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.

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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!

Big Red Bash wrap up

Well there is another trip done and dusted, 4,838 km driven across 3 states over 16 days! ….. ok so yes we know we didn’t quite keep the blogs up to date while we are away, but we will do a recap of each day now that we are home and have more time and internet connection! But in the meantime, below is a quick recap of the whole trip to get you excited!

This was one of our shorter trips, only 2 weeks away, but as usual we still managed to pack alot into that time!

The main purpose of the trip was to visit The Big Red Bash, the worlds most remote music festival … and what an awesome, fun filled couple of days that was! They say once you visit you’ll go back again and that’s so true, we are all hooked! The bands, the people, the volunteers, the atmosphere … it was all awesome. Probably by far the best run event we have ever been to.

Although the bash was our main reason for travel, we wanted to make a mini holiday out of it too. We’ve been to Birdsville before and also to most places we visited, but it was still great. We stopped in at Cameron Corner again (where the borders of NSW/SA/QLD meet) and also stopped off at Haddon Corner for the first time (where the borders of QLD/SA meet).

We got our history on visiting some of the sites connected to Burke & Wills …. Burkes grave and Dig Tree to name a couple and we finally visited the Birdsville Hotel and went inside to have a beer (we’ve previously been to Birdsville but didn’t go to the pub, who does that! 😆)

Camel Racing 🐪 yes, we finally went to a camel racing meet, and not just any old camel racing, the ‘Melbounre Cup of Camel Racing’!  We spent 3 days camping at the race course and watching the Boulia Camel Races.

We went on a sunset dinner river cruise on the Thompson River in Longreach, attended an Outback Show at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, we saw the ‘big bogan’ in Nyngan and the ‘big billy’ in Trangie. We touched a dinosaur bone fossil at Winton and visited the site of the first Qantas plane crash in Tambo. We dropped into little country towns to support and show the love and bought heaps of souvenirs we probably don’t need!

Now to our good mate Stewy, so glad we got to experience our first bash together! Many of you would know that we travel quite a bit with Stewy and his daughter, they love this as much as us! And great to have Jackson along this time aswell! Glad you all made it home safely and we will see you on Fraser Island at Christmas!

It was great to catch up at the bash with Jim & Jackie who came along with us to Cape York last year, hope you enjoyed the bash and have a safe and enjoyable remainder of your trip.

The bash was the place to be and it was great to also run into Matt from Cub Campers again too, hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip, and following along on ours! We will see you soon to arrange our new awning!

Randomly running into one of Shelly’s old high school friends at the Birdsville Hotel (and at the bash and the races!), was great into see you Virginia and meet your family, enjoy the rest of your travels.

Jay and Sallie, our camping neighbours for a couple of nights in Longreach, it was great to meet you both (pj’s and all!), may catch up again one day.

To the guy who works in Target in Longreach, you are hilarious … really bad jokes, but hilarious! And to the people at the Wyandra Post & General Store, thank you for accommodating Shelly’s request for pepper even though you were allergic to it (who knew!) and thanks for opening our eyes to Mac n Cheese Smiths Chips (again, who knew!) …. hope you found your Spaghetti Bol chips! Also great briefly chatting with the caretaker of the Gladstone Hotel in Wyandra, good to hear a little about the community and the hotel.

And lastly, to our other friends, Lauren, Liam and the kids and Leah & Brendan who were meant to be coming to the bash and both didn’t make it for various reasons, hopefully we can all do it again next year!!

All the dust, the smoke, everything smelling like a campfire, the lack of showers and toilets, the cold, the flies …. we wouldn’t trade it for the world. To sit at camp and stare up at the stars, to share a beer with friends or total strangers, to meet the locals and share stories with other travellers, the laughs, the adventure and the memories …. this is life 💕

Oh and to share it with all of you guys too, we love it and glad we could take you along on the journey!

