We left the highway far, far behind. If there was any way to rate a road like you can rate a business, I dont think 1 star would be low enough to give the road from Hughenden to Muttaburra. On the map it looked fine, straight and long, google said it was sealed, but I'll never trust google again for route advise. 200 km at an average of around 50 - 60 kph, all the while being thrown around by the corrugation's, the rut's and the deep channels that had been dug in by countless road trains. I think whichever grader team was assigned to this road must have decided that it was time for early retirement upon seeing the condition it was in. We were already 50 km in before it got really bad and by this point we were committed. If it weren't for the amazing wildlife we got to see away from the main road it would have been a completely different experience. Our first glimpses of massive Wedge Tailed Eagle's, groups of Brolga's, a flock of Pink and Grey Galah's, Emu's with babies, a group of snakes having a lunchtime meeting in the middle of the road which was impossible to swerve around. We were treated to a real outback animal experience as we made our way through some remote cattle station country. We made it out of the other side almost 4 hours later and after only seeing two other cars in that whole time, our nerves were a bit shot and our car a caravan a bit beaten up. We had one casualty, our bike rack had met its match on the dirt road, shaken and broken into pieces, it was lucky it was still attached to the back of the caravan by the thinnest of pieces of metal. We reattached it as best we could and knew we would have to come up with an alternative in Longreach.
It must have been the busiest day on the social calendar in Muttaburra as the tiny little town was buzzing and packed with plenty of people donning their finest polished R.M Williams boots and new Akubra's. We stumbled across the official opening day for the local dinosaur display, the Muttaburrasaurus had been discovered by a local farmer in the area and a new centre had been funded and built to honour this discovery, which put this tiny town on the dinosaur hunters map.
Apart from this dinosaur museum, there was officially zero else that we saw in our short time in town. We knew we still had another couple of hundred km to Longreach and were expecting more of the same as the previous road but were surprised with the luxury of a single sealed lane for the whole trip to Longreach and again only two cars the whole way.
We were actually really excited for Longreach, we had done our research and found there was actually quite a lot to do in and around town. A few of the highlights we were looking forward to in Longreach were the Australian Stockman's hall of fame, the Quantas founders museum, Cobb and Co tours and the our last day in Longreach was to be at the bi yearly Outback Paddle Regatta. For a little town in the middle of the outback they definitely have plenty to offer tourists.
We set up camp and got to exploring the town starting with the staging post, the set off point for the Cobb and Co stagecoach tours and frontier themed store. They capitalized on the outback frontier at this place, the store was decorated like you just stepped back 150 years into the past. Newspaper clippings, old photographs, a themed moving picture show, an original Cobb and Co stagecoach setup in the back of the store and a replica staging post for where the coach tours left from. A six horse stagecoach toured through the centre of town with full commentary from a local guide gives an in depth history of the town and the region. The stations have all got onboard as well, with tours of the surrounding stations with lunch included. Paddle wheeler tours with dinner on the Thompson river are another great tourist option, they have really made tourism a massive drawcard.
We had pre purchased our tickets to the the full Stockman's experience at the Stockman's hall of fame for the next day, which was our top Longreach highlight. Even if it was empty inside, the building that houses the Hall of fame is impressive enough. A beautiful architecturally designed building rises out of the middle of no where, our experience started in the cinema with an in depth documentary about station life and the life and journey of the Australian Stockman. Following on from the documentary was an fully stocked museum accompanied by a full audio tour. Displays focusing on the formation of the famous stock routes through the outback, the station heavyweights and the lives and roles of women in the frontier. To top this all off was a live outback show hosted by a bull riding, singing cowboy. With live horsemanship displays, sheep herding display with cattle dogs all topped off with original written country music made for a great live show. The Stockman's hall of fame is a massive drawcard for the outback and anyone visiting the area will love what they have to offer.
While at the Hall of Fame we learned about one of the heroes of outback rebelry, Harry Redford aka Captain Starlight. He was most famous for stealing over 1000 head of cattle and navigating the Strzelecki desert from Queensland to South Australia to sell the cattle. He was eventually caught but famously when tried in court was pardoned by the jury despite overwhelming evidence, his legacy is one of a lovable criminal, with a massive reputation for being larger than life. 50 km out of town was the place history tells he gathered the 1000 cattle before leaving south, Captain Starlight's lookout rises up from the plains that surround it and offers 360 degree views around. We made the trip out, once again not seeing another soul for the entire time. You can definitely see why this could be used for a remote hideout, even today, because it is the middle of absolute nowhere but still worth seeing if you are interested in the history of the area.
As our time in Longreach came to a close, we still had one massive event we had been waiting to get amongst since we first heard about it. The Thompson river runs just north of Longreach, it is spring fed and feeds fresh artesian water into the Lake Eyre basin. It is also home to the Outback Paddle Regatta, this oasis in the middle of some of the driest country you can cross hosts dragon boat races, paddleboard races and is home to Australia's largest rubber duck race all topped off with live music and entertainment. The kids kept themselves busy all day on the giant waterslide while we sat back and watched the live band and races on the river. The giant duck races were hotly contested, with $5000 on the line, the teams were giving it their all. All of this was tied together with Jet pack performances on the river, barefoot skiing and circus performers. The final performance of the night was the jet packs on the river all lit up by LED's, racing each other up the river, performing back flips and entertaining the crowd who had been sitting in the bar all afternoon. A really good show of community for the area, events like this bring small communities together.
We really enjoyed our time in Longreach, now onto Winton, the Outback Festival and the Outback Iron Man!