Majella is not keen on cruises. In part that is because she does not like being on water out of sight of land. In that case, a dinner cruise in Longreach was expected to be a safe bet since there seemed little chance of enough water to get beyond sight of land. The cruise runs on Wednesday and Friday but not Thursday so we needed to be in Longreach tonight.
Rolleston to Longreach is a long reach, 555 km or more than 6 hours of actual driving plus short stops. Our transport to the cruise was scheduled for 4:00 pm and we wanted to be sure of being settled for the night before that. Our walking yesterday had resulted in an early night so we woke early this morning and were on the road around 7:00 am.
Maps showed Albinia NP about 16 km along the road to Springsure and we planned to pause there to add to Majella’s collection of parks. What little I had found on the NP website left me thinking there would be at least somewhere to park but we saw not even a single sign announcing the park. The map shows it with land either side of the road so, if Majella is short of her 20 NPs by end of year, she can count it as a drive through visit.
Michelle Williams had recommended Minerva Hills NP at Springsure but my earlier research had established that access required 4WD. Nevertheless as we entered Springsure Majella followed the signs to the road into the park but we turned back when it was clear that there would be better views of the spectacular hills from the road to Emerald. We paused there for a quick look before driving on.
At Emerald we topped up with fuel and tried for coffee at the shopping centre. The only coffee place there was closed so we changed drivers and headed out of town. As I drove out I was stopped for a random breath test. Once I was cleared I drove on about 30 minutes before stopping at Anakie where we made and drank coffee in the van before driving on.
We paused briefly at the Drummond Range lookout. As we looked we saw a road train I had passed earlier beginning its ascent and hurried on to avoid having to pass it again. Around 1:00 pm we stopped at Jericho. Majella made sandwiches and we ate those in the van before she drove us out of town.
Our stop in Barcaldine was just long enough to visit the Tree of Knowledge, site of a key meeting in the 1891 shearers’ strike. The tree was poisoned and died some years ago but the dead trunk still stands and is surrounded and covered by an impressive wooden structure.
We reached Longreach around 2:30 pm, a little ahead of my schedule with plenty of time to settle and prepare for our cruise. I had booked a powered site with ensuite and we were soon parked alongside with no need to move until Friday morning since a bus would take us to the cruise tonight and the attractions for tomorrow are within walking distance.
There was time to have coffee and relax before we walked out to meet our bus at 4:00 pm. There was a good crowd of others from the park lined up to board and we made several more stops to collect more passengers on the way out of town. Our driver provided commentary as we drove around town and then north and across paddocks to meet our boat on the long waterhole in the Thomson River. Our impression of Longreach based on media reports was of near perpetual drought and the countryside we drove through today had reinforced that so we were surprised to see a waterhole so large. It is kilometres long with an average depth of about 7 m and up to 15 m in places. There is enough water to provide for the town supply, with treatment, and it has never run dry though there is no flow except in flood so oxygenation can be a problem.
Our cruise lasted just a bit less than 2 hours of steady progress down river. There was commentary about vegetation and wildlife, mostly birds, as we went and a pause with time ashore to appreciate the sunset with reflections beyond a bend in the river.
The cruise disembarked at Smithy’s restaurant on the riverbank just out of Longreach. Dinner had been cooked camp style over wood fires. Main course was alternate drops of lamb or barramundi though we both finished with the barra in deference to our table company, David and Dianne from the Gold Coast, who both seemed to prefer the lamb. Dessert was coconut pie and mud cake, again alternating but we split to try both. Supper was billy tea and damper with syrup. Our entertainment was provided by Corinne who sang a selection of mostly familiar songs wit a brief interlude by Pedro who recited a few bush ballads. It was a fun night and good value.
We were back to our van a bit after 9:00 pm to rest in preparation for another big day.