The thing we love about travel, is no matter how often you’ve seen pictures or videos of something splashed across the internet, when you do actually see it in person, it feels brand new. Now imagine that feeling, and just how much it multiplies when you experience something that you’ve never heard about or read about before. Something that’s completely unexpected that you just happen to chance upon during your travels. That’s the kind of travel that fun party stories are made of. The kind of travel that the most treasured memories are made of.
We enjoy visiting the most famous sites whenever we travel, but what we remember the most fondly are the detours we make. The spontaneous turns, day trips, stops and spots. And that’s exactly what happened when we found something strange in the middle of Australia. We were on a road trip (those are the best, because there’s just so much freedom to do these crazy things when you’re driving on your own). And since driving in Europe (on the other side of the road) can get a bit limited (read: scary) Australia’s the perfect choice for a crazy road trip. You don’t need a different license (our Indian driving license is valid!) and it’s the same side of the road.
This is a story about time travel, one that actually happened to us when we were on a road trip in Australia. Somewhere midway through our Australia Road Trip , driving towards the tiny town of Keith, on our way from the Great Ocean Road towards the Barossa Valley, we found the strangest signboards. “Visit Australia’s Oldest and Largest Pioneer Town” they said. Since we had a bit of time before we were to check in at Keith (look it up, it’s a real tiny town) we decided to stop and have a look at this strange looking attraction that we hadn’t read about anywhere!
Old Tailem Town
Our car crunched into the gravelled driveway of Old Tailem Town. This certainly seemed like some sort of ghost town. We found rusty pick-ups, trucks and railway carriages parked in neat lines, and the entrance to a tiny shop ahead of us, but not a person around. We weren’t sure if this was even open. We entered the little shop and were shocked at what we saw inside. A bunch of elderly men and women were seated around a table, stopped midsentence and stared at us. After a warm welcome, a pair of tickets and printed map were pressed into our palms, we stepped through a door into the 1900s. Into a real old settler’s town. The story goes that the owner, Peter, had over several years acquired a 110 buildings and placed them across 20 acres of his property. That probably meant transporting some of them as a whole, or dismantling, transporting and then assembling them all over again. I can’t imagine what it would take to support a “hobby” like this.
Since this place was so large, we realised we wouldn’t have the time to see all of it, so we studied the map, and chose the streets that appeared to have the most interesting buildings. Everything looked strange. We walked around, scoping out buildings and rooms that had been laid out to appear like they’d been here all along, and had remained like that ever since. Everything seemed frozen in time. Every single shop and establishment, if it weren’t for the layer of dust, seemed like it was open for business, just without the people. The butcher’s, the drafting office, the church, the beauty parlour, the mechanic’s garage, a boat-maker’s workshop, the bank, the grocer’s. All of them. We even found a movie office lined with posters of unheard films (Charles drooled over all the very expensive antique film equipment in here).
While walking around, we heard a strange song wafting through the speakers. “Take me back to Tailem Bend, where the river’s flowin, where the air is fresh n clear and the willow trees are growin’…”
Before we knew it, a few hours had passed and it was time to leave. The kindly old lady at the reception refused to let us go until we’d had some tea and told her about India. Later on, as I looked up this place, I found out it happens to be among Australia’s most haunted regions. I’m so glad I didn’t know this while we were there. It was a bit of a deserted ghost town anyway. We’re so glad we got the chance to veer off the worn path on this trip, and we’re constantly looking for opportunities to do this whenever we travel. Do you? If the answer is yes, do not waste time and book your trip. In fact there are some amazing cashback offers on MakeMyTrip with Citi cards every Tuesday and Saturday. Also, if you like staying like a local while on a vacation, you can check out the Airbnb offer with Citi cards across all international listings. Click here to know more about these.
Old Tailem Town is on the South Eastern Freeway 5km north of Tailem Bend and approximately 90kms from Adelaide. Open 10 am- 5 pm daily and the admission fee is nominal.