Outback’s first change of horses
Alison Cotes shares a nostalgic Gold Coast experience
WHAT a weekend. You can experience Outback Queensland and a five-star Gold Coast beach, and all without getting your feet wet or your cowboy boots dirty.
The Outback experience is at a popular theme park, but stop groaning right now, because this one doesn’t involve sick-making rides or dragging hot, tired children around. It’s the new show at Village Roadshow’s Australian Outback Spectacular 2, and as good a combination as you’re likely to see of filmed effects and genuine animal acts.
Like the first show that ran for several years, this is a spectacular display of horsemanship and horsing around, set in the Australian bush, an impressive evocation of the archetypal myth of the wild colonial lads and their legendary bushmanship.
This time it has been extended to encompass another legend, that of the laconic larrikin Aussie soldier. It incorporates the famous charge of the Australian Light Horse Brigade in Palestine during World War I, when 800 of them charged 4400 Turkish troops in a bid to save the embattled British troops at Beersheba and, unlike the ill-fated Poms of the Light Brigade in the Crimea 40 years earlier, lost only 36 men.
This is a fantastic sequence, with 12 horses kicking up the dust of the huge auditorium, a battlefield sonet-lumiere like you’ve never seen, but plenty of humour too, with nurses brandishing horse needles and encouraging the soldiers to drop their daks. All very predictable, but all very funny too, and there are plenty of poignant moments of loss and sadness back home on the station.
The action switches from bush to Palestinian desert and back to the bush, and we get The Man from Snowy River recited against a filmed backdrop that blended in so perfectly with the arena that there were times when we didn’t know where the dividing line was. Lots of short scenes, so as not to bore the children, of whom there were many, and a good introduction to the legend for any visitor to Australia – although some of the Japanese visitors were a little nonplussed.
Add a reasonable three-course meal served at your seat, almost as much wine and beer as you could drink and it was more fun, and cheaper, than a day at any other theme park on the Gold Coast.
It finished at 9.30pm, a reasonable hour, but who wants to drive back to Brisbane in the dark? So we found ourselves not a cheap motel, but a small luxury escape at the Hyatt at Sanctuary Cove, and took another day for some R& R.
I love this Hyatt hotel because of its cool elegance combined with a total lack of pretension. Although it hasn’t had a big refurb for a while, its American colonial architecture and cool interiors haven’t dated a bit, and its inviting rooms and especially the lagoon swimming pool edged with white beach sand make it a winner for everyone from families to courting couples. The spacious grounds with their wellestablished gardens and abundant birdlife offer plenty of opportunities to escape from the madding crowd and there’s also lots of room for kids to run around outside without getting under other people’s feet – although we did get a little annoyed with the sub-teenagers who, because they weren’t allowed in the Regency Club which is for adults only, were screaming around outside begging their parents to let them in. At $ 95 extra a day for allyou-can-drink and lovely canape s at twilight, this was hardly what we were paying for, and while their parents conducted a loud cheerful conversation with them through the mosquito wire, everyone else was raising eyebrows. But this was hardly the resort’s fault.
There are good restaurants and bars in the resort and the staff were charm personified, especially Rob, who made our strong hot chocolate milk exactly to order after a late night out and who turned his hand to a mocktail at the swimming pool bar next morning – something exotic and not too sweet, please – and came up with a concoction of fresh pineapple, mango and raspberries that was almost too pretty to drink.
And if you get bored with the Hyatt itself ( as if!), the marina and shopping village offer an interesting variety of waterside eateries as well. Although it wasn’t the cheapest weekend of all time, it was very good value for money.
AUSSIE LORE: The Outback Spectacular and ( left) Hyatt Sanctuary Cove.