Longreach, Outback Queensland

Longreach is known as the ‘Heart of the Outback’ or ‘Gateway to the Outback’. This great little town is home to approximately 3000 people and is located in the central west region of Queensland – about 700 km inland from Rockhampton.

The first pastoral lease in Longreach was granted in 1863 and was called ‘Bowen Downs’. Some may recognize that name …. only a few years later it became the site of the most infamous cattle theft in Australia. It was from here that Harry Redford (Captain Starlight) decided to steal 1,000 head of cattle and muster them down towards South Australia. We did mention a little of Captain Starlight’s story in one of our recent blog posts

Longreach was very big in the wool industry and back in the 1950’s it was a very wealthy area due to this. Nowadays, although wool producers still exist, Longreach is now heavily involved in the beef cattle industry.

The Thomson River is found just outside the town and is a great spot for camping, fishing and boating and is home to many fish and birds. Not only is this river a popular spot for Longreach locals and tourists alike, it is a pretty special river in it’s own right. You see, the Thomson River eventually meets with the Barcoo River where they join to form Cooper Creek. This is the only place in the world where two rivers meet to form a creek!

Longreach was officially gazetted in 1887 and was actually named after the founder could not believe how long the reach of the Thomson River was!

There is plenty to do in and around Longreach and below we’ve detailed a few of the places we visited during our short stop over this time.


STARLIGHT’S CRUISE EXPERIENCE (by Outback Pioneers)

This appears to be a very popular cruise and we can see why, it was great!

Our night started when we were picked up from our van park at 4.30 pm and driven by coach down to the river, along the way we were given commentary and information about the town and it’s history. After arriving you are escorted to down to the river to board the Thomson Belle Paddlewheeler (we were actually on the Thomson Princess Riverboat, which was still great. They use both boats when the groups are large).

The cruise itself goes for about 1 hour and includes nibble platters, great commentary and lots of laughs (and it’s BYO so you can enjoy a few drinks too). After watching the sunset, we then headed ashore for some bush poetry which was great. The first poem in particular, about the light horses was quite emotional. This was followed by a traditional stockman’s camp-fire dinner of beef stew and mash, followed by apple pie and custard.

After dinner we all headed back down towards the river to watch the sound and light show which explained the story and adventures of the notorious cattle thief Harry Redford, also known as ‘Captain Starlight’.

We then finished the night with billy tea and damper around the fire, raising of the flag and singing the national anthem, before being dropped off back at camp about 8.30pm.

This is one of those real outback experiences, full of great hospitality, information and yarns. It’s run by the Kinnon family, who are a local family of graziers who have moved into the tourism business as well. The pride and the passion they have for their little town and the lives they live is well and truly alive throughout the night.

Highly recommended tour and next time we are in town we will definitely be booking into their Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience as well.

Contact
Telephone: 07 4658 1776
Email: reservations@outbackpioneers.com.au
Click Here for more information
The booking office is located next door to the Station Store in the historic ‘Welcome Home’ building at 128 Eagle Street, Longreach.

Cruise Details
Duration: 4 hours
Cost: $119 per adult (as at October 2019)
The price includes river cruise, nibbles, 2 course dinner around campfire, billy tea & damper, entertainment, Starlight’s Spectacular Sound and Light show, coach pick up and drop off from accommodation, BYO alcohol.


TROPIC OF CAPRICORN

The Tropic of Capricorn runs right through the centre of town in Longreach.

Location: Landsborough Highway, Longreach (outside the council chambers)


AUSTRALIAN STOCKMAN’S HALL OF FAME AND OUTBACK HERITAGE CENTRE

This centre was opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II. If you want to learn about outback life, our explorers and land owners and everything in between, this is the place to visit. Not only is the museum a great insight into Australia’s and outback Australia’s history, the building itself is amazing!

The Outback Stockman’s Show & Dinner also looks amazing and something we will do when we visit next …. always something else to add to the list!

