The natural beauty of Fraser Island

Hands up who’s never visited Fraser Island …. if you are sitting there with your hands in the air, what’s wrong with you! You really need to get off your butt and get yourself up to this amazing part of the country!

You’ll find Fraser Island located off the east coast of Queensland, about 4 hours drive north of Brisbane. Covering an area of 184,000 hectares, it is the largest sand island in the world. But it’s more than just a bit of sand surrounded by water, it’s one of the most naturally beautiful places you’ll visit.

You’ll find some of the most beautiful lakes filled with crystal clear fresh water, ancient rainforests, long white beaches, coloured sand cliffs, shipwrecks and a splash of history thrown in.

Fun facts about Fraser Island

  • Fraser Island stretches over 123 km in length and 22 km across at it’s widest point.
  • Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.
  • Fraser Island is World Heritage Listed.
  • The highest dunes on the island reach up to 240 meters above sea level.
  • Fraser Island is home to 40 perched dune lakes (which is half the number of perched lakes in the world!).
  • It’s said that over 350 species of birds live on Fraser Island.
  • The dingoes of Fraser Island are the most pure strain of dingoes remaining in eastern Australia.
  • Fraser Island is the only place in the world where rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of more than 200 meters.
  • 75 Mile Beach is a gazetted highway and all normal road rules apply, and police do regularly patrol.
  • 75 Mile Beach is also a runway and landing strip for light aircraft.
  • Fraser Island’s dunes have the longest and most complete age sequence of coastal dune systems in the world.
  • At 200 hectares, Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world.
  • Fraser Island is home to half of the world’s perched lakes.

How the island formed

An island like Fraser Island doesn’t just pop up overnight, it has been forming over many hundreds of thousands of years and is still evolving to this day. Many years ago the wind and ocean currents moved sands from all around the world and it began to accumulate in one place and formed an island, therefore Fraser Island is made up completely of sand. Over the years animal matter and debris started to form a base which then allowed plants to start growing. A sand dune is considered stable when plant colonies start to take root and you can see this towards the centre of the island, where you’ll find huge trees and rainforests growing in the more sheltered parts of the island.

Closer to the beach where the dunes are subjected to the more fierce weather elements you will see that they often only have a small covering of grasses and smaller plants that have learned to live with the constant battering of sand and wind.

Fraser Island Lakes

There are over 100 freshwater lakes on the island. The only area in Australia that has a higher concentration of lakes than Fraser Island is Tasmania. There are Perched lakes, Window lakes and Barrage lakes.

Perched lakes form when organic matter builds up in a depression in the dune. Leaves, dead plants, bark etc collects over time, slowly decomposing into the top layer of the sand and eventually forming a cement like crust which stops water from filtering through the sand. With the water being trapped it will eventually form a lake. Perched lakes are dependent on rainfall to maintain the water levels.

Fraser Island’s Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world.

Barrage lakes form when moving sand dunes block off the path of a watercourse, creek or natural spring.

Window lakes form when a depression in the dunes exposes part of the regional water table. These lakes are generally found in dune depressions where the water table is higher than the ground surface level.

Fraser Island’s Lake Wabby is actually known as both a window lake and a barrage lake.

Whilst the lakes on Fraser Island are some of the most naturally stunning sights you’ll see, many of them hold nothing but water. Because of the purity and acidity of the water, they are not home to any creatures. There are a few lakes that do have fish and turtles living in them and a particular species of frog that have adapted to survive in an acidic and nutrient deficient environment.

Fraser Island History

Captain Matthew Flinders was one of the first white men to have contact with the islanders of Fraser Island in 1802.

In 1836 the ‘Stirling Castle’ was shipwrecked and after spending weeks in a lifeboat at sea, they landed on the island. The survivors lived on the island for a few weeks before being rescued. One of these was Eliza Fraser, the wife of the Captain, James Fraser. It was after Eliza, that Europeans named the island Fraser Island.

