for a few years and have a fondness for the city which is probably out of proportion to the few years that I lived here. A fondness for the city must have affected my mother in some ways as she returned here to live in her retirement albeit that all her family resided in the southern part of the State or in New Zealand. Mum is buried in the Charters Towers cemetery and we visited the grave on Wednesday.
There has been much progress in the city since my boyhood, as there should have been given that nearly sixty years have elapsed since then. There are new works and construction evident in many areas and some of the older homes that were here when we last visited in 2010 have been demolished.
On Wednesday we took a walk through the centre of town and visited the information centre (http://www.charterstowers.qld.gov.au/visitors/vic.shtml) to pick up some local material as well as brochures about places we will visit in the next phases of our trip. We took a walk through the local area that afternoon enjoying the warmer weather than we have been experiencing further south.
The caravan park backs on to the local golf course and there is a stand of very old “Chinee Apple” trees that I remember fondly from my youth. These tart little fruits were snacked on frequently on the way home from school as were tamarinds and mangoes (when this delicious fruit was growing). The tamarind trees are not as evident as I recall and the rubber vines and lantana that grew wild in the city have also been cleaned up.
We lived in May Street, but the house is obviously long gone as is the sale-yards and holding paddocks that were located next door. There is a caravan park where the sale-yards once stood and the magnificent mango trees that once grew profusely there have also been removed. The holding paddocks have been subdivided and many homes have been constructed on the land.
Across the road from where our rental home once stood was a large area that had been used as an army camp during the Second World War. Today this area has been filled and developed into a number of sporting fields known as Mosman Park. My father used to train a trotter on the area in the 1950’s but I am sure such activity would be frowned upon today.
Driving around the town we drove past the house where my mother once lived and came to the Columbia Poppet Head – a relic from the town’s gold mining past. These days the area adjacent to the poppet head is a rest area for travellers providing a convenient stopping place near one of the major routes through the city.
We thought we might have a look at the Venus Battery (http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2008/10/14/2389658.htm) which is the largest surviving gold battery in Australia and the oldest surviving battery in Queensland. When we arrived the place was closed with the next tour about an hour away. We should have gone back later in the day but other things intervened and we never made it back.
Millchester School was the small local State school I attended for the time I was in the Towers. My sisters attended the Central School; I fancy it was a girls and infants school at the time and since I was neither I was unable to go there. While I recognised some of the older buildings the school has obviously grown in size and expanded quite extensively since my day.
“An Aboriginal horse boy named Jupiter first discovered gold at the foot of Towers Hill in 1871.” The hill overlooks the town and dominates the landscape in the area. We drove up to the lookout at the top of the hill and took some photos of the town and surrounding area. We were lucky enough to sight some rock wallabies while walking at the top of the hill and managed to take a few photos. Later when exploring some of the many World War II bunkers around the hill (http://www.ozatwar.com/ozatwar/towershill.htm) we saw some lovely black cockatoos and took a number of photos of them.
We explored the old Pyrites works at the top of the hill – there are only ruins left now and walked some of the paths on the hill. As kids my sisters and I played around these old structures (our house was not too far away) and we explored the mullock heaps and cyanide piles that existed everywhere around the base of Towers Hill and literally everywhere across the town landscape. All these mullock heaps and cyanide piles have been reworked as the price of gold rose higher and these once abundant landscape features do not now exist in Charters Towers.
After our exercise on Towers Hill we visited the Stock Exchange Arcade which dates from the 1890’s when the Charters Towers Stock Exchange was housed there. “It was one of Australia’s first few regional stock exchanges and was needed to raise capital for the deep reef mines throughout the region.” These days a café is one of the several businesses which operate from the arcade and we found their coffee and apple slices to be quite appetising.
On the way back to the caravan park we discovered we were not only in “The World” but also in “Country Music City”. The local Apex Club organises an annual country music festival and has erected a statue on the edge of town to indicate the entrance to “Country Music City”. There is also a statue of a large Droughtmaster bull located in this park which commemorates the breed as Australia’s own.
Thursday afternoon was spent in quiet contemplation reading and writing prior to another walk through the local streets. A bird is happily whistling near our van site and a cool breeze is wafting through the annexe.
Friday morning the necessities of washing and shopping were attended to with preparation for the next stage of the trip taking care of the afternoon. Saturday morning sees our departure from Charters Towers heading for the Undara National Park.