There’s nothing left. A few foundation stones, the kerb line, an old chimney stack. Maytown, Queensland was once a thriving gold town. Now, less than 150 years after it was founded, it’s turned to dust. Just another tourist curiosity.
They rushed here to make their fortunes. British, Chinese, early Australians all. For a few short years the town flourished. It had pretensions. There, look, the cornerstone of the School of Arts. Over there, the bank, a cemetery.
Prospectors found gold here on the Palmer River in 1873. Word went out. Hopeful diggers made the long and treacherous journey from Cooktown on the coast. Some came on horseback, some walked the hot, dusty interior of a little known land. Money on their minds. Hidden treasure.
The Main Street was lined with granite, built to last. It was a busy town, well served by Chinese shopkeepers, two butchers, a baker. If you close your eyes, you can almost catch the sounds of ghostly footsteps, the laughing, boasting voices in the bars of the old hotels. A hint of charcoal on the dusty wind, the hot yeasty scent of fresh baked bread from the baker’s oven. Built in brick, the oven still stands.
But now, this town is just a ghost town, abandoned. By 1945 it was deserted. Like a desert flower it grew quickly, bloomed, then withered away when the gold ran out. The scrub and sands are devouring it, taking back the land to grow food trees for the Palm Cockatoos.
But the story continues. The road to Maytown has had to be compulsorily purchased to allow access across the private land that surrounds the reserve. Tourists are not welcome here. Someone has padlocked the gates and laid nails and other sharp objects on the road. Tracks have appeared leading off into the bush, confusing travellers.
Queensland Parks posts a letter to landowners on the wall of the little tin tourist shelter, right next to the map of old Maytown. The public has a right to access the area. Report any interference immediately.
We meet a group of men on quad bikes, exploring the old minefields. When we ask about the route back through Palmersville, they shake their heads. It’s closed. Don’t go there. They tell us stories of murder, gunshots and missing persons.
The wind whistles down the remains of the Main Street. Dust swirls. It’s time to go. We are not wanted here.