The Butchulla people are the indigenous people of Fraser Island and their traditional name for the island is K’gari (pronounced “gurri”), which means paradise. According to Butchulla legend, Fraser Island was named K’gari after the beautiful spirit who helped
Yindingie, messenger of the great god Beeral, create the land. As a reward to K’gari for her help, Beeral changed her into an idyllic island with trees, flowers and lakes. He then added birds, animals and people onto the island to keep her company.

The island is now referred to as both “K’gari” and ‘Fraser Island” (and “Great Sandy National Park”), and whilst the Native Title rights were handed back to The Butchulla people in 2014, the day-to-day management of the island is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Heritage (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service).

Fraser Island Logging history

Logging is a huge part of the Fraser Island story. Due to the abundance of timber available and the quality of the pines, logging on Fraser Island ran for quite an extended period of time, first starting in 1863 and continuing until the end of 1991.

Logging initially started near Wanggoolba Creek by ‘Yankee Jack’ Piggott. In 1913 the first State Government Forestry Camp was set up at Bogimbah Creek, later moved to Wanggoolba Creek and in 1920 this moved to Central Station. In 1918 building began on the first and only timber mill on Fraser Island at the McKenzie’s Jetty site. McKenzie Ltd. was responsible for this mill, a jetty and a number of steam locomotives and tracks servicing its logging areas. When the Forestry Camp moved to Central Station, there were workers and their families living there and a community formed, including huts, houses and sheds, a school for the children and nurseries and vegetable gardens.

Nowadays Central Station is a camping and picnic area, but it also includes plenty of information on it’s former life as a logging camp.

Fraser Island’s WWII Connection

Many wouldn’t know, but Fraser Island played an important role in WWII.

The Fraser Commando School trained personnel for the highly secret ‘Z Force’. These personnel lived on the island and were trained to operate undercover behind enemy lines. The ruins of the training school are found on the western side of the island near Kingfisher Bay Resort.

The Maheno shipwreck, located on the eastern beach, was also used during the WWI as a target for explosives training.

Maheno Shipwreck

The Maheno shipwreck is one of those must visit places on Fraser Island. You’ll find it on 75 Mile Beach on the eastern side of the island, not far past Eli Creek.

The ship ended up beached on the island during a cyclone in 1935 and has laid there wasting away ever since.

The Maheno was built in Scotland in 1905 and was the world’s first ever triple screw steamer. She was initially built as a luxury passenger ship. During World War 1 she served as a hospital ship treating and transporting the wounded from Gallipoli and the Western Front. She was later used by a shipping company for journeys between Sydney and New Zealand.

By 1935 the ship had been declared outdated and taken out of service and was sold to a scrapping company in Japan.

On 8 July 1935, while under tow to Japan, the Maheno became caught in a cyclone and the towline broke. After drifting in rough seas, the Maheno eventually beached on Fraser Island.

The ship was unable to be re-floated and no buyers wanted her, so she was abandoned on the beach and remains there today.

It is said that the locals put the shipwreck to use in the year or so after it washed ashore by holding weddings and concerts aboard. Years later the wreck was used as bombing practice during World War 2.

She has definitely been showing her age in recent years as the constant battering of waves and the environment take their toll on her. Our photos of the Maheno from our first visit to the island 13 years ago compared to now definitely show the deterioration.

Today, the rusting hull is all that remains and this is gradually being washed away with every tide, wave and storm that hits.

Definitely still one of our favourite places to visit and photograph on the island though.

The end of our trip

After leaving Charleville we headed off in the direction of home, planning to find a free camp somewhere along the way when we got sick of driving for the day. During the drive we did stop in to a little town called Wyandra. This town is small, but the people were all so friendly … and it has it’s own beach? Yep, you heard that right, although it’s nowhere near the coast, they have a beach! Of course this had us intrigued so we went to find it. ‘The Beach’ is located on the Warrego River and was named because of it’s sandy enclave. In days gone by, apparently the whole community would gather there to celebrate Christmas Day with picnics and swimming. It is actually quite a nice area, so you could only imagine it filled with families enjoying the surroundings back in the day.

First was a stop at the cafe to grab some food. The people were great, so friendly and accommodating. Next we called into the Gladstone Hotel and had a good chat with the caretaker who told us a little about the town, the residents and how he came to be living and working in Wyandra.

