The Empire - Queenstown

The horror... 

Now, unlike the North or the South, the West isn't really known for any beers. In fact, all it is known for is being desolate, wild and uninhabited. As the map shows, Queenstown is the only largish town over that side, and its population is a mere 2,600 people. To get to Queenstown you drive through one of the last remaining wildernesses in the world: the World Heritage listed Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. Although to get a true taste of the wilderness you have to walk for days, for example, on the Overland Track, the lazy can just pop off the main road and gaze at its wonder, as we did (although the Wild Man ran off for several hours while we drank beers in the sun).   

The Before Shot

Now, greenies (ie environmentalists) haven't always been the most popular group of people in Australia. Particularly in the late 70s, there was a lot of negativity in the general population towards them: they were seen as meddling, grotty dole bludging hippies who would be better off getting a job. Following this though there was a green flood in the early to mid 80s, including in relation to the attempted damming of the Franklin river in the Cradle Mountain World Heritage area itself by the Tasmanian Government.  Anyway, green was hot, for a while, although the green vote diminished with the recession we had to have in 90-91 (funny how things change when the shoe is on the other foot). 

Anyway, is here to say that if you have ever been anti-green in your life, then the drive from Hobart, through the special beauty of the World Heritage area and into the stark nightmare that is Queenstown should make you a card carrying greens member forever. The descent from the beautiful forest through to the sulphur scarred hills really shocks. For kilometres around Queenstown, the former rainforest has been replaced with desolate hills that weep like some form of cancerous growth. It really is horrific, and the image stays with you long after you leave. 

Apparently, 100 years or so ago, the same people who were wiping out the natives, and local tigers, as well as mentally and physically destroying the convicts, were mining for copper. They didn't have electricity back then, so they chopped down the local World Heritage quality rainforest for kilometres around the mine. And because there were no environmental controls whatsoever, the sulphuric nightmare that flowed from their smelters coated the deforested hills and ensured that nothing, and we mean nothing, will grow there for a very long time.  Rather, a putrid yellow red sludge is there instead. 

Whatever money was made. It wasn't worth it. 

They are still mining today, which is somewhat of a shock, because the town itself is almost as run down as the hills it destroyed. We are not sure where the money is going, but, as you would expect, it isn't going to the workers. As you enter this town of the damned you are stuck by how decrepit the buildings are. Anywhere else they would be demolished. But here people live in them. 

After all this we needed a beer. Badly. Luckily, there were at least two pubs in this little town. 

Another Oasis Dominated Brand

We wandered into one, although we didn't notice its name other than the Oasis brand which screamed from the balconies. During our time in Tasmania we really grew to hate this brand, as it often in our view overshadowed the pub it was attached to. It was even advertised on television as some sort of generic fun house, but inquiries revealed that the it was in fact connected with the atmosphere destroying Poker Machines, or pokies as they are known. Presumably it is an "Oasis" for someone who is need of a gambling hit. 

We hear about what a great place a certain venue is to go out to and how it has such a great, friendly atmosphere, but we are not told that this is a place where a customer is likely to lose large sums of money with nothing to show for it.

Tom Nilsson, Tasmanian Legislative Council Select Committee on the impacts of gambling machines, 15 April 2002

Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse we passed by the front desk of this old pub, and noticed the plain piece of wood used to form the top of the reception desk had a plaque on it that read as follows:

This wood came from a tree that was more than 800 years old.

That was it. It wasn't special. It was just a big bit of wood, although looking closely at it did have a lot of lines (or growth rings) on it. It was just part of a reception desk used in an old pub. Who were these people, we thought, as we kept walking out the door. What was the rest of that tree used for? Would we wander around and see park benches with plaques on them? Writing pads? Dunny paper?

It was too much, and we kept walking till we arrived and the town's second pub: the Empire. 

The Empire

That was more like it, a few locals having a few beers. Interestingly Boags was the drop of choice, which suggested to us that Boags had the geographical lead over Cascade if not the numbers.  Incidentally, all of the locals worked at the mine. Where else would they work, we thought, and why else would you be here. Since we were employed elsewhere, we quickly decided our tour of the west was over and that we would start heading back to Devonport to catch our ferry. Luckily though, there were still a couple of stops left along the way.

Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers