Hughenden, our previous stop is a nondescript and uninspiring town. It has a small main street with a newsagent and a few other shops, many are vacant. One of the stores had a faded sign in the window which read ”Gone to an appointment and will be back as soon as possible”. The bakery is a block away from the main street and the pub is another couple of blocks further away. The river (longest in Queensland) is bone dry and the park is on the other side of the river.
I guess that Hughenden is a classic Queensland outback town. It owes its existence to the railway line and the surrounding cattle grazing land. Its primary tourist appeal is based on its position on the edge of Australia’s ancient inland sea which existed between 95 and 120 million years ago. It left a rich supply of fossils in the area. The most important fossil discovery has been that of a Muttaburrasaurus which is displayed prominently in the Flinders Discovery Centre
- We took the first section of road down to Longreach via Winton for 205 kilometres. There was nothing of interest – just continuous grassland wiih occasional sheep, goats, or cattle with long floppy ears. It was not the most interestoing day of travel by any means.
In the main street of Winton is the North Gregory Hotel. In fact, there have been four iterations of this hotel on this site with the building being rebuilt four times, generally after burning down. Today’s hotel which was built in the 1960s is a modern one – art deco in style.
It was in one of the earlier versions of this hotel that AB (Banjo) Pattersin wrote and first performed his famous poem ‘Waltzing Matilda’. At this time, the hotel would have had the appearance of a much more traditional Australian Pub. Here it is around the turn of the 20th Century. There is also a large building in town that commemorates the work of this famous Australian bush poet. Some of his other famous works are based on life in this region.
It is also claimed that local citizens who planned the establishment of an outback airline (QANTAS was the result) held their first company meetings at the North Gregory Hotel.
It was another 180 km drive to reach Longreach. From the bluff on which a dinosaur fossil discovery centre is situated, we had a great view across the area known as ‘Channel Country’. This area of south-west Queensland, extends into South Australia and New South Wales. About 70% of the Channel Country’s estimated 280,000 sq km is in Queensland. It is defined by having braided, flood and alluvial plains. Every kilometre, or so on the road to Winton, we crossed another creek – all dry at this time of year.
On a Saturday, Longreach is very quiet. The main street empties out once the shops have closed at Midday. We took our time getting going this morning – sorting out our clothes and travel stuff and doing some washing. It was dry by lunchtime in the 32C heat today.
The two very grand attractions here are the Qantas Founders Museum and The Stockman’s Hall of Fame.
The people at the Qantas Founders Museum were keen to differentiate themselves from the airline which is currently ‘on the nose’ with all sorts of customer service issues. These have forced Alan Joyce, the CEO, to retire early, somewhat in disgrace. There is a rumour going around that he hasn’t really retired. He just packed his resignation letter in his checked bag and the baggage people have either lost it, or it went to the wrong place. I think that its very sad that such an icon of Australia has lost so much of its reputation and customer goodwill.
The Founders Museum is in a grand building and has an outdoor area that is now covered in a huge roof to protect the historic aircraft that were significant in Qantas’ history – A DC3, a Lockheed Constellation, a Boeing 707 and a Boeing 747. Although on the small side, its a a very impressive world class museum.
Just across the road is Longreach’s second attraction – The Stockmen’s Hall of Fame. Caring for, and droving livestock has been the backbone of history in this area. This museum recognises the way in which stockmen have contributed to the rural economy – from the days when the country’s economy ‘rode on the sheep’s back’ to the present day. In some ways, stockmen were, perhaps, the Austtralian equivalent of the American cowboy. The museum had to close during Covid but it used that time to spend $16 million on refurbishments and new displays.
By accident, we came across a small rail motor train that has recently begun to provide rail tours out of Longreach. It’s a classic Queensland small outback train. The Railway line begins in Rockhampton and used to go as far as Mt Isa. It is now only usable as far as Winton. Nowadays you need to travel to Mt Isa by train from Townsville.