Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cairns Story Part 5

After our Coffee Works adventure, we went to the MareebaHeritage and Information Centre  which was just around the corner from the Coffee place. Mareeba is a small country town with lots of natural attractions such as wetlands, coffee plantations and boutique shops and cafes. The museum is free and is about the local history of the area.

Mareeba use to be a place where Tobacco was grown which was the main source of income for the community.  It was a tobacco town from the late 1920 to 2003 when the government banned the growing of Tobacco in Australia.  I think the coffee plantations replaced the tobacco farms but I suppose it must have been tough for the town to lose that income initially.

Also, on display at the museum was the ambulance railway train which serviced Mareeba and the neighbouring towns. The train was particularly useful during the wet season when the roads are closed due to flooding.

There were also displays from colonial times as well as honouring the  Muluridji tribe who were the original inhabitants of the land.

I thought the museum was pretty good for a small community museum. It was a little rundown and a little dusty but I think a bit of a clean and new paint job would spruce the place up.
As the museum is also a tourist information centre, there were lots of free maps and brochures about the local attractions. We found out that there use to be a China Town in the neighbouring town of Atherton so we decided to go there next.  

Many people assume that most non white Australians are fresh off the boat but some have been in Australia for generations. The first wave of immigrants arrived during the 18th century during the gold rush. Paul and I went to the Hou Wang Miau temple in Atherton which is the only remaining structure of China Town left.

The Chinese arrived in Atherton for gold mining. They were treated poorly and overworked and underpaid. They also did the most difficult and dangerous jobs. Others grew crops and others became timber cutters.

I felt a little sad  learning about the history of the Chinese immigrants. They worked very hard but faced racial discrimination. Most of the Chinese left after World War 1, when the government reclaimed the farm lands for returning veterans. So, China Town was scrapped and torn down after that.
an old picture of China Town

The temple remained as it was looked after the remaining people. The temple was in use until the 1970s then it was deserted and used as play house by the local children. Restoration began in the 1980s and the museum was made alongside it.
The temple
The temple is made from tin and timber which was what the Chinese immigrants could afford at the time.  The entrance is made on raised levels which the guide explained was to ward off evil spirit because they can only travel in a straight line.
I thought the interior of the temple would contain a few pews but I was surprised to find an altar and a heavenly well. Every part of the temple represented something from the Taoist religion.  There was also a caretaker room and storeroom attached to the temple.

The rest of China Town was just grassland with little monuments to represents the buildings that use to be there.
During the tour, there was a young man who spoke only to Paul.  He would follow us around the exhibits and tell Paul things he observed and gave tips on local travel destinations. We weren't sure whether he was just being nice, or he was lonely or looking for love. Paul was bemused by the experience.

Past Cairns stories : Part 1, 2, 3, 4

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