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A Ghost Town in the Great Australian Outback: Cook, the Deserted Destination

submitted on 7 January 2024 by

History of Cook

Picture this: You're strolling through a desolate desert landscape, the merciless sun beating down on you, and then BAM! - you stumble upon a ghost town straight out of a spaghetti western. No, this isn't a mirage, and you haven't been transported to the Wild West. Instead, you've just discovered Cook, a town in South Australia that's emptier than a politician's promise. Once a bustling railway community, Cook now has a population that you can count with your fingers, toes, and maybe one of your pet's paws.Founded in 1917, Cook was a vital stop along the Trans-Australian Railway, which connects the east and west coasts of Australia. Named after former Prime Minister Sir Joseph Cook, the town was originally designed to support a population of 400. Cook had all the trappings of a thriving outback community: a hospital, a school, a pub, and even a golf course (because no Australian town is complete without a place to whack balls into the abyss).However, the town's fortunes took a turn for the worse when the railway was privatized in 1997, leaving Cook high and dry. With no reason for people to live there, the population shrank faster than an ice cube in a frying pan. Now, Cook has a grand total of four permanent residents who run the railway siding and maintain the town's facilities.

Cultural Significance

Though it's smaller than a pimple on a kangaroo's behind, Cook has a special place in Australian history and culture. For starters, it's a symbol of the rugged determination and pioneering spirit that Australians pride themselves on. The town was built in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest city, Adelaide, over 1,000 kilometers away. The people who lived in Cook had to be resourceful, resilient, and really good at tolerating sand in their shoes.Furthermore, Cook is a testament to the Australian obsession with trains. The Trans-Australian Railway was built to link the far-flung colonies of the newly-formed Commonwealth and to help people traverse the vast, forbidding interior. It remains one of the world's most impressive engineering feats, with over 1,600 kilometers of track laid across some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet. Today, the railway is still an important means of transportation, with the iconic Indian Pacific passenger train stopping in Cook on its journey between Sydney and Perth.

Attractions in Cook

While Cook isn't exactly a bustling metropolis, it does have a few attractions that will delight history buffs, train enthusiasts, and anyone with a penchant for quirky, offbeat destinations.
  • The Cemetery: Morbidly curious visitors will be fascinated by Cook's eerie cemetery, where the graves are marked with railway sleepers rather than tombstones. Pay your respects to the hardy souls who lived and died in this desolate outpost, and marvel at the fact that anyone ever thought it was a good idea to build a town here in the first place.
  • The Old Hospital: The hospital in Cook was once the largest between Perth and Adelaide, and now serves as a haunting reminder of the town's more prosperous days. Though it's been abandoned for years, you can still explore the ghostly halls and imagine the patients who were treated here, many of them suffering from the not-so-fun effects of living in an unforgiving desert.
  • The Railway Siding: Train aficionados will appreciate the chance to see Cook's railway siding in action. The Indian Pacific stops here twice a week, and the town's four remaining residents spring into action to refuel and resupply the train. It's like watching a well-oiled machine - if that machine were a bit rusty and running on a combination of elbow grease and sheer determination.

Tips for Visiting Cook

So, you've decided to ditch your usual vacation plans and venture into the heart of deserted Australia. Fantastic! As long as you follow these tips, your journey to Cook will be as smooth as a wombat's backside:
  • Plan ahead: Cook isn't exactly a tourist hotspot, so don't expect to find any hotels, restaurants, or souvenir shops. If you want to spend the night, you'll need to arrange accommodation with the town's residents, or bring your own camping gear. And don't forget to pack plenty of food, water, and sunscreen - the desert is an unforgiving place, especially for unprepared travelers.
  • Respect the locals: The people who live in Cook are part of its history and charm, so make sure to treat them with the respect they deserve. This means obeying any posted signs, not trespassing on private property, and not trying to steal their thunder by claiming you're the mayor of a ghost town, too.
  • Embrace the adventure: Visiting Cook is a unique experience that you'll cherish for years to come. So, go ahead and revel in the eerie silence, explore the abandoned buildings, and take as many photos as your camera can handle - just remember to watch out for the occasional venomous snake or wayward camel that may cross your path.
As you can see, Cook is a fascinating relic of Australia's storied history and a testament to the country's indomitable spirit. So, don your wide-brimmed hat, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to explore a ghost town like no other. Happy trails, intrepid explorer!
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