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173 - 192m ASL


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I AWOKE to a big thunderstorm at sunrise with heavy rain falling - very unusual for the outback. The locals have said this year it has rained every month which is is first ever, and quite a dramatic break from the huge drought of the past eleven years. Fortunately most of the rain had stopped falling by breakfast and most of the clouds were clearing with the sun coming out as we headed into the bus for today's local journey.

We didn't go far at all, just to the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame just across the road from the airport, a large recently built museum. After watching a video presentation of the history of the area, we were led into the main museum very nicely set up with all sorts of artefacts from the early settler days on the ground floor, with a cabin built in the middle of it. A large map showed the enormous expeditions across the country taken by stockmen leading their stock across the outback and deserts to greener pastures.

Upstairs on the mezzanine floor was a large area dedicated to the flying doctors who has a big base here in Longreach. A small plane formerly used by the flying doctors was hanging from the cylindrical ceiling. Across the other side of the floor were more displays including a bar with car registration plates listing all the towns in the "I've been everywhere man" song and a video room where we watched a couple of very funny outback short films while the rain fell outside.

After exploring the museum, we headed outside just as the rain stopped falling and headed a bit further out from the town. The clouds were clearing over us but dark rainclouds threatened from most directions. Passing the airport, we passed the weather radar and weather station heading back out into the flat farmland. We turned off at the first of these farms (tens of thousands of acres at least), Camden Park. Heading a short way up the main driveway we turned off to a section of the farm leased to the government for a large solar array providing a lot of the electricity to the town.

After our brief stop at the solar array, we headed back to the driveway and continued for a while before reaching the homestead. We entered into the shelter of the huge house just before the heavy rain started falling again. Here we stopped for lunch and heard stories from our hosts of The Queen staying back in 1970 and about the history of the house, with its large ballroom in the middle under the very high roof to keep it cool in the brutally hot summers here. Last summer the temperature had reached 48 degrees one day. It turns out most of the locals abandon the town during mid summer to holiday near the coast about a thousand kilometres away (or further south to the Sunshine Coast about 1300 kilometres away).

Following lunch under the enormous verandah we headed back into the town centre to relax for the afternoon. The clouds quickly cleared to a very warm sunny afternoon. I explored more of the town centre, finding two large fig trees planted by The Queen and Prince Philip in 1970, with a new plaque to mark the planting released only a week ago on the national day of mouring following her death. From there I headed up to the far end of the town centre and back, a short two kilometre walk.

Meeting the bus outside the hotel in the late afternoon, we headed back out across to the airport where we entered the Qantas Founders Museum to the airplanes we had visited a couple of days ago. Here we watched the sun set as more storm clouds rolled in. Fortunately the planes were sheltered under an enormous roof keeping out the rain as the storm passed over us. Once the sky darkened, an amazing audiovisual display presentation was projected onto the side of the Boeing-747 with the last light of the evening fading away into orange through the clouds illuminated by the occasional flash of lightning.

From the museum we headed back into the town centre in one of the other hotels for dinner.


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