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Busy Tourist Season Predicted

By Dan Sowden

Sunshine Coast footballers Dan Sowden, Trent Smith, Michael Polkinghorne, Damien Carroll and Rohan Molineux travelled all the way out to Nindigully Pub on Easter Saturday to take on the Road Train Burger. Despite “training” at Sizzlers in the lead-up and a warm up of stomach stretching exercises they could not quite conquer the 5kg monster, featuring 5240 calories and 1089 grams of fat. Publican Steve Burns is confident of a good tourist season after an extremely quiet March.

A bumper Balonne Shire tourism season is predicted by Nindigully Pub owner Steve Burns whose confidence has been boosted by strong Easter numbers. A week out from Easter, just 20 caravans had visited the Gully in March due to the flood, road closures and then people not realising roads had reopened. Normally 15 to 20 vans would be pulling up at the iconic pub from early February.

Ordering up before the Easter long weekend, Steve and his staff had no idea how many visitors they would be catering for. They did order enough food to service 400 people including eight trays of bread in addition to what they already had in stock.

By Thursday night of the Easter weekend 50 campers had arrived and by Saturday 180 meals had been served that day including 25 Road Train burgers. After a mercy dash to a bakery in Goondiwindi, another 30 cobb loaves, which are used for the Road Train buns, were purchased. Over three days, 450 meals were served – of these were 45 5.5kg Road Train burgers, making Easter a busy time for the four kitchen and bar staff.

“Easter 2010 was 25 per cent up on last year. We’re pretty excited people are coming back. We’ve hurt for the past three months big time,” Steve said. “I’m a different person from a week ago.” 

For many Nindigully was stop en route to the Charleville National Archery Championships, Easter in the Country at Roma or Easter in the Vines at Riversands Winery. There were plenty of day trippers from St George and even those following the flood trail from Brisbane, Roma, through the Balonne Shire, down to Tamworth and back to Brisbane.

The famous Road Train burgers are an attraction in themselves with five Sunshine Coast men travelling out to do battle with the mammoth meal. Despite “training” at Sizzlers, stretching their stomaches using warm up exercises and drinking a concoction of water and citrus juice for digestion, they could not eat the entire meal. Two Brisbane men had a day trip to the Gully, eating one burger between them and taking another home for a takeaway.

Just one person, Ralph Magazine, Bachelor of the Year entrant “Big Boy Boyd” has been able to polish it off fully. From Brisbane, he is a Gully regular, coming out for pig shooting. In January 23, he consumed the 5240 calorie feast in 1hr 45 minutes. The meal has not only featured in the magazine but the popular Hamish and Andy Radio Show.

Easter was a welcome boost for Steve Burns and partner Debbie Lee who experienced their first flood and did not know what to expect. Between staff and five tourists, 15 people spent 12 days together when Nindigully was cut off from the rest of the world.

Water reached the deck but fortunately did not go inside the pub. A broken water pipe meant they were without running water for five days and water entered the cellar and a small amount in the old general store.

Nindigully also received a surprise donation from the Yandaran community, north of Bundaberg. Wanting to help a small community affected by the flood, they contacted the Nindigully Pub via Facebook. They raised $3,600 from raffles which will be used construct a children’s play area at the Gully.

The Balonne Visitor Information Centre had 1015 visitors in January; 398, February; 402, March and from April 1 to 11, 289 people. The majority have been from Queensland but more than 400km away, followed by New South Wales visitors.

Source: Balonne Beacon 

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