Now while the museum is a must-do, the Australian Stockman’s Experience show is awesome! It’s run by a Stockman and between him and his animals we were guided through life on the land from years gone by to now. You hear his stories of life on the land first hand. It’s a fun, entertaining and informative hour long show that you cannot miss! The Australian Stockman’s Experience show is held most days at 11am.

Address: Landsborough Highway, Longreach
Phone: 07 4658 2166
Email: museum@stockmanshalloffame.com.au
Website: www.outbackheritage.com.au


QANTAS FOUNDERS OUTBACK MUSEUM

We visited the Qantas Founders Museum and did the tours during our last visit to Longreach so this time we just popped over for lunch and took a few quick pics from the car park! But this is a DEFINITE must to visit if you are in Longreach.

QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Arial Service) is a name everyone knows, and even if you aren’t all that interested in planes, i’m sure you’ll find that you enjoy a visit to this place. It’s not hard to find, the big red tail of a decommissioned Boeing 747 jumbo jet can be seen from miles away and as you get up close you realise exactly how big these planes are, you are literally parking in the car park right next to a jumbo jet!

Of course entry fees apply to the museum and to undertake the different tours so make sure you arrive early or check online beforehand to work out what you want to see and do. You’ll not only learn all the history of this famous airline, but you’ll see plenty of old planes and displays, learn the secrets and obtain access to parts of the planes that you would never normally see.

Address: Sir Hudson Fysh Drive, Longreach
Phone:  (07) 4658 3737
Email: info@qfom.com.au
Website: www.qfom.com.au


Like we said, there are plenty of other things to do in the area, like a visit to the School of the Air, Powerhouse Museum, Cemetery tours, Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience, Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show, Captain Starlight’s Lookout, station tours.

Make sure you call into the information centre on Eagle Street to grab a tourist guide or ask them questions as they know where to get the deals and save on entry fees or buy combined passes for various attractions. This is generally our first stop in any new town. They are knowledgeable, they are locals and they know the area so go in and ask them questions, ask what there is to do in the time you have. At the end of the day, that’s what they are there for!

George hanging with the locals!

Yeah it was a short visit, but we had been there before so we don’t feel like we missed out on anything. We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 night stay at the Longreach Tourist Park (a much better experience than we had camping in Longreach last visit!). As it was a relatively last minute decision to visit Longreach we obviously didn’t pre-book and as it turns out, they were quite busy! We ended up camping in the overflow area of the park and to be honest, we thought it was better as we had more room!

As with many of these outback towns, Longreach know that how much the tourists bring to their town and they really do cater for that. You’ll even find dedicated caravan day parking areas where you can park your car with caravan attached while you go exploring.

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Winton, Outback Queensland

After leaving Boulia we said goodbye to Stewy and the kids as they headed back to Queensland and we also started off on our journey home. We had no plan, but we had about 6 days before we needed to be back in Sydney so we had a quick check of the maps and decided to headed off towards Winton.

After a week of no showers (thank god for baby wipes!) we decided to check into a hotel for the night and make good use of their shower and bed! We also took a night off cooking and headed to one of the local pubs, The Winton Hotel, for dinner.

The next morning we were up early to get in some exploring before the relatively short drive to Longreach, where we planned to spend 2 nights. We’ve visited both Winton and Longreach before, but it was nice to be back and spend a bit more time looking around.

If you ever find yourself in Winton, here are a few of the highlights for you to check out.

The North Gregory Hotel

Established in 1879, The North Gregory Hotel was reportedly the site of the first public performance of Australia’s unofficial national anthem, ‘Waltzing Matilda’, on 6th April 1895.

The original North Gregory Hotel was was pulled down in 1900 and rebuilt, only to burn down in 1916 and again in 1946. The building that stands now was built in 1955 and nowadays this hotel is not only a reminder of the past, but also a great place to eat, drink and sleep.

Located in the centre of town, this hotel provides hotel rooms and non-powered caravan sites.

