South Johnstone

In north Queensland we had passed an intriguing pub at South Johnstone but couldn’t park the van. Being only a short distance away we decided not to let this one go. Next day we cross the South Johnstone River on a large causeway style bridge with no rails, these things freak me out. The thought of rushing floodwaters and crocodiles is enough to give anyone a thirst.

South Johnstone has a large sugar mill at the south end and the South Johnstone River at the north end. In between there is a narrow road, about six empty “shops”, the Criterion Hotel and a coffee shop called Off the Rails. A cane train line runs through the middle of town along the centre of the road. One of only three towns where this occurs, the others being Nambour and Rockhampton apparently. The town is sleepy. There is an old disused hall built of corrugated iron with louvre windows. A few people sit on doorsteps chatting in the sun. A young boy stands in the front of a car where the engine used to be taking mechanical instruction from his father. Billets of cane lie crushed in the dusty gutter. A cane train rumbles down the street.

The Criterion Hotel is two storey, Fourex (XXXX) yellow, with all doors and windows open to the breeze in true Queensland style. Two dogs doze in the sun.  A plastic skeleton reclines on a chair on the veranda as do a couple of tourists. The slow moving barman serves us in silence except for the words “pot or schooner”. A sign on the wall says “Don’t complain about the bar staff, even a toilet can only handle one arse hole at a time”.

The beer is cold. The lady publican gives us a recipe for killing the ferns that grow on palm trees. Something to do with kerosene and bi carb soda, weeds she calls them, weeds. This is Queensland.

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Criterion Hotel, South Johnstone
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Cane Train, South Johnstone

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