Chillagoe mosaic

Here’s the final selection of my photos of this amazing region. I called it “Chillagoe Mosaic” – due to the fact that the images are very diverse in nature. I hope they are a meaningful addition to my story about my recent trip and the places I visited.

On the way to Chillagoe:

Chillagoe and surroundings:

The next petrol station – 560 km:

Chillagoe smelters

As I mentioned before, another local tourist attraction is Chillagoe smelters. It adds to better understanding the history and culture of the region, and is beautiful in its own way.

Chillagoe smelters are an important part of Queensland’s industrial heritage and contributed significantly to the economic development of the north.

Mining in North Queensland was established during the 1870s with the Palmer River and Hodgkinson gold rushes and, from the early 1880s, in mining at nearby Herberton and Irvinebank. The Chillagoe area – home to local Aboriginal Wakamin and Kuku Djungan peoples – remained mostly undisturbed by Europeans until the late 1880s, when prospectors discovered copper, silver, lead, zinc and gold. This shaped the future of the Chillagoe area – and of North Queensland.

In late 1890s John Moffat succeeded in securing investment for large-scale development of the Chillagoe copper field. Capital was raised to purchase the mining leases, build smelting works and construct a private railway from Chillagoe to the railhead at Mareeba, thereby connecting Chillagoe with the port of Cairns.

The Chillagoe smelters preserve evidence of the technological advancements made in mineral processing during the era, and the innovations adopted to meet local conditions.

Chillagoe smelters employed over one thousand people at the peak of production in the early 1900s – by 1908, Chillagoe boasted a population of more than 1500 people and ten hotels. The Chillagoe company operated the smelters from 1901 until they closed at the outbreak of world War I in 1914. Struggling financially, the smelters had been hampered by the geology of the field – shortage of ore and complexity of minerals – and over-capitalisation.

The Chillagoe smelters were unprofitable, and dogged by political scandal, but they created thousands of jobs – boosting North Queensland’s prosperity for 50 years.

The Chillagoe smelters remained closed during the war and, in 1919, ownership was transferred to the Queensland government. Low copper prices in the 1920s led to their closure in 1927 but, in 1929, they were operated as an instrument of the State’s welfare policy – to create work in the depressed mining districts. The smelters operated until 1943, by which time other smelters had been built closer to other ore-producing areas, such as Mount Isa. Most of the plant and buildings were sent to other mines, or were sold in 1952.

The Chillagoe smelters never made a profit in any year of production, but their flow-on effect for regional employment and the survival and growth of heavy industry in North Queensland was significant. In addition to creating thousands of jobs, the enterprise established the largest network of private railways in Australia, providing transport throughout the region over enormous distances, and helped keep mines and businesses open in the north for almost half a century.

Between 1901 and 1943, the Chillagoe smelters treated 1,250,000 tons of ore and produced:
– 60,000 tons of copper (over 37 years),
– 50,000 tons of lead (over 25 years),
– 6,500,000 ounces of silver,
– 175,000 ounces of gold.

The three chimneys surviving at the Chillagoe smelters are unique as a group and symbolise the important cultural heritage of this site. The tall roaster chimney was part of the lead-sulphide pre-treatment area. Because the ores to be smelted contained various minerals, pre-treatment was necessary before separating out the metals. Waste gases from the roasting plant escaped up the brick chimney.

Today the chimneys, smelter flues and slag dump are all that remain to convey the grand scale of operations that were once so important to development of the north.

And now, I’d like to share with you different kind of information. It relates to the LGBT situation in the country where I lived and studied for half year, long time ago, but which I still remember quite well for its beauty, culture and specific socio-political situation (with communist ideology, like the Soviet Union). The name of the country is Cuba. Its people are friendly and fun-loving.

The information below was taken from Pink News.

The big news is that Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel has said he is in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in the country.

Speaking on TV Telesur, he said he was in support of recognising marriage “between people without any restrictions” to help eliminate “any type of discrimination in society”.

In April this year, Diaz-Canel took over as president from Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel Castro.

Cuba is in the process of updating its Soviet-era constitution, as part of a package of reforms intended to modernise the country.

The landscape for LGBT+ rights has changed dramatically in Cuba in recent years, in part, due to a campaign by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul and the niece of Fidel.

She is the director of the state-run National Centre for Sex Education (Cenesex) and since 2008, gender reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy have been available free of charge under the country’s national healthcare system.

Under Fidel, who rose to power in 1959 after leading a revolution that toppled the corrupt government of Fulgencio Batista, LGBT+ Cubans suffered persecution and discrimination.

In 2010, Fidel apologised for the treatment of the LGBT+ community, telling Mexican newspaper La Jornada: “If someone is responsible, it’s me.”
I’d like to add that I heard the passionate presentation Mariela Castro gave at the OutGames (basically gay games) human rights conference in Montreal in 2006. I was quite impressed by it. Cuba appears to have progressed a lot in respect of LGBT rights since then. A very welcome development indeed!