Address: 67 Elderslie Street, Winton
Phone: 07 4657 0647


Qantas Airfield Commemorative Cairn

This location marks the site of the first landing ground of Qantas. When most people are asked where Qantas was born, they think Longreach, but it was in fact Winton. The local saying about Qantas is that it was conceived in Cloncurry, born in Winton and grew up in Longreach.

The Qantas story officially begins with it’s ‘birth’ in Winton on 16th November 1920, with the initial registration of the company. The Winton Shire Council was the first local authority in the world to support an airline, contributing financially to the purchase of the first landing field. The first Board Meeting was held at the Winton Club on 10th February 1921. There is a commemorative cairn in Elderslie St and also at the site of the landing field.

Price: Free!
Location: Located on Hughenden  Road, behind the Diamantina Heritage
Truck and Machinery Museum 


The Winton Club

On 10th February 1921 the first Qantas Board meeting was held here. We believe there is quite a range of Qantas memorabilia on display, but the club has never been open while we are there.

Location: 27 Oondooroo Street, Winton
Contact: wintonclub@hotmail.com


Jolly Swagman Statue

This statue is dedicated to Banjo Paterson, who wrote Waltzing Matilda. It’s also a tribute to the many swagmen who lie in unmarked graves across Australia.

Price: Free!
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton
(outside the pool at Barry Wilson Memorial Park) 


Musical Fence

This is a strange, yet fun!, place where you can ‘play’ musical instruments made from various everyday items. This is the worlds first musical fence!

Price: Free!
Location: Located on Hughenden  Road, behind the Diamantina Heritage
Truck and Machinery Museum 


 Banjo Paterson statue

A statue of Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, who wrote Waltzing Matilda. Note: A fire destroyed the Waltzing Matilda Centre in June 2015 but the statue of Banjo Paterson was undamaged. The new centre re-opened in 2018. 

Price: Free!
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton
(located outside the Waltzing Matilda Centre)


Waltzing Matilda Centre

This is the first museum in the world dedicated to a song! This centre tells the story of our unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda.

Unfortunately the original Waltzing Matilda Centre was completely destroyed by fire in June 2015 and very little was able to be saved from the ashes. We did visit the original centre and it was great.

Price: $30 per adult, $10 per child (age 5-11) as at September 2019
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton


The Age of Dinosaurs Museum  

If you like Dinosaurs (and lets face it, who doesn’t!) then this museum is somewhere you need to visit. This is home to the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world.

Years ago while out this way we visited Lark Quarry, the site of the world’s only known record of a dinosaur stampede, that was pretty cool! So this time we visited the The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum to learn a little more about these amazing prehistoric creatures.

We even got to touch a fossilised dinosaur bone, how awesome is that!

The tours are split into 3 sections, but we didn’t have time to see the Dinosaur Canyon, but we did join the guided tour of the Fossil Preparation Laboratory and the Collection Room. Great few hours and highly recommended to visit if in the area. If you are limited for time, just let them know when you arrive and they will happily work out which tours you can do.

The Fossil Preparation Laboratory shows you where palaeontologists expose the fossilised bones, you can actually see them working.

The Collection Room is where you’ll find the bones of ‘Banjo’ (Australovenator wintonensis). ‘Banjo’ is the most complete Australian carnivorous dinosaur ever discovered.

We didn’t visit the Dinosaur Canyon but this area is part of a dinosaur dig where bones are currently being found.

You can even book in to a ‘Dig-a-Dino’ experience where you take part in a real life dig for dinosaur bones. You live and work and learn onsite for 5 days. Definitely something we’d both be interested in taking part in at some point in the future.

Price: Prices vary depending on which tours you do. See website
Website: www.australianageofdinosaurs.com/
Location: Lot 1, Dinosaur Drive, Winton
Located about 25km from Winton. Turn off the Landsborough
Highway onto Dinosaur Drive (it’s well signposted). We were towing
the camper and there is plenty of room for parking.


There is plenty more to do around Winton, and there are some great pubs and eateries and bakeries. Another must visit (which we went to on our last visit and loved it) is the Diamantina Heritage Truck & Machinery Museum. This features many restored heritage trucks, tractors, machinery and memorabilia.

