Outback roadhouse to reopen for first time in decades

After closing its doors almost 20 years ago, an interesting outback Queensland pub is set to reopen its doors.

Located in the tiny remote town of Kajabbi, the Kalkadoon Hotel was also known as the ‘Wild West Pub’ or ‘Roadhouse of the Aussie Outback’ and was popular among truckies passing through.

Kajabbi is located 120 kilometres north of Mount Isa, near the famous Battle Mountain where the Kalkadoons made their last stand against white invaders in 1884 – which is how the iconic outback pub got its name.

As the town’s population continued to decline, the pub sadly closed in 2006. Jeff Bambrick, and his wife Lynette, bought the Kalkadoon Hotel in 2014 and have spent the last five years getting it ready for its grand reopening.

Although it’s been renovated, the couple has tried to keep true to its original character and charm. The existing building had to be practically rebuilt.

Jeff said he and Lynette also opted for steel instead of wood (except for the timber deck), as the white ants can be quite savage around this neck of the woods.

I fondly recall the first time I visited the Kalkadoon Hotel was in 1991 – the week before it was the scene of a shootout.

Some drunken ringers had come in demanding booze, with not enough money to pay for it, and walked across the road and started shooting at the wooden pub.

Then publican Trevor Long and a couple of his mates grabbed their own air rifles and waited for the police to arrive from Cloncurry, which is 74 kilometres away.

By the time they arrived the drunks were long gone. “There are a lot of hillbillies out this way who pass through and they are always gone when we get here,” one of the cops told me.

After that I visited Kajabbi several times and went to the famous Yabbie Races with the “galloping” crustaceans caught in the nearby river.

The yabbies raced in lanes along a sloping board and people placed a bid for each runner and received a majority of the cash pool if theirs won.

You could even fire a water pistol at your yabbie in an attempt to get it to crawl faster. The bidders for the losing yabbies got to cook theirs and eat it as a consolation prize.

Winning yabbies were usually released back into the river.

The auctioneer was a character named Uncle Fester and some of the yabbies were named Genghis Khan, Pain In the Bum, Gotcha Watcher, Horatio, Best In The West, Pommie Power, Bear, Seth, Lonely Heart, Drunk n Wrecked, Buggered If I know, and Crustacean Cruncher.

The biggest bid was $160 and the smallest $80. We camped in swags and a great time was had by all. As a bonus, money raised went to charity.

The Kalkadoon Hotel had a resident donkey named Jenny. Photo: Facebook

I also recall the pet donkey named Jenny which would join patrons for a cold beer.

Kajabbi had a population of 60 but was a place where many road trains would come loading cattle for meat-works.

It was a roadhouse for drivers where they could stop and enjoy a cold soft drink and a meal and listen to publican Trevor singing and playing his guitar.

I would certainly recommend any visitors to the area stop there and sample bush hospitality at what could well be Australia’s most unusual truck stop.

The Kalkadoon Hotel reopens Friday April 29, at 10am, ahead of Queensland’s Labour Day long weekend.

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