Chillagoe Automobile Museum

Let me continue my photo story about Chillagoe. Today I want to show you an unusual museum – an automobile one. The pictures speak for themselves. It is interesting that in such a remote place lives such an enthusiast of vintage cars. He restored a number of hopelessly, at first glance, broken and neglected machines.

This museum smoothly turns into a colorful dump of rusty vehicles and, further, to an endless savannah where wallabies (small kangaroos) are hopping, different kinds of birds are sitting on trees and flying around, and even further, to camping grounds (where our gay group stayed), to an observatory and to a cottage hotel with 4-star rooms. By the way, the property, which includes the camping grounds, the observatory and the cottage hotel, is owned by a friendly middle-aged couple: husband and wife. They are enthusiasts of astronomy and conduct those ‘galaxy’ sessions. They enjoy a good reputation, and professional astronomers from Japan regularly come here. When our gay group was there, a dozen Japanese came to live in the hotel. They use both their own equipment for astronomical observations and the telescope of the observatory. They booked for five days, and come here every year.

Chillagoe caves

As promised, today I am sharing some photos taken during my recent trip to Chillagoe, which happened on September 7-9. 6 gays, members of the new LGBT group, took part. Chillagoe is a town in the north of Queensland, about 200 km west of Cairns. The climate there is drier and hotter than in Cairns. It can be said that semideserts start from there. The climate is continental, i.e. often the day is hot and the night is cool.

If you are going to live in tents (which was done by the majority of the members of our group), then it is better to go there in the Australian winter (June-August) or in the second half of autumn or the first half of spring. It’s not so hot. Sometimes I like living in a tent – closer to nature.

Chillagoe was once a thriving mining centre. Now there is a small zinc mine and some marble quarries there. By the way, marble is of high quality and even goes for export, incl. to Italy. In the photo album below you can see a number of large marble cubes.

Currently Chillagoe has a population of about 200 people.

Just nearby is the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park containing limestone caves. It has about 1000 of them. Caves (in three of them guided tours are provided), an impressive karst landscape, as well as the ruins of copper smelters are the main attractions of the region.

By the way, prominent scientist Ian Plimer has said that the Chillagoe region has the most diverse geology in the world.

Here, the nature is beautiful, it is real Australian outback. You can relax and have a quiet holiday.

There are swimming holes here as well – in a river and creek. And the town even has an observatory with a good telescope – I saw clearly through it Saturn with rings, Jupiter with four moons, and various constellations. Regular evening lectures are held ($ 25 per person), which last for an hour and a half. You will be told a lot about galaxies, constellations, planets (some can be observed with the naked eye).

There is even a museum of vintage cars in the open air.

Around are lots of small kangaroos (wallabies), different birds, termite hills … Vast open space …

The most important attraction is the caves. I visited three: Donna, Trezkinn and the Royal Arch. I had seen them earlier, but this time I wanted to explore and photograph them again, especially since Trezkinn had been recently thoroughly re-equipped for tourists.

Another impressive feature is the Balancing Rock. Other sights include Aboriginal rock paintings and Archways (half-open caves) 15 km from the city.

I am intending to create several photo albums for you. Today you will see mostly caves, the Balancing Rock and marble cubes.

Our group:

A bizarre formation, reminiscent of Madonna (Virgin Mary). Hence the name of the cave: Donna.

Balancing Rock:

In the caves there are bats, snakes, cockroaches and … spiders:

If you enlarge the image, you might see a figure resembling the British Queen Victoria on the right side of the rock. Hence the name of the cave: Royal Arch.

Witch (or as our guide said, sister-in-law):

Marble cubes:

River (almost dry, but if you look around, you can find good places for swimming):

Aboriginal art:

Last weekend

I spent this last weekend on the Atherton tableland. It took me about two hours to get to my destination. I stayed overnight in my friends’ farmhouse. I interacted not only with people, but also with animals and birds, and there were lots of them there. Also, we went to a Sunday market nearby, at Wondecla, where we had some good coffee and bought fruits and vegetables. The farm has a dam (pond) where platypuses live. I did not see them yesterday, but I did see them a few years ago. Finally, we had a three-kilometer walk around lake Eacham, which is a crater lake. I always enjoy my time on the tableland, and this latest occasion was not an exception. You could see some photos down below.

As for other things in my life, I want to mention coffee at my new gay friends’ place. They moved to Cairns from Sydney not long ago. There were 8 gays there altogether, and we had an interesting and animated discussion.

Another event I can’t ignore is what happened 10 days ago in India: the decriminalization of homosexuality (including gay sex). Decriminalization already took place on July 2, 2009 by decision of the Delhi High Court. However, the Supreme Court of India reversed this decision on December 11, 2013. This reversal upset many people, who were also surprised by how strangely the legal system of this huge country worked. To add to the surprise is the fact that India is officially considered the largest democracy in the world! Finally, on September 6 this year, the Supreme Court re-considered the issue and invalidated the relevant section of the Criminal Code, thereby legitimizing homosexuality in India. A long-awaited and happy event, which, I am sure, will have world-wide implications.

