Out­back’s first change of horses

Ali­son Cotes shares a nos­tal­gic Gold Coast ex­pe­ri­ence

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - SHORT BREAKS GOLD COAST -

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.

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