Boulia Camel Races

In all our years of travel we’ve never seen camel racing, we’ve seen camels running in the wild, we’ve ridden camels and we’ve visited camel farms, but never been to a racing meet. It’s something we’ve been trying to get to, but dates of events and other commitments just never seem to align. So when we found out the Boulia Camel Races were being held straight after the Big Red Bash we knew we had to visit.

Known as the Melbourne Cup of camel racing, the famous Boulia Camel Races is held annually on the third weekend in July and apparently attracts people from all over the world! Like Birdsville does at Big Red Bash and Birdsville Races time, the population of Boulia dramatically expands during the racing period. For a town of about 300 people, this can swell to 3000 during the 3 day racing carnival. Just think of the funds this puts back into the community and surrounding areas …… just take a look at the constant line up for fuel and you’ll see how much money is being put back in! Again, thank god for long range fuel tanks!

The party starts on the Friday night, with live entertainment until late into the evening. The racing starts on the Saturday morning and continues on all day, along with a bar, various stalls, food stands and entertainment. Saturday night is party night again with bands and fireworks. The racing starts again on Sunday morning and finishes with the main event, the “Boulia Camel Cup” in the early afternoon. The Boulia Camel Cup is the longest camel race in Australia, at 1500m long.

So what’s it like? …… well lets just say that camel racing is like horse racing in slow motion! But the camels are much more naughty and opinionated than horses! We saw a camel finish a race and try to break through into the crowd, one that wouldn’t let it’s jockey off, and one that turned around half way through the race and started heading in the wrong direction …. yep, it was pretty entertaining! And let me tell you, when you are standing there waiting for the camels and jockeys to walk the whole 1500m round to the starting line before the race even starts, this is a very long process! There is a lot of waiting for something to happen.

But you know what, once those camels start racing, you can’t help but get into it. Watching these huge creatures hurtling down the track, the commentator getting into it, the crowd yelling and cheering hoping to win some money, red dust flying everywhere, it’s actually pretty awesome …. Another thing ticked off the bucket list.

If you looked closely to the beginning of the video above, you may have noticed that the jockey was Nick ‘The Honey Badger‘ Cummins. We are not exactly sure why he was there, but he was racing in one of the races and competing in the camel tagging – and looking quite nice with his shirt off when Shelly saw him at camp in the morning!

I think we already knew what to expect as we’ve done so much travel and spent so much time in the outback, but for someone from the city this could be a bit of an eye opener, but also so much fun! There’s a lot of drinking and there’s a lot of Akubra hats (yep we fitted in well)!

Not only are there camel races, but plenty of other entertainment including yabby and novelty races, camel & sheep tagging competitions and nightly entertainment.

Camping is included at the racetrack as part of your ticket. There is plenty of land available to camp on. Many people camped right up towards the track and were quite crammed in, but we had plenty of space to ourselves, just meant a slightly longer walk to and from the track.

Like at Birdsville, the weather at night was still very cold, as were the mornings. It didn’t take too long to warm up in the mornings though and it was hot during the day, but once the sun went down the camp fire was a very welcome addition that’s for sure.

Another dinner cooked over the fire

One of the other things Boulia is famous for is the Min Min Lights. This is one of those stories where you really don’t know if its a myth or not. These unexplained balls of glowing light were first sighted in the Boulia area in the early 1890’s. The first reported sighting was over a grave at the rear of the Min Min Hotel (no longer standing).

Over the years there have been numerous sightings by travelers and local residents, stories of these balls of bobbing light that follow you along lonely roads at night or visit you while camping in the area. Whilst there are theories, there is no scientific explanation of what the Min Min Lights actually are.

The Min Min Encounter is a great attraction to visit to find out more about these strange lights …. they say ‘you don’t find them, they find you’! It’s a really interesting place and definitely one to visit if you are in the area.

