WHERE in the world is Dululu?
Well, it’s easy to find with a sat-nav. Simply zero in on the intersection of the Leichhardt and Capricorn highways in Central Queensland, 73km west of Rockhampton.
Adjacent to the crossroads is the classic Queenslander, timber and tin pub. The Dululu Hotel, built in 1928, is the centre of the universe for the locals, all 30 of them and a few dogs.
The flood waters flowed under the pub which sits on low timber stumps, but it’s open for business and mostly accessible from Biloela.
The pub is run as a family affair. Arriving late afternoon, the first person I spot is 15 year-old Jayden Catlin, tearing up the footpath with a cantankerous old motor mower. He tells me later he would rather be helping out at the rural fire brigade, “Because that’s more exciting”.
His mum, Sharon, ambles out to check his battle with the long grass. She stands on the front porch which is tucked under the upstairs wooden veranda. “Are you the one staying the night?” she calls to me in a friendly tone.
I nod my agreement and she beckons me over and continues, “Put your port in room four near the top of the stairs then come down and meet some of the locals. It’s men’s tennis night tonight at the local courts and some will come in before their game and most of them come in after.”
As I walk in to the bar I see the L-shaped timber-topped counter, its front made from vertical sheets of galvanised iron. The walls are covered in a cluttered montage of old pub signs and posters, photos of champion Brahman bulls and nasty looking circular saw blades featuring colourful country scenes and the ubiquitous pool table and dart board.
There are also a few discarded, well-worn jackeroo hats and the focal point at meal times is a giant blackboard with a chalked menu featuring a range of meals and snacks that would put a city pub to shame.
I smile at two women sitting at the bar enjoying a shandy after the day’s work at a regional school and wander into a cavernous back room. There’s the kitchen to the left, its entrance barred by a flimsy insect screen door.
To the right is a counter with a young lady sorting letters and a few parcels. It’s Kirsten Catlin. She and her sister Lekisha assist their parents, Des and Sharon in running the pub.
Kirsten says the pub is more than just drinks, meals and beds.
“We run a small grocery service for the locals and surrounding farms. We do the post office duties, ANZ Bank agency, freight depot, and provide a bus stop for interstate coach services and are the co-ordination contact for emergency services,” she says.
This is one busy establishment.
I trudge up the flight of stairs to the back verandah. I find my room and open the unlocked door.
There’s carpet on the floor, a TV with rabbit’s ears sitting precariously on a stool in the corner of the room, a lace-curtained window, an antique, stained-timbered wardrobe, a double bed with clean sheets and a few blankets all tucked in under a bright bedspread; not bad value for $45 a night.
It’s time for some tucker. Sharon suggests I try the slab of grilled rump with vegies and chips. It’s so big; lapping over both ends of the oval plate. The locals boast that it should have its own post code.
Later, the tennis players arrive and regret that some of their top shots did not make it over the net.
This leads to a discussion about some of the old characters of Dululu who have fronted the bar over past decades. Most remember “Old Pagey” who in his later years was a regular at opening time each day at 10am and would stay until about 2pm before getting a lift home.
“Old Pagey” had to take his medication about 11am, so he would put his beer down and ask for a glass of water because as he would explain to the bar attendant each morning, “I’m not supposed to take the medication with alcohol”.
A former licensee, Nev Ferrier and now councillor walked into the bar. When asked how he dealt with rowdy drinkers, he thought for a while and said that was not usually a problem. But he did have one experience with a strange guest that bounded through.
“I was just getting ready to close one evening and heard all sorts of commotion out the back and thought one of the locals must have tripped in the dark and knocked a few empty kegs over,” he said.
“Then suddenly, a fairly large grey kangaroo hopped into the bar. It hit the wall then bounded into the men’s toilet and the door swung closed behind it.
“Opening the door to the men’s, I grabbed the roo by the tail and somehow pulled it out onto the verandah; its front paws thrashing about like some crazed fighter and let it go. It cleared the railing in a single bound and headed west. I have never seen anyone or anything leave a pub so fast in all my life.”
As the folk drifted off into the night, I found my way upstairs to room four. After waking up to the sounds of a mob of galas in an outside tree and a hearty pub breakfast, I drove out onto the Leichhardt Highway and realised that one thing is certain: life is definitely different in Dululu.
Phone the Dululu Hotel on 4937 1288.
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