BIG RED and the Birdsville Races!

Birdsville Travel Blog

 › entry 17 of 24 › view all entries
Sunrise in the Simpson at last camp
Glen had got up early to take some sunrise pictures and lovely photos of insects and flowers. Talking of insects, I succumbed to the fly net which I  borrowed off Gay, the flies had driven me mad so when we get to Birdsville Vaughan and I were going shopping for fly nets! This was our last day in the desert, today we would be tackling the grand daddy of all dunes; BIG RED! We had two days of practice so it really shouldn't be any trouble! Well, we shall see.  We weren't sure what to expect when we got to Birdsville, the races were on so it was going to be busy. A population of about 150 grows to 6000 over the cup weekend!! Finding a camp spot would be a greater challenge than the Simpson itself and one thing for sure we won't be eating at the Birdsville pub! On the bright side, we were looking forward to a shower and launderette.
Sunrise in the Simpson at last camp
For the first time in 3 days, we actually started to feel pretty grubby.

We continued along the QAA Line, the dunes were not so high now and by late morning we had reached the Simpson National Park sign, which we took a photo of. After that we were in cattle station country and we stopped for a break at Eyre Creek.  Eyre Creek was a dry creek bed and seemed very popular with the cockatoos. It was the first time we had seen cockatoos and parrots for days, their noisy screeches had broken the silence of the desert. We continued on towards Big Red and as we went over a dune, there it was across the other side of a salt lake bed, the 50 meter grand daddy waiting to be climbed! We could see movement on top of Big Red so we would be having an audience on our ascent so better put on a good show! Glen and Gay were first to go, Glen was going to show us how it was done! He was off ripping across the lake and up Big Red, all the way to the top, he made it look so easy.
Insect tracks in the Simpson
  Next it was my turn, I was going to have first go! The backseat driver barked instructions, I planted the foot and up I went but it wasn't as easy as it looked and half way up I came to a grinding halt! I reversed back down for go number two, by this time a couple more cars has joined the queue. So another go, planted the foot even harder this time, got a little further but still came to a grinding halt. Meanwhile Glen is sitting at the top of the dune filming both episodes of failure. Ok I give up, Vaughan you have a go! Our car is automatic so Vaughan thought the power button and low range would give it more grunt. With the power button on and low range Vaughan got up first time.  Big Red has a huge surface area and there was quite a few cars at the top plus a few noisy trail bikes, ripping up and down the side dunes.
Our last camp site in the Simpson
We sat at the top for a while and watched all the other cars coming up, some made it, some not. I went back down for another go and this time got all the way up. Glen tried to park his car closer to the edge of the dune and got himself into a predicament where his car looked like it was about to tip over! He managed to get out of the situation without rolling his vehicle, I was ready to rescue my wine that he was carrying!! After having fun on the dune and chatting with a few people it was time to move on to the big smoke! Once we descended to the bottom, we pulled over to pump up the tyres again as we had left the soft sand behind and we were back on dirt roads.  It was sad to leave it behind, we thoroughly enjoyed the crossing it was both challenging and rewarding but now we could look forward to some new landscape.
Those pesky flies!


We were in Birdsville by early afternoon, everyone was at the races so the centre was a little quiet. First stop was the Caravan Park for a shower and laundry. The caravan park was jammed full of tents, caravans and trailers, tents had only a few inches between them, glad we weren't staying here tonight.  Across the road was a nature strip area which too was jammed full of identical canvas pop up tents with an inch to spare between each one, they looked like they belonged to a tour group. After freshening up, we headed for the bakery for lunch. It was a nice little bakery decorated with some very funny art which you could purchase and I made a note of a couple I liked and would be back to spend money! Outside the bakery was a flower bed covered in Sturt's Desert Pea, a weird looking plant with striking red colour and a black eye.
Lovely desert flowers
The plant is native to the desert but you rarely see them.

