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Farina: South Australian ghost town

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Lost in the vast land of outback South Australia, 650 kilometres (400 miles) to the north of Adelaide on the edge of the desert and along the old route of the Ghan railway, there are traces left behind from a forgotten community. Farina is a former farming and mining community became a ghost town, complete with a cemetery that explains how harsh life in town must have been.

Originally called The Gums or Government Gums, the town of Farina was settled in 1878 by optimistic farmers hoping that rain follows the plough, meaning that human habitation and agriculture through homesteading could permanently change the climate, thus making an inhospitable environment livable. The land was believed to be fertile, because heavy rains had just passed through the region. However, this was an unfortunate rare event, the lands turned out to be incredibly difficult to cultivate and normal rainfall is nowhere near enough to grow crops like wheat and barley. So, despite both copper and silver mines in the area, the village only grew to a population of only 600 in the late 1800s.
In its heyday, the town had two hotels (the Transcontinental and the Exchange), an underground bakery, a bank, two breweries, a general store, an Anglican church, five blacksmiths, a school and a brothel.
Farina was to see its decline after the Ghan rail line, which passed through the town, was extended to nearby Marree. This rendered Farina an obsolete stop and was the final straw which led to the town’s abandonment.

The town’s cemetery is located a few kilometres away via a signposted track. Interesting is the Afghan corner of the cemetery, home of several headstones with both English and Arabic inscriptions, plus several headstones without inscriptions, marking the last resting place of former Farina residents of Afghan origin who were involved in or connected to the Afghan camel trains which used to provide transport services before the railway was extended. All the gravestones face Mecca in the Islamic tradition.

Today nothing but stone ruins and the elevated railway water tank remain of the township. The post office closed in the 1960s and the railway line closed in the 1980s and removed. Farina has been turned into a ghost town, with only a few dozen residents living in a small settlement west of the town. During the last years there have been volunteer efforts to restore the town, including the repair of the bakery and the addition of informational signs.

Author’s note: currently, the only functioning building that is fully restored at the ghost town is an old underground bakery. This is open seasonally and I would definitely recommend a visit if you are traveling along the Outback Highway.

Images are mine (with watermarks) and from web.

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