We finally got to do a bit more travelling this weekend, after three months of constant work we got a few days off and went to the most outback of outback places, Birdsville, for the famous races. Everyone had been telling me how amazing it was and that it was like no other place in Queensland if not Australia, so needless to say I was really excited to visit! I can often be underwhelmed by places that have been really built up by other travellers, but Birdsville really was brilliant. The place, atmosphere, people; everything that was needed to have a great weekend was there.
We loaded our tent, swag and bags and set off just after 11am with a friend, Ben, from town, ready for the 632km journey to Birdsville. On the way we passed through Coopers Creek, which is really a river and a pretty large one at that, the most water I’ve seen out this way since we arrived! There’s only one town between Quilpie and Birdsville which has a population of 158, Windorah has a fuel station, general store, pub and a cafe, plus a museum and tourism centre. Despite being super small Windorah is a lovely place to stop, there’s a huge solar farm on the way in which powers the tiny town, plus one of the properties on the outskirts, they must have a lot of stored power or are using a heck of a lot of electricity! We made a quick stop at the Outback Store before continuing on our journey, in between Windorah and Birdsville there is a whole lot of nothing, but an extremely pretty and scenic nothing!
cooper’s creek, outside of Windorah.
welcome to Windorah.
not long to go…
no shooting, i’ll try to remember that one.
whole lotta nothing.
The landscape has lots of hills and mountains, huge plains that flood in the storm season and a couple of ‘points of interest’ as they label them, including one which is literally just an arrow on a sign, pointing to where there is a hole in a hill… okay Queensland! As we entered the Diamantinashire we drove up to a look out on top of a huge hill called Deon’s Lookout, named after a young boy who died in a helicopter accident, which is not the best thing to be writing on a blog my parents read, you’ll see why later on in this post! This sad place does offer a beautiful view of the scenery and features a lovely quote engraved onto a plaque to commemorate him.
emergency airstrip, in the middle of the road we’re driving on.
deon brook plaque.
The next place we drove through was Betoota, which the previous weekend was full of people visiting for the races that are held there, but now was completely empty, featuring a derelict pub and the racetrack… and nothing else. Creepy! But it also meant we weren’t too far from Birdsville now! Just outside of Betoota is an amazing snake drawn onto the side of a hill with chalk and gravel, known officially as the ‘Dreamtime Serpent’ it represents all the different pathways travelled to connect the river systems in the Channel Country, which includes places in SA and Northern Territory as well!
Finally, seven hours later, we reached Birdsville just as the sun was setting, we stopped off for a few photo opportunities outside the race course as you do, before heading over to where we were staying, which it turned out would be the best part of the weekend. Some friends in Quilpie had asked Don and Lyn who have lived in Birdsville forever if we could stay with them for the weekend, we pitched our tent in the back garden and were introduced to all the other family and friends they had staying with them in various rooms, sheds and swags, it was like a big community with everyone sat by the fire having a drink and cooking food, it was an amazing atmosphere! Several drinks later and after some food cooked over the fire, we headed over to the pub to check out the live music and see what was going on, there was a girl playing called Missy Lancaster who was amazing, she played a mix of country and pop and really got the crowd going. Not sure what time we stayed there dancing until but I was glad to reach my comfy swag and get some sleep that night.
birdsville at sunset.
night round the campfire.
The next morning we woke early and after gathering our group together headed back to the pub to take part in the calcutta, where you buy tickets in a draw, if you draw a horse then you can also buy it in an auction and pay half price for it, after which you own it and if it wins the Cup race then you win thousands of dollars, I hope that explanation makes a bit of sense! We didn’t manage to draw a horse on the first day so we saved the rest of our money to put back into the calcutta the next day. We headed down to the races after that and had a brilliant day, sitting in the sun, drinking, gambling and just being surrounded by great people! It all seemed to go so fast and we were heading back to the camp. Ben came to pick us up and tried to take us to see Big Red, unfortunately we’d left so close to sunset that the timing plus the fact he couldn’t remember where to go and there is zero signage meant we were half way into the Simpson Desert when it got pitch black and we decided we weren’t going to make it! Nevermind! The rest of the evening then was spent, surprise surprise, drinking at the pub!
outside birdsville pub.
drinks at the races.
I got a brilliant surprise when I got up on the Saturday morning, Don, who is actually park ranger of the Simpson Desert so is a pretty big deal, had arranged to go for a flight in a helicopter so he could take some pictures of the town and the racecourse from a different angle, and he asked us to go with him! The early bird really does catch the worm apparently. It was a rush to wake Sammy up and then we drove out to our own little landing spot and waited for the pilot to come and pick us up. I’ve been in a helicopter once before years ago and I’d completely forgotten how awesome it is! We flew over Birdsville and the race course and the river, flying really high and then literally 6ft off the ground, such a great experience! I was on a complete high after that, made even better by the fact we entered the Calcutta ago with a team name of Hollywood, guess who that was named after, and managed to draw a horse! We then bought it for a couple of hundred dollars between us all, meaning the Cup race was going to be an extremely exciting one.
our private landing pad.
We had another great day at the races, despite me winning about $12 the entire two days I just have so much fun being there and backing the different horses. We went down to the track to watch the cup race and cheer our horse on, needless to say he didn’t win so we didn’t win thousands of dollars, but it sure made the race a hell of a lot more exciting! After the races we did of course spend the last night drinking round the campfire, listening to live music at the pub and wandering round the stalls, I even bought myself a new cowboy hat, to really look the part! I was a little bit/a lot devastated when Ben told us we were leaving at 4.30am the next day, eek! But it actually wasn’t too bad and it meant we missed all the traffic leaving on the Sunday morning, so we didn’t have to drive back in anyone’s dust or be slowed down by caravans etc. We made a pit stop in Windorah for some breakfast then carried on all the way to home. On the way out to Birdsville we drove past the ‘Dingo Barrier Fence’ which was built back in the 1800’s and is still maintained now. We said we’d stop on the way home to get a picture but were all so tired we forgot on the way back as well! It was pretty cool to see though, especially as it stretches 2500km through Queensland and South Australia! You know you’re tired from an incredible weekend when you can’t even be bothered to get out the car to take one picture!
cameron, sammy and me.
the cup race.
when it’s closer to adelaide than brisbane…
old royal hotel.
boiling bore water.
fred brophy’s boxing tent.
Thank you to Ben for driving us all the way to and from Birdsville, Bob and Lorraine for covering the Newsagency where I work for me, and to Don, Lyn and all your family for being wonderful hosts and friends.