We have visited Boulia before so didn’t visit the encounter again, so whilst Stewy and the kids went off to the Min Min Encounter, where do you think we headed …. the pub of course!

George indulged in a camel burger (they have a whole ‘camel menu’) and Shelly had to drink XXXX out of a maroon can – what’s up with that! Sorry to our Queenslander followers!

EVENT DETAILS

Price: $80 (for a 3 day pass), single day passes available as well.
Children under 18 are free.
When: Held annually on the third weekend in July
Location: Held at the Boulia Racecourse in Boulia, Outback Queensland.

Free camping onsite is included in the price of your ticket.
Get all the details at www.bouliacamelraces.com.au

Saying goodbye to Bashville

We covered all of this in our Big Red Bash wrap up blog post, so we won’t go over it all again, but lets just say that this was by far the best run event we have ever been too. 

After the final night’s concert, it was time to pack up and get ready leave. Roll out started from 7am on the Friday and continued until 12pm on Saturday. You could leave whenever you were ready, but could not move any vehicles until 7am. We took our time packing up and watched as cars, 4WD’s, motorhomes, huge caravans and camper trailers all lined up and crept their way out of Bashville back towards the town of Birdsville.

Once you were packed up and ready you simply just joined the line to exit. It was a little strange driving out, in one way it felt like you were leaving a place you’d been for ages, and on the other hand it felt like you’d only just arrived. It didn’t take us too long to exit, I think it was about 40 min from the time we lined up till we reached Birdsville.

As we’d filled up with fuel before heading out to the bash we were lucky that we didn’t need to join the lines to get any fuel, but we did stop in quickly to grab some food and visit a real flushing toilet! As we jumped out of our cars another person advised us, with great excitement, that “Kasey Chambers is singing in the beer garden of the pub”.

We headed over and sure enough, there was Kasey Chambers sitting at a table in the beer garden of the Birdsville Hotel giving an impromptu performance! Wow, this doesn’t happen back at home! There was Kasey and Busby Marou, just sitting back, singing and chatting with the patrons and taking photos whilst they waited for their plane to leave (the Birdsville Hotel is adjacent to the airport). Must say that it was a little surreal watching this.

After watching our unexpected concert of the day, it was time to set off on our drive to Boulia and our home for the next few days at the Boulia Racecourse.

Now getting yourself to the bash isn’t easy, for most of us it involves a few days travel. It’s remote, it’s expensive and it’s dirty and dusty and cold …. but you know what, we wouldn’t change a single thing. It’s the most remote festival in the world and it’s held right in the middle of some of the most spectacular scenery around, the logistics of getting yourself there are definitely forgotten once you arrive and settle in to this amazing popup town called Bashville!

Even if you aren’t a camping person, get yourself out there, do it just once in your life. Who knows, you may just get hooked and be back again and again …. It seems to have that affect on you!

Will we be back again? …… you bet we will, bring on BRB 2020!

EVENT DETAILS

Dates for 2020: 7th – 9th July 2020
Ticket Prices: $584 (Adults), $92 (12-17 years), Free (11 & under)
Onsite camping for 4 nights is included with your ticket purchase.
Get all the details at www.bigredbash.com.au

No smell toilets … no way!

So toilets and ones toilet habits isn’t generally a popular topic of conversation ….. well maybe it is for some, who knows! But as strange as it may seem, these toilets at the Big Red Bash really do deserve their own blog post!

Photo supplied by Event Safety Services

Prior to embarking on our first bash trip, we read many social media pages and blogs and watched videos just to see what we were in for, and the one thing that always came up was …. the toilets! We’d heard all about how great these toilets were and how they didn’t smell and I must say, we were a bit dubious. We’ve visited ALOT of different toilets during our travels (roadside, caravan parks, rest areas …..) and the one thing they all have in common is the smell! So of course we were thinking that if you put 10,000 people together in one place and make them share a few blocks of toilets, the outcome couldn’t possibly be good!

Well we were wrong …… these toilets really are as amazing as everyone said and they really are oudor free!

