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Talking about Longreach

Palmerston member, Marilyn Roberts shares her experiences at Longreach - from sipping on sparkling wine as the sun sets to paying homage to the heroes of the outback. 

Galloping in the Cobb and Co coach, hanging onto my bonnet and gulping flies along with the dust, I listened to the legend of Captain Starlight. The locals are dubiously proud of this cattle-rustler who battled the odds and the outback to become a hero to the drovers. However, the young stockmen and stockwomen (do we call them stockpeople these days?) who are currently battling the extremes of our climate and landscape are greater heroes than those who have gone before.

A year or so ago, they were seeing their cattle and sheep starving and dying during one of Queensland’s worst droughts. Now into its fifth year, this is no longer so. The land is deserted and the ground dry and cracked. There are no longer any dying cattle, as the livestock has all gone – there is simply not enough to sustain it. Prime breeding stock, developed over generations, has also gone. If, sorry, when it rains it will be two years before the land can sustain herds again. The cattlepeople are devastated, with their cattle gone and their land, homesteads and livelihood at risk. And so they made the bold decision to promote their lifestyle by displaying and telling the story of the Queensland outback to the rest of the world.

We sipped on our sparkling wine and watched the sun set over the barren land, turning the deceitful clouds to pink and orange and red and deep purple, pointing out to each other the first star of the evening. After our visit to the Observatory, we are now experts!

Following in the steps of the Queen, we toured one of the great homesteads and dined under the stars on prime steak and a specially baked Probus 40th Anniversary cake. We gazed up, confidently pointing out the real Southern Cross and thinking of the dying star which had flared and sparkled at us so brilliantly just a couple of nights before.

Of course, Longreach, known as the centre of Queensland, is renowned for the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. We toured this magnificent building and paid homage to the heroes of the outback. We discovered the interactive exhibits of the Qantas Founders Museum although I was too wary (translation – scared) to take advantage of the wing walk on the resident Boeing 747.

At nearby Winton, we gazed in awe at what we thought was a fossilised trunk of a tree stretching the length of the room only to be informed it was only a branch of a tree. We touched million-year-old dinosaur bones (too heavy to lift). We saw the papier mache and plaster-wrapped bone fragments, taller than us, stacked on shelves up to the ceiling in every available space.

We toured NOGO station and were entertained with outback shows and quirky dramas. We listened enthralled to the bush poets. We cruised at sunset on the paddle boat and enjoyed drovers' tucker, were entertained by the barefoot poet, the original and creative light show and the chicken pulling a cart. Whitey, the purebred white stallion, follows his master everywhere like a faithful dog, trotting behind the stages and joining in the fun of the country singing.

The extended Kinnon family, Richard, Marisse, Abigail, Jeremy, Lane and friends worked from before dawn baking, preparing and serving our breakfasts and all meals, entertaining us, singing to us and transporting us everywhere. They provided and serviced our accommodation which was creative, exceptional and full of quaint detail down to the horseshoe toilet roll holders. Jeremy, one of the young men, has been to the city several times but he says it is boring – there is nothing to do there. In Longreach, I am not sure when they ever get any sleep they are so inventive and motivated, and they still have all the modern technology.

What I will remember are the snowy cotton fields, which we saw on the way to Longreach, with their ripe bolls ready for harvest. I was overwhelmed by the dinosaur bones and their massive size. I loved the Twilight Cosmos Centre observatory and it was great when the Probus people from Chinchilla came to chat with us on our way through town.

But above all, I will remember the stockmen and drovers of Longreach who opened their homes and their lives to us and made us feel so welcome – well done to the Kinnon family. Thanks also need to go to Trade Travel, who organised the tour and to Grant McGlashan, the co-founder, who escorted us on our adventure.

It was like stepping into a different world for a few days. A world where life revolves around the land, family, relationships, responsibilities and values. It was sad to leave this rugged but magical world behind but well worth the visit.