Einasleigh is an outback town by any definition of “outback” but with a population of just under one hundred, perhaps only Aussies would call it a “town”.
It’s in the Shire of Etheridge, which constitutes most of the middle of North Queensland, and it is typical of our small Western towns – Prairie, Pentland and Torrens Creek on the road from Charters Towers to Hughenden come to mind.
Einasleigh has a pub (of course) and a caravan park, and a loose scattering of fading houses. It has no servo, if the sign back at the Lynd Junction roadhouse is to be believed – “Last fuel for 270 km,” it said, or words to that effect, and it was only 90 km of dirt road to the south.
Forsayth, slightly larger, is another 80 or 90 to the West, and Georgetown, the biggest town in the shire, is a similar distance North of Forsayth.
Copperfield Gorge, just downhill from the pub, is small but beautiful. Unlike Porcupine or Cobbold gorges, it cuts through basalt rather than sandstone.
If the Shire of Etheridge seceded from Australia it would rank around number 130 of the world’s 190 nations by area, being a little smaller than Denmark but bigger than Taiwan. It would be almost exactly the same size as Switzerland and Bhutan – a challenging thought when one considers that Etheridge is flatter than most pancakes. (There are ranges of hills, true, and some are even called mountains, but they are not very big.)
The human population hovers around 800. Nearly half of them live in Georgetown, a pretty little town with a wonderful gemstone display based on the rich local gemfields.
The people of Etheridge are outnumbered by their cattle, and I suspect the cattle are equally outnumbered by termite mounds. Etheridge is landlocked (again like Switzerland and Bhutan) so the crocodile population is small compared to that of the Gulf coast, but there are freshwater crocs in the rivers.
It’s arid country, except when the monsoon arrives, but it’s beautiful in its own way. In the first half of the Dry season, Easter to midwinter, everything is growing and flowering: wattles, grevilleas and bottlebrushes were in bloom when we visited, adding their colour to the bush.