Kajabbi
Collage of Kajabbi.

The Kajabbi of today is a ramshackle cluster of derelict buildings, piles of scrap iron and rusting automobile shells. Here and there a dwelling of quiet respectability pokes above the overgrown grass but for all intents and purposes this is the town that time forgot.

If you take a drive through the main street it is unlikely you will see a living soul but you will get the distinct impression that the town and it's inhabitants are aware of your presence. Spooky - not completely. Different - definitely.

The reluctance of the the townsfolk to embrace strangers is understandable. The six to ten residents of the town have have ceased to find amusement in inquisitive tourists who (a)have lost their way, (b)need to find an internet cafe, (c)can't locate the caravan park and general store. Basically that's because none of these modern conveniences exist in Kajabbi. Even the famous Kalkadoon Hotel, named for a local aboriginal tribe, has for the time being shut it's swinging doors. Built in 1928 the pub was renowned as a relaxed affair with a minimum of seating or tables and a collection of eccentric and dilapidated memorabilia.

Kajabbi lies midway between the towns of Cloncurry and Mount Isa, some 110km off the beaten track. The road from Mount Isa is a gutted, gnarly, twisted piece of dirt with numerous creek crossings that turn to full fledged rivers in the wet season. The road to Cloncurry is similar except the 'black soil plains' turn to a swamp at the hint of rain. The Kajabbi townsite rests right on the Leichhardt River, normally dry it reverts to an impassable torrent once the rains arrive. The people of Kajabbi often become landlocked by the swollen creek crossings with no way to drive out. Basics like bread and milk are often flown in by helicopter during the wet.

Kajabbi was an important centre for mining and cattle transport in bygone days. The nearby mines of Mount Cuthbert and Dobbyn have produced copious amounts of copper ore over time with Mount Cuthbert still a working concern. In 1916 the railway from Cloncurry reached the town and spur lines were laid to Mount Cuthbert and Dobbyn. Kajabbi was the railhead for cattle that had been driven down from the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Townsville Bulletin of August 1935 reported that the numbers of cattle railed for the season was down and so far only 14,838 had been delivered to the Kajabbi stockyards for transport.

The Kajabbi region has always enjoyed a reputation as a bit of a 'wild west' town. There are several indigenous language groups who claimed the region as their homelands with the most resilient being the warlike Kalkadoon people. In the 1870's the traditional Kalkadoon hunting grounds were swallowed up by the pastoralists hunger for more and more grazing land. Tensions came to a head in 1883 when 5 Native Police Troopers were killed by members of the Kalkadoon tribe. Shortly after pastoralist James Powell died from wounds inflicted by spearing as he mustered cattle and later a local Chinese shepherd was murdered on Granada Station. Sub-Inspector Fred Urquhart organised a retaliatory raid against the Kalkadoon. The final decisive conflict occurred at 'Battle Mountain' where 200 police and volunteers charged a group of somewhere between 200 and 600 Kalkadoon warriors. The Kalkadoon proved no match for the white firepower and it is estimated that 200 indigenous men were killed. The whereabouts of Battle Mountain aren't exactly clear although it seems the incident occurred close to Kajabbi.

The tourist hotspot for the area is Lake Julius, 25km west of Kajabbi. Developed in the 1970's to supply water to Mount Isa the 1200 hectare lake has been stocked with Barramundi and various freshwater species. It's a popular camping and recreational fishing destination.

Last we heard a block of land could be had for around $2000 while the old constables cottage was available, fully furnished, for $45,000. If you're a budding artist or photographer looking for a 'bush change' and don't mind a bit of the Louisiana Backwoods then a studio retreat at Kajabbi may be just the ticket.


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