Longreach

It may please some who think we have been travelling too fast to know that we did not move the van at all today. Longreach Tourist Park where we stayed last night and again tonight is an easy walk from the two major attractions we had planned to visit today.

I had booked for the 9:30 am Airpark Tour at the Qantas Founders Museum but we planned to be at the museum around 9:00 am to check in. That left us plenty of time for a relaxing start to the day before we set off to walk the short distance out the back end of the van park and across the highway to the museum. 

We were there in a short queue when the museum opened. There were some delays in processing arrivals but we got our passes with 10 minutes to spare for a quick look around before we joined the tour group at 9:30.

Our guide, Nicole, gave us a short briefing and then led us into the area where 4 planes were parked – a DC3, a 747 Jumbo, a Super Constellation, and a 707 – under a new high roof that is designed to offer enough protection to limit deterioration of condition. Each plane had its story.

We heard a short history of the DC3 which had been built for the US military but was bought by Qantas after the war and flown in PNG by Qantas and then TAA before coming back to Queensland with a series of owners. It flew until 1993 and was later donated to the museum. It was the only one of the four aircraft on the tour that we did not board.

The 747 was one of the first series of 747-200s and flew a few more than 18000 cycles (take off and landing) before it was retired and later donated to the museum. Nicole pointed out some of the technical features of the aircraft and there was an opportunity to be photographed standing in an engine intake before we went aboard. Inside sections of panelling had been removed so we could see the placement of the black (actually orange) boxes and some of the control cables that ran from the cockpit, with its mass of instruments, above the upstairs lounge area.

The Super Constellation in the display was never actually a Qantas aircraft. It was rescued from decay near Manila and restored to replicate the appearance of a Qantas Super Constellation. Those planes were a major advance in passenger comfort but, being propellor aircraft, were superseded by jets when they became available.

The 707 on display was the first jet purchased by Qantas to replace the Super Constellations. After flying with Qantas for some years it was operated by other airlines and private owners. Much of its current internal decor was done in the 1980s by someone who hoped to sell it as a luxury aircraft. That did not happen and it eventually finished up disused outside London from where it was rescued and brought to the museum.

Once the 90 minute tour and its fascinating stories had finished we went back to the museum proper where we had coffee. Then we spent some more time around the museum, outside where there is a Catalina flying boat, and in the heritage Qantas hanger where there are more replica aircraft and displays.

A real enthusiast could easily spend the day in the museum and surrounds and then come back for the night media show. We are not real enthusiasts so we headed off around midday to cross the highway to the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre (that’s a mouthful).

We had bought tickets online and arrived in time to have a quick look around before sitting down for the 12:30 showing of a 20 minute movie. Not unexpectedly it presented an almost exclusively positive view of Australian pastoral history and the role of stockmen (and some women) in that. There was limited mention of the indigenous people from whom the land was stolen, except for their skill as stockmen, or of the land degradation caused by the introduction of animals not adapted to the Australian environment and overgrazing.

After the movie we ate a quick lunch – sausage rolls and ginger beer – from the limited range left at the cafeteria. We wandered through the exhibits about outback life and the history of the pastoral industry and the flying doctor service. There was a vast amount of information and some interesting artefacts to view.

Once we had seen enough of the museum we walked the length of the linear botanical garden – a path lined by trees and shrubs representative of the region – toward town. That was about 2 km but an enjoyable walk with a few blossoms appearing on trees and shrubs along the way.

Majella was keen to see the shops in the main street so we walked the block down and up. We bought a couple of things at a pharmacy to tend to our walking niggles but did not find anywhere to have coffee. We walked the 2 km back to the van where we relaxed for a while. 

Majella took the opportunity to do some laundry. I filled the water tank in the van and tried in vain to drain the waste water. Perhaps the problem was the slight slope we are parked on. We will know we have a real problem when the sink fails to drain.

Soon enough it was time to think about dinner. The restaurant Majella could see from the van was not on the list of open places provided by the van park and the Caltex Roadhouse just up the street did not seem enticing. We settled for cheese and crackers with drinks followed by sausages and egg with salad. 

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