A movie showing at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame at Longreach says that some people think the Outback to be Dalby, some think Longreach, others the centre of Australia.
I reckon Longreach and surrounds count as the Outback.
My first encounter with Longreach was back in 1988 when I travelled from Toowoomba to Longreach by bus, overnight. I was lucky (?) enough to have the front seat on the bus, which meant I was blinded by the lights of the road trains coming towards us, and could count the number of kangaroos the bus hit on the way. The purpose of such a trip for a townie? The opening of the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.
The Queen of England was in town, as was the Prime Minister and other bigwigs. The usual population of 4,000 swelled to 20,000 for the Easter long weekend. My friend and I went to all the celebrations – the opening, the ball – appropriately frocked out, the horse races, again appropriately frocked and hatted, and stayed at the local youth hostel / backpackers which was also occupied by ringers in town for the weekend. We met some backpackers from overseas who had escaped the tourist filled coastline for what they thought would be the real Australia. Instead they got the Queen of England.
More memories of that weekend include visiting the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. My friend, Meri, and I went out onto one of the balconies (see the one in the image above where the Queen and Prime Minister stood). The door closed behind us, locking us out. We waited patiently believing we would soon be rescued. Sure enough, a fellow walked out onto the balcony. But he was a sight see-er. We yelled for him to hold the door, but the door closed behind him, locked shut, adding him to the balcony hostages. It was quite some time of waving hands and calling out for someone else to come along to open the door and let us back into the hall. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.
After all the celebrations in Longreach, we went to a property out near Aramac where my friend was working as a governess. The area had been in drought for seven years. The cracks in the ground were as wide as my hand span. I took a photo of the sunset. In the horizon there was only one small stunted shrub that I think was supposed to be a tree.
So different this trip in 2010. The area was lush and green after the rains and floods over summer.
And was the Stockman’s Hall of Fame different? Different, yet the same:
renovations occurred in 2002-03 allowing for more exhibits
the Hugh Sawry art gallery is a must see
the Cattleman’s Bar and Grill provides a great lunch
the gift shop is bigger (yes, I bought a few souvenirs, including an Akubra hat and some RM Williams gear)
you can come and go on the ticket price (highly recommended – don’t rush your visit, break it up through the day, or if you arrive late, you can visit again the next morning)
the garden area is a lovely space to rest and take a break
RM’s Cottage, built prior to the Hall of Fame, is a lovely sandstone building, surrounded by landscaped gardens and statues. The Cattleman’s Bar and Grill is just behind the Cottage
I tested the balcony doors – they don’t lock you out anymore!
After your visit to the Hall of Fame, you too will know the origin of the word ‘furphy’!
My accommodation was 4 star, as was the local wildlife. One morning, on the way back from the breakfast room to my room, I was stopped in my tracks by two grey kangaroos hopping across the path in front of me. Two metres in front of me.
The next morning I shared my shower with a green frog. It was a cutie, but I have to say it was the quickest shower I’ve had in a long time. The town was recovering from a locust plague, described as the worst in three decades and courtesy of that lush green after the rains. While it was no way as bad as reported the week before, I shared my space, including my bed, with crickets, locusts and other hoppers. The dressing room at the RM Williams shop at the Hall of Fame was memorable for the highest number of wooden-clothes-hanger-coloured crickets I’ve seen in the one space.
The town is still the quiet, quaint town of years ago, but the population is growing with a growth in the hospitality and tourist field. The locals were wonderfully welcoming and most of the visitors were up for a chat (I told everyone who would listen about my visit in ’88). A comment about how lovely a woman’s shoes were sent us to the local shoe / hats / handbags store, The Cobbler, for a look see. Then to The Bakery for a real coffee and a great meal. Highly recommended. The restaurants are perfect for steak, though I noticed a number of options, including vegetarian, on the menu. If the town runs out, it runs out. Breakfast one morning was sans tomato.
There is so much more to see in Longreach. My visit was too short to take it all in. I would love to visit and stay for a while next time.