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CHRIS RUMSEY: The Thomson River plays a very big part of Longreach here. It is our main water supply and it's also a great recreational spot. We have water skiers here, jet skiers, fishing, swimming.

We've run the Thomson Bell, on the Thomson River obviously, which is where we got the name from. We do a sunset cruise followed by a campfire meal and show.

As we cruise along the River we get to see the different trees along the waterways. If there's fishermen up there we get them to hold the catch up so you can see what sort of fish you'll catch.

In winter, we get the waterbirds here. We get the pelicans and all the different types of waterbirds.

The Thomson Bell was built in 1987, hit the water in '88 on the Maroochy River down near Yandina. We found it sitting on blocks behind the ginger factory down in 1999, put it back together and brought it up to Longreach, and it's been a great little addition to our business here.

The paddlewheel is the only one west of The Great Divide, in Queensland anyway. The biggest reaction is, a river cruise in Longreach, 'You've got to be kidding?' and they get out here and see the paddle wheel and we go up the river up to where it's a bit wider up there and it's fantastic.

We get genuine steam buffs come out quite often to have a look at the old steam engine. It's not run by the steam engine any more. We get a few overseas visitors occasionally and they're just constantly surprised at the wide open space. From the upper deck of the paddle wheel you can see out over the banks and you can just see how far and wide the plains are.

It's a great example of true Outback Australia.

It gets interesting every year around January, February, March when we get our floods. Where we're standing here at the moment, if we had have been here in February 2000 we'd probably be under 20, 25 foot of water. It's a sight to see: February 2000 flood it was seven kilometres wide, just a mass of water.

Depending on the weather there's spectacular sunsets here. I don't mean to boast but I took a couple of prizes with sunset photography this year. It all depends on the amount of cloud we've got and just looking behind us there, the cloud tonight, it might be a good one.

We have a country music singer to entertain who tells a few jokes as well and we have a bush poet who spins a few yarns around the campfire. We swing the billies. It's a fantastic experience.


Folks, for those of you who haven't made billy tea before boil your water up, probably add a tablespoon of tea-leaves, let them draw for a bit, into the billy. Once you've let them draw for a little bit, the idea then is, when you pour your cup of tea, you don't want to get tea-leaves in it, so we swing the billy. If you're gonna try this at home for the first time, use cold water.

If you listen to the way we talk to each other in Australia, we've got one of the naturally smart-arse languages in the world. You ever noticed that? You ask an Australian something, they'll tell you what they're not and you've got to guess the rest, you know what I mean? "G'day, mate, how you going?" "Oh, not bad." "Jeez, that must've cost a bit." "Oh, it wasn't cheap."

We've had about 13,000 passengers. A couple of years ago we had a really big year and I've even had people here, a gentleman a few years back, 96 years old, and never been around a campfire before in his life, absolutely loved it.
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