Charleville and Longreach
Longreach has a few things its famous for, the stockman’s hall of fame and the Qantas founders museum to name a two. Both have various packages you can do ranging from not overly expensive to a cure for the national debt. We elected to do two of the moderately priced options. Our first outing was a visit to the rail station which by chance (as if) had a coffee shop attached. The coffee was pretty good and the old station has come up a treat. We also had a wander around the town which has a pretty good selection of retail for a small outback town. The obligatory visit to the information centre for information on what’s on in Longreach and back to the van park for a planning session. A word on the van park we have been in a wide variety of parks and some pretty big ones at that. It may have not been the biggest but it was close with over 300 sites we were 309. The over thing is there isn’t much grass but plenty of red (and other colour) dust.
Next day we headed off to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. The museum is a fantastic tribute to the stockmen and Longreach with tributes to both indigenous and European stockmen and women and also the characters that opened up the outback. We can highly recommend this to everyone. We also had tickets for the day shown which was pretty impressive. I have never seen a brahma bull with a saddle and ridden like a horse. Jigsaw was one hell of a bull. The horse of course were also quite amazing, but my favourite was the blue heelers the way they can work, intuitively, the cattle or sheep was impressive. The enthusiasm of the workers/volunteers is a credit to them.
I decided to do the Qantas founders museum with a guided tour of the DC3, 747 and 707 they have on display. Di came with me but elected only to do museum. The guided tour of the 747 is pretty amazing. It was one of the first for Qantas and was restored, after it was found in a grave yard, and flown back to Australia. It landed at Longreach in November of 2002. It only had enough fuel for 3 attempts and there was some speculation that the runway wasn’t quite long enough. The plane was also one of the last 747 to be wholly cable operated which meant that there were very few pilots who were qualified to fly it. It landed on first attempt. In the photos you may on close inspection noy=tice this one has 5 engines. The 5th engine cowl is actually how they used to transport spare or engines requiring repair around the world.
The 707 is one of 13 of that model built, it was number 13 John Travolta owns no.1. The 707 was found in England in a grave yard and has quite a history as well. The inside is not what you would expect. It was modified after Qantas initially sold it and is decked out in a style suitable for an oil sheik. Including double bed and padded toilet. It has been used in its current form by the likes of the Jackson 5 and John Travolta taped an interview in the plane. On its return journey to Australia it was taken to America to photographed nose to nose with Travolta’s plane. The museum houses a huge range of relics from a bygone era including a complete Catalina flying boat. Again this is worth the trip to see this museum.
Tomorrow it’s on to Charleville
A reasonable short run from Longreach to Charleville of 300 odd kms. We passed through???? which provided a bit of interest – the machinery mile. There is about a mile of roadside devoted to old machinery including steam engines, trucks, stationary engines, bottles, WW1 and WWII memorabilia. An incredible array of stuff and completely free of charge to view. Charleville came over horizon in time for a late lunch. We settled into our sites in a small van park, booked for the roast dinner they were putting on and headed for the info centre. The info centre is housed in the railway station along with the Bilby experience. There are a number of things to see around Charleville and with all of these you have to make a choice otherwise it becomes very expensive. Our choices were the Bilby experience, sun gazing at the Cosmo centre, a night sky stare gaze again at the Cosmos centre and a tagalong tour of the old WWII American airbase.
What can I say, the Bilby experience was just magic and the efforts a number of organisations are going to protect this small, endangered mammal from extinction are amazing. There is breeding program running which is releasing back into the wild which has had mixed success but at least is not going backwards and the success rate is improving. The biggest problem they are facing is feral animals like cats and foxes still they are pressing on.
Out to the Cosmos centre for a 1 hr session learning about the Sun and with a little viewing trough a telescope and a session on how irrelevant we are in the scheme of the universe. This was followed by a tagalong tour of the old WW!! American air force base (or what’s left of it). The size and infrastructure that was put here is incredible. It was a bomber base and also the point where bombers departed for the Coral Sea campaign. The fighter component of the base, (where they parked the fighter) stretched for 2 kms. It is also the sight where the first of the Norden Bomb sights were tested and installed into the American bombers. Much of the current hospital and air field is credited to the American contingent. The runways are still of a length that gives Charleville an accreditation as an international airport.
After dinner it was off to the Comos centre again for our evening of star gazing. It was cold and very clear and well worth our time. We saw some pretty specy stuff but for me the moon and its craters were so clear and distinct. Great way to end a day. Tomorrow we move on to – well we aren’t really sure yet but either Cunnamulla or Bourke. It will be a surprise.