Check out all the stats below ⬇️⬇️⬇️

THE STATS
—————-
🔸4,838 km
🔸travelled across 3 states 
🔸16 days
🔸Total Fuel $1,290
🔸most expensive fuel $1.90/L for Diesel at Innamincka

🔸$210 total accomodation 
(1 x night hotel $160, 2 x nights caravan park $30, 2 x nights low cost camps $20, rest free camping or included in BRB/Camel Races tickets)

MINOR INCIDENTS
——————————
🔸Windscreen chip
🔸Lost reflector off camper
🔸Tear in the awning off the camper
🔸Changed tyre on the camper 
🔸Kangaroo splatter incident 

WHAT WE LEARNT
—————————
🔸It’s really exciting when you initially hear and see someone whip cracking …. it gets really annoying when that’s all you hear all day and night for a few days!
🔸‘Shelly GPS’ has nearly 100% accuracy, ‘George GPS’ is crap!
🔸It’s a game of luck when driving in Longreach …. cross streets have no ‘Give Way’ or ‘Stop’ signs! Oh and to it make it even harder to navigate, the power poles are situated right in the middle of street!
🔸Baby wipes really are your best friend when showers are few and far between (well we knew this one already!)
🔸If you look at a tyre before you leave home and think ‘we really should change that before we go’ ….. you probably should!!
🔸Be very wary of all dead kangaroos on the road! 
🔸You very quickly learn to be open about your toilet trips at the bash …. more on this later, but ‘one scoop per poop’ is the saying in Bashville!💩 
🔸We already knew it, but WikiCamps is awesome! We always find the best free camps using this app … if you aren’t already using it, you really should be!

The most remote music concert in the world

Guess what! …. in exactly 14 days we leave home bound for The Big Red Bash! Many of you are probably asking “wtf is The Big Red Bash” …. well let us explain.

The Big Red Bash is the world’s most remote music concert. It is a unique outback experience where over 10,000 people flock to Birdsville in outback Queensland to attend a 3 day concert. Most people camp onsite for the duration of the concert (and the days before and after in some cases). The concert and camp area, known as Bashville, are located on a privately owned organic cattle station called Adria Downs.

The camping area sits on the dried-out bed of an ancient lake with the giant red sand dune, the famous “Big Red” (the highest sand dune in the Simpson Desert) as a backdrop.

The first Big Red Bash was held in 2013 and it’s grown significantly in popularity since then. It’s been on our bucket list since 2013 (well Shelly’s bucket list anyway, and finally she’s convinced George that we really do need to go!)

This year the headliners are MIDNIGHT OIL! Yes we are just a little bit excited! Shelly last saw Midnight Oil when they performed as part of the M-One concert in Sydney back in 2002, so it’s been quite a while!

This will be Midnight Oil’s first first multi day Australian music festival in over 22 years.

Over the three days, from mid afternoon each day we will be entertained by the following artists, finishing up on the last night with Midnight Oil. According to the organisers, the 40 meter high Big Red Dune will light up, and the full moon will rise up from the desert dunes during their set.

  • The Living End
  • Kasey Chambers
  • Richard Clapton
  • 1927
  • Busby Marou
  • Bjorn Again
  • Wendy Matthews
  • Mark Gable (The Choirboys)
  • Steve Kilbey (The Church)
  • Eurogliders
  • Chocolate Starfish
  • Neil Murray
  • Steve Balbi (Noiseworks)
  • The Chantoozies
  • Mark Williams (Dragon)
  • Dale Ryder (ex Boom Crash Opera)

Every year, various iconic Aussie musicians head to the bash to perform. The website states that As legendary Aussie artists fill the desert air with their classic sounds, your memories of this magical event will last a life-time. Or if you’re lucky – until the next Bash!

From what we’ve heard, once you experience your first Big Red Bash, it won’t be your last, so who knows, we could be back again next year!

So whilst we most likely won’t have reception at the concert, we will be taking plenty of photos and videos of the concert and the trip there and back to share with everyone.


Source, photo is from Outback Queensland website