The sign in the last photo is what it’s all about though. If us travelers don’t stop in to these small little country towns and say hi and buy a coffee, beer, meal or souvenirs they simply won’t survive. Ultimately it’s up to us to keep these places alive, otherwise these cool little country towns will be wiped from the map, like so many others already have.

Next was Cunnamulla and course we couldn’t drive through without stopping in and getting a photo of the ‘Cunnamulla Fella’. The Cunnamulla Fella is an iconic Australian bush character who was immortalised in a song written by Stan Coster and sung by Slim Dusty. The town of Cunnamulla has erected a statue of the Cunnamulla Fella as a tribute to Stan and Slim and to the ‘ringers’ of the bush. 

The last two days of our trip provided us with more amazing free camps, the first one located just outside of Bourke. Known as Mays Bend, this free camp covers quite a large area (and there were many people camping here), but it’s so big you certainly weren’t on top of each other. We found a spot right on the edge of the Darling River, absolutely beautiful area, filled with birds …. and the odd cow or two!

Our last night was spent at Macquarie Woods in the Vittoria State Forest, which is located about halfway between Bathurst and Orange. This was a great little camp in the forest, which even had picnic tables and fire pits/bbq’s and toilets. We were quite impressed with this little gem and will definitely be back to this one to stay for a night or two and explore the forest. Just maybe not in winter as it was definitely a bit cold!

And that’s it guys, that’s the end of our 2 week trip to The Big Red Bash! Over 16 days we traveled 4,838 km, across 3 states. Bring on the next trip!

The day it rained kangaroo chunks

OK, so things were going really well, we’d had a great stay in Longreach and were making our way home, heading towards Charleville to stay for the night. Traffic wasn’t too bad, we were having fun and we were enjoying the last few days of our holiday …… and then it happened ….. that moment you never think will happen …… that moment when it rains kangaroo chunks all over the 4WD! 

Driving on outback roads, you see roadkill all the time, it’s nothing new and quite often skippy is laying dead in the middle of the road. Whilst not ideal, it’s a situation you can generally deal with and drive around him.

In all of our years of travel, this is the first time that plan hasn’t exactly worked! You see, this time Mr dead kangaroo was laying in the middle of the other side of the road. A case of very unfortunate timing meant that us and a road train ended up side by side and he had no choice but to drive over it.

Initially we thought he missed it, but we soon realised we were wrong when bits of kangaroo pieces and blood hit the windscreen ….. yes it started raining kangaroo chunks (with numerous blood splatters over the 4WD and camper trailer!) 🤮 Gotta love outback travel!

Anyway, enough of flying kangaroo chunks! …….. that wasn’t all that happened that day!

We called into a little town call Tambo, the oldest town in the Central West region of QLD …. first stop was The Royal Carrangarra Hotel, which happens to be the oldest licensed site in Central Western Outback Queensland.

Tambo is a small country town with only a few hundred people, but it’s a nice little town with many historical buildings and great picnic areas along the Barcoo.

I’m guessing most people wouldn’t have even heard of Tambo, but this is the location of the first ever Qantas plane crash. Whilst Qantas has never had a fatal jet airliner accident, they did suffer several losses in their early days.

On 24 March 1927 the DH9C G-AUED was on a regular route between Charleville to Cloncurry and while attempting to land on the clay-pan that serves as Tambo’s airstrip, it was seen to suddenly dive into the ground. All on board died in the crash.

A monument just out of town marks the site of the crash.

We arrived in Charleville and headed just out of town to a free camp we heard of called, ‘Rock Pool’. There were quite a few other vans and trailers there but there was plenty of room for us to all be spread out. We found a little spot down the back and set up, lit the fire, cracked a beer and relaxed for the night.

The night sky out this way is absolutely incredible, it’s like the stars are surrounding you and falling down on you, like you could just reach up and grab them. It’s an amazing sight and something everyone has to experience.

Finished the night with waffle cones filled with gooey chocolatey marshmallowy goodness cooked over the campfire ….. mmmmmm yum!

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.

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.