Veteran Free Press journalist Gus Underwood continues his series on a recent trip throughout outback NSW and Queensland.
KAREN Brown and her husband Kevin knew it was going to be a tough slog when they decided to take on a rundown caravan park, petrol outlet and restaurant in the remote old gold mining town of Georgetown in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Living on the east coast at Upper Murray — near Tully, south of Cairns — at the time, they decided it was a challenge well worth pursuing.
That was five years ago and the Browns are slowly but surely winning the battle.
‘‘Kevin carted away 157 trailer loads of rubbish before we got the truck in when we first got here,’’ Karen said with a satisfied smile.
People are returning to the caravan park and eating at their restaurant again.
Karen is being assisted in the busy winter tourist season by English backpacker Charlotte Cowley.
It’s a far cry from London, but Charlotte, 22, said she is loving the outback experience.
‘‘It’s very remote and laid back but everyone is so friendly. You just couldn’t go to Australia like I have and not do something like this,’’ said Charlotte.
Then there is truckie Ian Hayman from Normanton who had dropped into the Brown restaurant to catch a bite of breakfast before he continues a day’s driving to pick up a load of cattle to take to market.
It will take a day for Ian to get to the pick-up point and another day or two to get to market but Ian loves his lifestyle.
‘‘The load (about 130 cattle) I will be picking up will be going to market at Charters Towers but we also deliver to Townsville. All the cattle are from the Gulf country,’’ Ian, who was raised in Georgetown, said with a hint of pride.
And if you are ever in Georgetown, dropping in at the local Op Shop is a must. There you will be greeted by a friendly Liz Milligan and her 87-year-old offsider Frank Lindsay.
Liz is a bit of wag and fills in time running the Op Shop while her latest husband carries out carpentry work in the surrounding district during the dry winter months.
Liz, who comes from Ravenshoe on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range west of Innisfail, is a bit disappointed she can’t get any local volunteers other than Frank to run the charity, which she helped resurrect after it had gone into recess for a year.
An old gold miner lured to the area hoping to strike it rich, but who claims he didn’t have much luck, Frank defies his 87 years. He proudly displays an array of metallic objects his metal detector has located over the years, including some Chinese coins from the gold rush boom times of the early 1870s.
Frank hopes he is not going anywhere in a hurry and is content to live out his life in Georgetown, as remote as it is and with specialised health services hundreds of kilometres away.
But Frank typifies the people of the outback, most of whom decide it’s close to the perfect lifestyle.