A lot of towns were involved in supplying service men and women during WWII and protecting Australian shores from the Japanese invasion.
We pulled into the welcoming township only to be stopped by the most remote traffic light in Australia. It’s always red and stands just outside the pub entrance. That night promised live music with a three gig line-up starting at 16:30 (happy hour) and going all the way until 21:00.
The pub’s claim to fame is for being the first Outback pub in Australia. It’s world-renowned for its famous Beef & Barra dinner – a 300g steak served alongside a slab of freshly caught barramundi with salad and either veggies or chips.
But the first thing that caught my eye (and if I were blind, probably my nose) was the long line of bras, knickers and boxers hanging above the bar with a line of hats opposite. Currencies from all over the globe lined the back wall while the front of the bar was covered with student ID cards, drivers licenses, work cards, business cards – any kind of ID card you could think of – from all over the world stuck all over the joint. It was almost like walking into a wardrobe minus the kingdom of Narnia.
The camp site came with hot water showers so after setting up and watching more and more caravans roll in, I went over to the jewellery shop where I asked, “I’m not getting my hopes up, but what are the odds that you’ll have a machine head for an acoustic guitar?”
A man in a blue singlet (known colloquially as a ‘wife-beater’ – the blue singlet, not the man. Well, I don’t know his history but you get the point) and a large round-brim hat turned to me and proceeded to tell me the story of how just a few days ago he had sold one of his guitars for $400.
“I wasn’ eva gonna sell it,” he glanced off to the recent memory.
“Cheers,” I said as I managed to walk out before he went on about his $800 guitar.
After a refreshing shower, Cookie and I hit the pub for happy hour which was steadily filling up as the guy playing between 16:30-18:30 (covers of Paul Kelly and other classic rock favourites) had finished. The next act was a one man show with back-tracking support taking everyone through the early days of rock ‘n’ roll from the 50’s. I had a sneaky suspicion he wasn’t really playing the guitar he was holding.
Then the headline act came on at about 20:00. His name was Chilli (don’t ask) and he turned out to be the, “Sold me ol’ guitar for $400,” rambler from the jewellery shop. He may not be able to answer a question directly (or even produce an answer within accordance to the question) but he sure knew how to handle the crowd, telling stories of the Outback and mixing in songs that he wrote in between a projected slide show.
The crowd were eating out of his hand while Cookie and I were busy getting to know our new Dutch friends, Ben and Petra, who had arrived a half-hour after we did. Being slightly tipsy Cookie was talking as loudly as one does at the pub.
This didn’t impress the almost senior woman behind her who turned and said in her best Outback accent, “Why don’t you talk a little louder, hun? Can’t hear him yet so just turn it up a bit would ya?”
“Excuse me,” I piped up. The woman had turned her back on us and completely ignored me, “you can ask nicely. Besides, this is a pub, a place of social gathering.”
Now it’s not like we were right up against the stage and interrupting the act. We were in the far back, beside the road, behind the wall so we couldn’t even see the act. We could barely hear Chilli as his amp wasn’t that loud (I guess there are noise restrictions in place for the four people who actually live here).
And the woman who complained? Her partner was the opening warm-up act so they’d seen the show quite a few times and probably knew it better than Chilli himself. They eventually got up and moved as we showed no signs of quietening down.
As Chilli wrapped up a local man had come where we were sitting, holding a 6-foot Grey Python, wrapped around his arm.
“Just caught it,” he announced proudly.
Unfortunately for the snake, the man holding it suffered from Parkinson’s and his right arm was shaking like a Polaroid picture. It was also the arm holding the head of the snake, and like Elvis, it was all shook up.
Cookie decided to save it, if for a few moments, and jumped up at the opportunity to handle the reptile, surprising everyone around her at her keenness to hold a wild snake. The shaking snake-handler placed the snake around her neck, giving it a chance to stop feeling like a paint can in a mixing machine.
At 22:30 we played pool against the Dutch where, although I knew I would, I pocketed the black ball along with the white. We wrapped up the evening and went to bed in the warmest night we had experienced in the Outback.
Originally posted on The Nomadic Diaries.
Photo courtesy of the author.