If you were to look up “middle of nowhere” in the dictionary, it is likely you would find a picture of the Blue Heeler Hotel. This pub, with its trademark neon sign is the most prominent landmark in the dot of a township that is Kynuna. If you pass by without stopping and blinked as you did so, you would most likely miss the rest of the town: the caravan park, the police station (really?) and a very worn out old house (that’s for sale if you are looking for an investment property).
You could power on to Cloncurry or Mount Isa and not stop here, but for this leg of The Tent, The Trailer, The Caravan odyssey, we decided to stay overnight. The cold beer was welcomed after the trek from Blackall and did something to dampen the disappointment of the closed bakery in Barcaldine, the closed general store in Ilfracombe and the patch of asphalt in Winton which was once the Banjo Paterson Centre. Powered sites behind the pub are only $15 per night, a definite appeal, and the money you save there can definitely be reinvested into cold ale and good company.
James Blundell said in his song that the Blue Heeler has been sitting for “a hundred years on the Diamantina”. I can’t begin to verify that statistic, but the pub is old and a little ramshackle, and therein lies its charm. This is the type of place where people with names like Norm and Thel can bring their Waylon Jennings Tribute Show and attract something of an audience (assuming twenty constitutes an audience). Don’t be coming here expecting any of your fancy schmancy boutique beers, and although you might be able to snag a glass of sav blanc, anything as exotic as a pino grigio and you will be in trouble. But cold beer it does have, and a welcoming verandah where you can sit in tranquillity until the next road train thunders through town, or go out the back and sit under the incongruously placed Coolum Surf Life Saving Club boat suspended from the ceiling.
You might also be treated by a visit from a family of brolgas. These birds are large and majestic, and I wouldn’t say that they are aggressive, but they are certainly assertive. Last time we visited they swooped in on the pillow Connor dropped on the ground while we were setting up and attempted to make off with it. This time we were visited by one who was not going to give up until Connor was relieved of his toast. Now I am not advocating feeding the native animals, but when a bird stands taller than you, sometimes it’s you or them. Regardless, the Blue Heeler provides a great opportunity to get up close to these creatures, whether you ask for it or not.
But if for no other reason, stay at the Blue Heeler for the sunrise. Poke your camera over the back fence, or stand out on the road and take a pic of the sun spectacularly rising over…nothing. It is awesome, and if the clouds and the road trains play friendly, you will be able to capture a fantastic shot of the vastness emptiness that is outback Australia.
If anyone from the Blue Heeler ends up reading this review, I do offer these two pieces of advice. Firstly, get ALL of the neon bulbs on the sign in working order. When you are an icon of outback Australia, be 100% iconic, a bit more like the picture in the signs on the way into town. Secondly, get your stock of merchandise replenished. My original Blue Heeler polo shirt gave up the ghost a few years back after twenty plus years of proud wear. When I tried to buy a new one on my last visit, you were out of t-shirts altogether and had limited sizes in the polo shirts. Fast forward five years and your t-shirts are still out of stock and you can’t buy a polo above a medium. Lost opportunity.
Kath, Mark and Connor – The Trailer