On a recent visit to Longreach I decided to stop by a few of the local pubs and sample the culture.
For those of you who do not know, Longreach is situated 800 km directly west of Rockhampton and is in the heart of the Queensland outback. Although a relatively small town, Longreach is the birthplace of QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Arial Service) and boasts the Stockman’s Hall of Fame which attracts thousands of tourists each year.
|The original QANTAS hanger||Stockman's Hall of Fame|
And one more thing - Longreach is hot…very hot. Although it was only the middle of spring when I visited, the temperature was already climbing over 33 degrees. One of the local taxi drivers claimed it gets over 50 degrees some summers. With this in mind I headed into town for a few cold beers.
“Town” as the locals refer to it consists of one main street bordered on either side by small businesses. Dotted among these shops are five pubs which, at a first glance, seems somewhat of an overkill considering the population.
First stop was the Royal. The pubs in Longreach all fit the stereotype of a traditional Queensland Pub. Two storey establishments with verandas, beer gardens and plenty of XXXX. Being evening however, the beer garden was unpopulated so I grabbed a stool at the bar and settled down to a pot of XXXX.
Feeling a little left out without an Akubra and singlet I decided to gaze at the décor and listen to the country and western music being played on the juke box. The walls were covered in bumper stickers (mainly relating to sheilas) and photos of the local footy teams. Halfway through my seventeenth bumper sticker I was interrupted from my literary experience by the bloke next to me.
|The Royal Hotel|
If there is one thing I love about small towns, it’s the friendly disposition of the people. Australians are a friendly bunch on the whole but this becomes more prevalent as you move away from the bigger cities.
A grubby hand stretched out in front of me and was quickly followed by a “Gidday, how are ya”.
It turns out this bloke was called Bernie and he drives road trains for a crust. This was somewhat of a concern to me considering his current state of intoxication and the fact that he was supposed to be climbing back in driver’s seat early the next morning. However, in the interests of not upsetting the locals I decided to let it ride.
In between making passes at the barmaid and cross examining me on where I was from and what I was doing here, Bernie gave me a history of the new road being built just outside of town. As the history progressed chronologically toward its present day status, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him what he had in the plastic bag he had sitting on the bar. Still gripping his XXXX with his right hand he nudged the bag over to me with his left. I peered inside only to be confronted with Bernie’s post pub entertainment – two pornos he had hired from the town’s only video store. With a grin he looked at me and said, “It’s the next best thing mate”.
Reluctantly leaving Bernie to his beer and porn, I decided to push on to the next pub as the night was wearing on and I still had four more pubs to conquer.
The next pub was the Central Hotel and had an amazingly similar appearance to the Royal. The interior was similar except for another room adjoining the bar which housed two pool tables. The music had more of a classic rock feel about it though. Apparently you can never get enough Cold Chisel.
|The Central Hotel|
I settled down at the bar and was greeted by an English accent from the barmaid. Apparently she was a backpacker, and prior to that a web developer, who was trying to save up some dollars to continue her travels. I am guessing that her experience as an outback barmaid had taken its toll on the poor woman as she was looking rather exhausted and was quite optimistic at the prospect of continuing her travels.
A couple of XXXXs later and feeling decidedly more outgoing, I introduced myself to two of the locals – Red and Graham.
|Red and Graham at the Central Hotel|
Red was from Tasmania and was in Longreach working on the new road – a topic of which I was now quite knowledgeable. This was his last night in Longreach. In the morning he was heading back to Tasmania which was where he spent the summer. He told me how he gets the best of both worlds – he escapes Tasmania during their bitterly cold winters and flees outback Queensland before the burning heat takes over. He went on to explain how he also gets the best of both world with his beers – XXXX in Queensland and Boags or Cascade in Tassie.
I didn’t get to converse much with Graham as Red had taken to his soap box for a large part of the conversation and Graham seemed content just grinning broadly from under his well worn black Akubra.
Finally Red had to call it a night and I realised it was also time for me to move on. The night was getting on and I was disappointed to discover that two of the pubs on the other side of the street had already closed for the evening.
The Lyceum was still open however, so I strolled in and ordered a cold one. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Lyceum is the green laminex bar top which was unfortunately accentuated by the cream walls. The pub obviously appealed to a younger crowd and was somewhat of a disappointment to me as it lacked the character and characters of the Royal and the Central. Still, it was the last pub left open so it would have to do.
|The Lyceum Hotel|
Being a small town, I ran into a couple of blokes I had seen earlier that day at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. I gauged from their hats and dinner plate sized belt buckles that they were from out west. By this stage of the evening I was content to listen to their conversation while I sucked down my last beers.
Finally I called it a night and rang Tank, one of the three local taxi drivers, who delivered me safely to my hotel room. Longreach had provided me with my first real experiences of outback pubs and I am pleased to report I had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If you ever have the opportunity to pass through the outback, stop in for a cold one with the locals – you won’t be sorry.
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