Features, Roadhouses

Outback SA publican a popular host with truckies

Around 250 truck drivers a week stop at the outback Lyndhurst Hotel in South Australian which is owned by legendary operator Laurie Kalms.

For the past nine years, Kalms, who turns 80 on October 17, has run the Lyndhurst Hotel which is located along the notorious Strzelecki Track, most of which is dirt.

It began as a stock route and is located 596km north of Adelaide via Port Augusta and Parachilna, and today it is now nothing more than a few buildings, some ruins and some rusting old equipment.

Much of the Strzelecki Track is a bumpy dirt road and I asked Kalms what are the main type of trucks which stop there are and what they carry.

“I don’t know their models, a truck is a truck to me, but there are lots of triples and B-doubles and many come from Port Adelaide with mining material which has arrived by ships from around the world. Many then travel on to different destinations including Moomba up the highway,” Kalms said.

Kalms said he is warm friends with many of the truck drivers and said they are looked after well at the pub.

“There is lots of parking and showers and toilets and many enjoy a meal here which in my opinion are the best and tastiest in outback Australia,” he said.

I asked Kalms what was amongst the favourite food enjoyed by truckies who stop there.

“It would have to be steak and schnitzel. Most of our business is from tourists in vans, buses or truckies,” he said.

Kalms has three workers employed there, including the cook named Rhonda.

“She serves up the best food you could ask for,” he said.

Despite his rising years, Kalms is still a Jack of all Trades at the pub, often helping out in the bar and kitchen.

The pub relies on trucks to deliver food and other goods there and one of particular importance is the Sterling Transport vehicle which arrives weekly from Adelaide.

“It beings refrigerated food and other stuff and they are a good company to deal with,” he said.

The pub is open daily from 6am until 8 or 9pm and what does Kalms do if they have a busy period and run out of some supplies?.

“I drive 38km down the road to Leigh Creek which has a good supermarket and a population of around 250,” he said.

Before taking over the Lyndhurst Hotel, Kalms ran nine other pubs either in SA or Victoria including one at Mallee for 19 years.

A true okker Aussie character, Kalms used a few colourful but well humoured “expletives” when I phoned him this week.

Our conversation was made much more interesting with some of his colourful quotes and gave us both a good laugh.

Born at Murrayville in Victoria, Kalms had been a builder and bricklayer before taking on the pubs.

In his heyday Kalms was a quality Australian Rules football player in north west Victoria and is a life member of the South Mildura Club which competes in the Sunraysia League.

“I was a ruckman and was 186cm tall back then but don’t think I am that tall now,” he said with a chuckle.

Kalms is an inductee into the prestigious South Mildura Club Hall of Fame and I had to ask him what AFL club he barracks for.

“I used to be a big Collingwood fans for years but have gone off them,” he said.

In recent times Kalms has not enjoyed the best of health and has had two stints at Mildura Hospital.

“I have recovered from that but now have a thyriod problem,” he said.

Because of his rising age and twilight years, Kalms has put the pub up for sale.

“Not many people have money these days but this is a good business where you meet lots of people,” he said.

So if and when a sale comes through soon, what will this genuine character do?

“I plan to go on tours but not in a van. I will be looking for bus or train trips but they must be cheap,” he said.

Until then, Kalms who is  wealth of knowledge will continue to have a cold beer with visitors including truckies and enjoy life to the fullest.

In conclusion I told him that he would become an Octogenarian when he celebrates his 80th birthday in mid-October to which he replied.

“What the bloody hell is that,” he said.

It was a most enjoyable having a conversation with Kalms, albeit we were thousands of kilometres away from each other.

Kalms also paid tribute to his “sweetheart” Jan who he said had been a tower of strength for him and an asset to the business.

Footnote: The Lyndhurst Hotel recently was featured in the ABC television program Back Roads about the characters and places along the Strezlecki Track.

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