OK, here’s the deal ……

Because this is an organic cattle property without running water, of course the toilet issue needed to be sorted and this was done by way of banks of odour-free, eco-friendly composting toilets which are built and dismantled on site and are scattered around the campground, plaza and concert areas. Each block also has a hand sanitiser pump pack outside to clean your hands. Now so far it all sounds relatively normal doesn’t it, but here’s when it gets interesting ….. you see, these toilets are actually just your every day wheelie bin …. yep you heard it, we were weeing and pooping into a wheelie bin!

Photo supplied by Event Safety Services

Volunteer ‘dunny angels’ are responsible for keeping these facilities clean, stocked and odour free! Not a job i’d want, particularly in a volunteer capacity, but they definitely do a great job!

Photo supplied by Event Safety Services

After trying out various different loo options in past years, the organisers saw room for improvement and Event Safety Services and The Big Red Bash set about designing their own system to suit the unique location.

Photo supplied by Event Safety Services

How do they work? ‘Number ones’ are just like anywhere else, but for ‘number twos’ you wipe and then cover it all up with one scoop of sawdust.

The motto is ‘One Scoop per Poop’!

I will say one thing though …… make sure you are fairly open and comfortable with your toilet habits, because come toilet time everyone knows what you are doing!

Morning time is particularly social as people emerge from their camps and line up outside the toilets, cups of sawdust in hand!

To keep in line with the sustainability, apparently within a year the dry compost is ready to be given to nearby farmers to fertilize their land.

Photo supplied by Event Safety Services

So there you go, bet you didn’t think you’d be reading a whole blog post about toilets and poo today did you!

Day 3 at the Big Red Bash

Day 3 of the Big Red Bash arrived and it was the day most were waiting for, it was Midnight Oil day!

Like the previous day, we loaded up all our gear and made the trek down to the plaza to claim our spot for the afternoon. The lines to enter the concert area were huge and people were lining up well before gates opened to ensure they got a good seat for the final concerts of the event. By the time Midnight Oil were on, I think nearly every person was in that concert/plaza area! It was their first headline festival appearance in more than two decades, so die-hard oils fans were ready to party!

With 10,000 people around from all over Australia, you would think you wouldn’t run into anyone you know, right? Well we did! We ran into Shelly’s old school friend at the Birdsville Hotel and numerous times at the bash, we ran into Jim & Jacky (Jacky in the pic below) who we met when they came up to Cape York with us last year) and we also ran into Matt from Cub Campers! From chats with all, it was clear that everyone was absolutely loving the experience.

The whole Big Red Bash event was delayed by a week, the dates were changed purely to accommodate Midnight Oil’s tour schedule. As Peter Garrett took the stage he said, “We were in Dusseldorf, Germany two days ago so this is unreal”. To see the oil’s play in their only Australian gig of the year was amazing.

Artists for the final day of the bash were as follows:

  • Neil Murray
  • Busby Marou
  • Steve Kilbey
  • Kasey Chambers
  • MIDNIGHT OIL!

Kasey Chambers

As the sun started to fall for the day, the dune filled with people waiting to get that perfect desert sunset shot. Among those on the dune was a group proudly waving the Australian flag. There was something about this sight that made you feel like you were somewhere special, that you were proud to be an Aussie.

Again, it was a fabulous afternoon and evening of music, the crowd was absolutely into it, the artists were rocking it and the atmosphere was awesome! Watching Midnight Oil play in the middle of the desert, while the full moon rises and lights up the night sky was something we will never experience again and something we will never ever forget.

Day 2 at the Big Red Bash

The first big activity for day 2 of the bash was the ‘Bashville Drags’ and ‘Fashions on the Field’. This is one of those events you need to see to believe!

Basically hundreds of men dress up as women (think “Priscilla – Queen of the Desert”) and race down Big Red into the waiting crowd in the plaza! They then parade themselves like they are in an elaborate beauty contest! There were even some dogs dressed up!

Although it’s a bit of fun, there is a small registration fee to enter and all funds raised go to the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service, a very worthy cause.