Before saying goodbye, I want to mention that I’m about to finalise a photo album (maybe I’ll publish several smaller ones) of my trip to Chillagoe with the new LGBT group (I referred to it before). We went there during the previous weekend (September 7-9). I will share the photos with you soon.

Melbourne in transit

Down below is a selection of photographs of Melbourne, which I visited recently, by transit from Canberra to Cairns. I know this city quite well, because I had been there many times before. However, every time it opens up to me in a new way.

I spent an evening there on August 27 and half-day on the 28th. Had an evening walk not far from the hotel, and the next day took a walk through the city center, along the Yarra River, in the territory of the War Memorial, and in the Botanical Gardens.

On the plane back home, I was surprised to see a good friend of mine who lives in my neighbourhood. She was also in high spirits, after a wonderful (and eventful) week in Melbourne which she spent with her daughter and grandchildren who came to Australia (this time only to Brisbane and Melbourne) from England.

By the way, England won’t not leave my “agenda”. The other day, after a three-week trip, the leaders of our new LGBT group, Dan and Mark, returned from England. They attended the wedding of Dan’s sister, and also visited a number of interesting places: architecture, beaches, rocks and even … a prison-museum. For this weekend, they are organising a trip to Chillagoe, a town 200 km west of Cairns, with impressive limestone caves. I’ve been there many times, but why not go there again, in a nice gay company.

And the leaders of our “old” gay social group Graham and David are now visiting their relatives in England. They will be back soon after a two-week trip.

And now you can have a look at my photos of Melbourne. I hope they reflect the good time I had there.

Canberra: a short visit

As promised, here are some pictures of Canberra. Only three, and two of them were taken from a window of the airplane. As I said, it was a working visit: for me the main places this time were the hotel and the translation office. I did not have enough time and energy for the rest. However, I admired the sunset from the plane. The sun over the clouds is impressive!

My recent trip

Recently, on August 27, I participated in a translation/interpreting workshop in Canberra, the Australian capital, which houses the headquarters of the main official agency regulating our profession. We had a fruitful discussion.

There are no direct flights between Cairns and Canberra, so I flew there via Sydney, where I stayed for a couple of days in transit, and back – via Melbourne, where I spent less than one day.

The flight from Sydney to Canberra was delayed for technical reasons and I arrived on the 26th late at night. In the morning, I had little time – only for the Internet, e-mails and breakfast. So I did not explore Canberra this time: my experience was limited to a taxi, a hotel and the office where the workshop was held. It’s OK, I’d been to Canberra there many times, and I know it quite well. The main thing was a successful workshop.

It’s interesting to note that I came there after Australia had just changed leaders.

On the day of my departure from Cairns, August 24, as a result of internal squabble within the ruling coalition, Scott Morrison became the new prime minister of Australia, after Malcolm Turnbull, the previous prime minister, was removed from power by inner-party voting (almost like a coup).

Turnbull belongs to the left wing of the Liberal Party, and Morrison belongs to the right wing. Turnbull was for the equality of gays, and under his government a law on same-sex marriage was adopted, whereas Morrison is a homophobe. They have different positions on other issues too.

The new political mess did not please the Australian people. Instability, inner-party fighting both within the coalition (consisting of the Liberal and National parties), and inside the Labour Party, impressed nobody. Over the past five years we have had five prime ministers! As if it were a banana republic. Power greedy politicians are making an indecent circus, and the latest change of leader may have become the last straw, and next year, when the federal elections are held, the coalition is likely to lose, along with Morrison. The homophobe will be ruling no more, and a progressive Labour government will come to power. The Labour have been demonstrating stability for the last five years in the opposition and seem to have learned from their turbulent past. In addition, they are for LGBT friendly, and are promising to help our community further.

In Sydney, I had the opportunity to walk around the city, visit various interesting places, and meet a number of gays. You will see today my photos of Sydney, and I hope they reflect the good time I had there.

Soon I’ll also place a few photos of Canberra, separately – there are not many of them, and two of them were taken from the air. As I said, I did not have the opportunity to wander around our capital this time.

In the near future, I will also place a selection of pictures of Melbourne, where I managed to walk in the evening and in the morning. This selection will be accompanied by a small report about Melbourne.

Here in Cairns, we are preparing for the Tropical Pride, which will take place on October 12-14. A number of LGBT activities will be held. This is a local long-standing tradition.

Our everyday gay life is not stagnant either, but the Pride stands out for its intensity and enthusiasm. It really brings the whole LGBT community together. Only a short time to go before it happens.

1 September

Today is the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere, including Russia, Ukraine, USA and Spain, and the first day of spring in the southern, including Australia and New Zealand. An important day for many people.

My best wishes to all of you for this new season! Love, excellent health, prosperity and a happy gay life!