If you were to nominate the worst time to launch a brand new tourist accommodation venture in outback Queensland, it would have been hard to go past Easter this year, when the coronavirus lockdown was in full swing.
That's what happened to Longreach couple Dave and Tanya Neal, who had their glamping business, Mitchell Grass Retreat all ready to welcome its first visitors.
Not only that but five of their 15 cyclone-rated tents ordered from Western Australia got held up because they were being manufactured in the Chinese commercial centre of Wuhan.
It was a blow to the pair who first came up with the idea of glamping three years ago and have been working on it since then, but the recent opening up of Queensland has given them new hope.
Mr Neal said their phone began ringing immediately with visitors from the south east corner and the Mackay region eager to be the first to soak up the outback atmosphere without packing up their own tents.
"The vibe from people was really positive - I think people like the idea of something different and getting back to basics," he said.
The Neals have been in Longreach for 12 years and together with Damien and Judy Kennedy, operate the Longreach Motor Inn.
In May 2018 they also took on Longreach's boutique outback lodgings, Saltbush Retreat, known for its 4.5 star rooms modelled on a 'stable' design, plus unique outdoor bath tubs that offer a sunset vista as one soaks.
It was over a similar sunset drink, albeit fully clothed, at their 25ha property just a few minutes north of Longreach that the Neals hit upon the new tourism experience.
"We were originally thinking about putting in cabins to make the most of the incredible view of the night sky we had, but we'd stayed in tents at Murphy's Creek a little while ago and liked it," Mr Neal said.
"There's nothing else like this in the west and it's the perfect location, facing north west, and the cracking sunsets are thrown in.
"We had the 60 acres to use and realistically, we'd only run six head of cattle on that."
Blending into the landscape
They may end up running a few head in a fenced-off area that would still be accessible for visitors to gain an experience of grazing, something the Neals plan on tieing to an explanation of the Mitchell grass bioregion the venture is blending in with, as part of an educational package.
This is the outback they want to share, one that gets back to basics, blending with the Mitchell grass landscape and having a low impact on the environment.
Mr Neal said tents ticked all the boxes for them - the technology detox, a nature-based time out, and spending quality time with friends and family.
The fully-screened tents, complete with mini kitchenette and a full ensuite, have been designed so they're not all facing each other, to give users privacy.
The ensuites feature deep tub baths with a view across the plains.
As well as an open plan bedroom and outdoor deck with barbecue and individual fire pit in an intimate setting, there is a solar-heated pool for guests to use.
The address is close to the long reach of the Thomson River and the Neals say the active demographic they're expecting will enjoy the dirt track walk to the river for a swim or to fish, and they're looking into hiring dirt bikes for guest use.