The other big event which happened on the Tuesday was the Nutbush world record attempt, some of you may have seen this on the news and various tv shows which did stories. This was happening as we were arriving and setting up so we didn’t see it or take part, but we did hear it!

At last years Big Red Bash they created an official World Record with 1719 people dancing the Nutbush. So this year they wanted to beat it and they did just that, with 2,330 people!

Like the drag races, there was a small registration fee to enter and all funds raised also went to the RFDS.

Now the Big Red Bash isn’t just about the music, there are activities, like the two mentioned above, that run each day. There is a plaza area with various merchandise stands, plus many food trucks providing a really varied and reasonably priced array of food. And to keep you entertained and up to date with what’s going on, Bash FM radio broadcasts all day. Of course there is also the Big Red Bash app which has the full program and interactive map which worked without phone reception …. handy if you needed help finding your way back to camp in the dark!

Every morning you get the 7.30am wake up call as the helicopter joy flights start up for the day. If you want to get up for an early morning yoga session, these are held each day on top of Big Red.

Those feeling energetic can do some dune surfing or play a game of beach volleyball on top of Big Red. Camel rides are available for kiddies and adults and if you feel like getting your creative juices flowing, you can take part in dunny door painting! Of course you can always sit around camp, go for a wander and visit fellow bashers or even take the shuttle bus back into Birdsville.

Come midday/early arvo its time to get ready for the concerts to start. These are all held on the main stage in front of Big Red. Gates to the concert area open about an hour before it starts and people were lining up well before that. We (and many other people) ended up sitting outside the fenced off concert area each day to give us a little more room to ourselves! With that many people moving around you can imagine how much dust is flying around as well so if you suffer from asthma or sinus issues, be aware!

Concerts finished around 7.30-8.00pm each night and by then it was freezing! Literally as soon as that sun went down behind the dune, it was cold …. really cold!

So here’s the deal ….. you gather everything you will need for the night (camping chairs, food & beer to last you for the whole concert, layers of clothing for when it cools down, camera etc) and then you make the trek down to the concert area. Now for those camped closer this would not have been so bad, but when you are camping about 500 meters away, this isn’t a fun walk … keep in mind that you are walking in sand too!

Below is a screenshot from the interactive map on the BRB app – see that white marker right up the back (it’s that far back we are actually off the camping area of the map) ….. that’s where we were camped!

The entertainment for the night was

  • The Chantoozies
  • Mark Gable
  • Eurogliders
  • Chocolate Starfish
  • Bjorn Again
  • 1927
  • The Living End

All were great, Shelly loved Bjorn Again! Not sure everyone around us loved her singing and dancing through their whole set though! And The Living End were awesome, they totally rocked it!

Our climb up Big Red

The kids were doing it all day every day, the more energetic were getting up early to watch the sunrise or taking their wine and crackers up to watch the sunset, but us …. well you know how we feel about walking!

Now we’ve driven it before and that was one of our highlights, but now we had the chance to walk it and that was something you just had to do. Couldn’t have left knowing that we didn’t climb Big Red.

This sand dune stands well over 30 meters tall so he’s a pretty big one (the first and biggest in the Simpson Desert), but once you are standing on the top you are rewarded with amazing views, a view of the whole of ‘Bashville’.

Throughout the Big Red Bash, the top of Big Red was always a hive of activity, whether it was for a morning yoga session, watching the sunrise/sunset, watching the world go by and reflecting on life or playing a game of beach volleyball.

Of course, as this was the only place you could possibly grab any mobile phone reception throughout the event, there were also plenty of people up there frantically waving their phones around trying to get a bar of service!

So yes we are glad we did it, even if George complained he was going to die!

Arriving at Bashville

It was a four day journey to get here, but to say we were excited by this point was an understatement! We arrived on Monday afternoon, set up camp on the town common, unhooked the camper and drove into town. The line to pick up our Big Red Bash passes and vehicle stickers wasn’t too long so we decided to get these organised and then headed over to the pub for a beer while we waited for Stewy and the kids to arrive.

