Woolies spread keeps McKinlay fed

Woolworths perishables donation helps travellers stranded at McKinlay


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The crowded Landsborough Highway scene at McKinlay as trucks and travellers wait out the flooding in comfort at the Walkabout Creek Hotel. Photos by Kelly Wust.

The crowded Landsborough Highway scene at McKinlay as trucks and travellers wait out the flooding in comfort at the Walkabout Creek Hotel. Photos by Kelly Wust.

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When a small outback town’s population trebles in flood times, normally food is the first item that people run short of.

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When a small outback town’s population trebles in flood times, normally food is the first item that people run short of.

Not so in McKinlay, which has been reaping the bonus of Woolworths and Coles trucks being stranded in town, along with 40 extra mouths to feed.

According to Walkabout Creek Hotel publican, Frank Wust, an agreement by Woolworths that the truck’s perishable supplies be donated for locals and travellers alike to consume has been a blessing.

“Otherwise we’d be eating grass by now,” he said.

The town on the Landsborough Highway is in its sixth day of being cut off by flood waters from Cloncurry in the north and to Winton in the south.

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“It’s like an island here at the moment,” Frank said.

“The Woolies and Coles trucks were going to Darwin and they reckoned the food would be out of date before they got there now, and they would have had to write it off.

“There’s packaged steak, chicken pieces, you name it – it’s just like everything you’d see on the shelves in a supermarket, even pet food.”

It’s a far cry from the famine the north west community has been dealing with since the shop attached to the fuel retail outlet closed last October.

Ironically, the pub’s beer resupply truck is stranded at Winton.

Speaking on Monday as the rain continued to fall, Frank said they still had enough beer for another couple of days.

“We’ll just drink something else when the beer runs out,” he said.

Adding to the party atmosphere is that one of the stranded travellers, Victorian Surf Coast country music singer Jessey Jackson, was on her way from Tamworth to Darwin when the flooding stopped her at McKinlay.

Jessey Jackson singing for her summer at the Walkabout Creek Hotel.

Jessey Jackson singing for her summer at the Walkabout Creek Hotel.

According to Frank, they’ve been shouting her meals and accommodation in return for nightly music sessions.

Another of those making the most of the novelty is Northern Territory blogger, Danielle Doyle aka Miss Chardy, who was returning home from taking children to boarding school.

“Each morning I go to the Day Spa (others may call it a communal bathroom) for my shower and pop a bit of face on – I mean just because we are stranded in the middle of nowhere is no reason to drop ones standards,” she writes in her inimitable style.

“We’ve all resigned ourselves to the fact we’re at the mercy of the river and we can’t do anything about it,” Frank said.

The river on the edge of town has fluctuated up and down –  Frank said it had gone down to 300mm overnight but there was no point crossing, only to get isolated between McKinlay and Cloncurry – it was back up to 1m on Monday morning.

The town has  exceeded its 2018 rainfall total of 240mm in one week of rain, recording 290mm since last Monday.

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