After being washed, watered and fed we headed out to the track, the races were over by now and everyone was heading back into town, some even leaving town.  Out at the race track cars were still lined up around the track but no horses in sight!  We eyed up potential camp spots and there seemed plenty so it wasn't that bad. We wanted to head back into town first though to watch the planes take off. As we were driving along the bitumen I noticed the car was wobbling from side to side. I first noticed this back in Finke but Vaughan convinced me it was the road but now he was convinced it was the car as the wobble had got worse.
A stick insect
  We pulled over near the bakery to check the car and Glen suggested Vaughan drive down the road so he could eyeball the car. Turned out that our back tyre had a bulge in it from a broken steel belt so we swapped it for the spare and on tightening the nuts Vaughan broke one of the wheel studs! It would have to be repaired before we left Birdsville. The bulging tyre had done really well to cross the Simpson in the condition it was in!

Outside the airstrip we sat on the top of the cars and watched planes taking off, not everyone wanted to stay for tonight's entertainment! We then moved on to the outside of town to look for a camp spot. There seem to be plenty of unoccupied open areas so we had a look and found why! The whole area was covered in nasty burrs.
Lovely wildflowers in the Simpson
As I walked, the bottom of my flip flops were packed with burrs. It took us a while to find a spot that was just dirt and we put the loo tent up so we didn't have to wander off into the bush. These burrs were really vicious, the slightest touch on the skin was quite irritating as they stuck to everything. In the evening we wandered into town for the entertainment. The pub was busy, you could only buy cans of beer, wine was off the list or anything sold in glass bottles was off the list. There were quite a few armed cops wondering around so this told us that this place gets pretty rough after a few beers! The restaurant was closed for obvious reasons so we wondered around the stalls to find a snack and ended up with fish and chips. There were a few local craft stalls mainly catering for the outback crowd, you could buy yourself a new Stetson or cowboy boots! We did find a stall that sold fly nets! The big attraction for the night though was the boxing tent where boxers take on volunteers! This was preceded by an auction selling a mixture of all sorts of stuff.
Leaving the Simpson Desert NP
  We had enough after a while, it wasn't really our scene so we went back to the camp.  We could hear the speakers from the boxing tent and the band from the pub as well as a few noisy campers so we weren't banking on a perfect nights sleep, oh how we missed the silence of the desert!!


dl4plm says:
Tyres and wheel nuts ... had the same adventure on the Gibb River Road!!!! in the middle of some big thunderstorms!!! all great fun!!! im v jealous of your simpson desert travels ... looks great!
Posted on: Nov 03, 2008
margmack says:
Birdsville may have been my scene a few (maybe 20) years ago...but not these days...except when everyone has left after the races :)...actually not even then really! Tho I did work on a station called Nockatunga many years ago and we had the annual races at the pub situated ON the station! Now I know that is changed as well as it lies near to the Jackson Oil Fields.
Posted on: Oct 30, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Sunrise in the Simpson at last camp
Sunrise in the Simpson at last camp
Sunrise in the Simpson at last camp
Sunrise in the Simpson at last camp
Insect tracks in the Simpson
Insect tracks in the Simpson
Our last camp site in the Simpson
Our last camp site in the Simpson
Those pesky flies!
Those pesky flies!
Lovely desert flowers
Lovely desert flowers
A stick insect
A stick insect
Lovely wildflowers in the Simpson
Lovely wildflowers in the Simpson
Leaving the Simpson Desert NP
Leaving the Simpson Desert NP
Lovely wildflowers
Lovely wildflowers
Lovely wildflowers
Lovely wildflowers
Lovely wildflowers
Lovely wildflowers
Eyre Creek
Eyre Creek
Cockatoo at Eyre Creek
Cockatoo at Eyre Creek
Big Red!
Big Red!
Glen makes it up Big Red
Glen makes it up Big Red
We dont go around, we go up!
We don't go around, we go up!
On top of Big Red
On top of Big Red
Glen, Gay and Vaughan on top of Bi…
Glen, Gay and Vaughan on top of B…
Coming up Big Red
Coming up Big Red
Nearly there
Nearly there
A little more
A little more
Made it!
Made it!
Swamp on the track to Birdsville
Swamp on the track to Birdsville
Sturts Desert Pea
Sturt's Desert Pea
Birdsville race track
Birdsville race track
Planes at Birdsville
Planes at Birdsville
Plane leaving the Birdsville Races
Plane leaving the Birdsville Races
Watching the planes taking off at …
Watching the planes taking off at…
Birdsville
photo by: skippyed