Whilst standing in the beer garden of the Birdsville Hotel we ran into one of Shelly’s old high school friends! It’s amazing who you run into when travelling! Whilst they were also waiting for family to arrive, we all spent an hour or so catching up before we headed off back to camp to wait for Stewy.

Tuesday morning was officially ‘Bash day’! This was the day we’d been waiting for. We all packed up and headed back into Birdsville, George & Stewy lined up to get fuel (only a 10 min wait this time!) while Shelly took the kids to get their bash tickets and vehicle pass. We then made our way out to the bash site, about 35km out of Birdsville.

Bashville, as it’s known, is located on private property, an organic cattle station named Adria Downs. Due to the organic nature of the property, you need to be well prepared as no greywater (dish-washing, showering etc) can be emptied onto the ground, all water must be collected and taken out with you (or disposed of at the grey water disposal tanks provided at the toilet blocks). Any blackwater (toilet cassettes etc) had to be taken out of the site with you. Same with rubbish, whilst there were rubbish bins in the concert and plaza area, it was your responsibility to take all camping rubbish out with you and dispose of at the tip in Birdsville. There was also no running water on site so all water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, showers and toilets needed to be brought with you.

Our campsite

Now the way this event is run is amazing, all the volunteers have a job to do and they get it done! There are staggered event roll in and roll out times, early entry passes and early exit passes, separate areas for people camping with dogs and areas for people with big rigs. As we entered, we were guided to an area for us to set up our camp for the next few days. We ended up being in the back row of the camping, which was great as we had more room and weren’t as closed in with other campers, but it also meant a long walk to the stage and plaza area ….. particularly when carrying chairs, clothes, food and beer!

Relaxing on the first night back at camp ….. listening to the music from the concert area, cooking pizza over an open fire, under a million stars ….. this really is the life!

Birdsville

Birdsville is a small little town that lies on the edge of the Simpson Desert. A sign in town states “population of 115 (+/- 7000)”. For most of the year this is a sleepy little town, quite often even completely isolated due to floods. But once the winter tourist season starts people start visiting before or after their desert crossing and come Big Red Bash or Birdsville Races time, the town just explodes with people!

The iconic Birdsville Hotel

Of course, one of the places everyone wants to visit is The Birdsville Hotel ….. Everyone wants to say they’ve had a beer at the Birdsville Hotel ….. and finally we can say we have! We didn’t make it into the pub on our last visit so it was nice to be able to actually step foot inside this time!

The iconic Birdsville Hotel is one of those true authentic outback pubs. The hotel was first built in 1884 and is still a hugely popular place for all visitors to the area.

The area is of course rich in history, including that of Burke & Wills. The traditional owners of the land are the Wangkangurru-Yarluyandi people. For thousands of years, Wirrarri (Birdsville) was one of the places people gathered to trade grinding stones, ochre, weapons and other goods. The area was later used for cattle droving and pastoral duties, as it still is to this day.

The Simpson Desert itself covers an area of hundreds of kilometers, spreads across 3 states and has been said to be one of the most desolate deserts in the world. There are no ‘roads’ through the desert, just tracks across the dunes and you need to be well prepared for remote travel if you intend on tackling one of the desert crossings.

Situated approximately 35km west of Birdsville you will find Big Red (original name Nappanerica). Now the whole of the Simpson Desert is made up of over 1,000 parallel sand dunes, most of which are 10-15 meters in height. Big Red on the other hand stands at well over 30 meters tall, so you can see how it got it’s name!

This is the first sand dune you will reach after leaving Birdsville and saying you’ve driven Big Red is on most 4wders bucket lists. We did do this last time in our old Prado, but unfortunately we couldn’t attempt it this time as they close Big Red to vehicles throughout the Big Red Bash period.

The video above was taken at this years Big Red Bash, the photo below was taken on our last visit to Big Red – notice the huge lake surrounding the sand dune in the middle of the desert!