I booked tickets for the concert back in early February 2019, getting a dog ticket so I could take Veto and also an early entry ticket. Cost was $534 for the concert, free for Veto and $80 for the extra day. After I booked it, I discovered that my brother Stephen and his wife Gail intended to take their new caravan to the Big Red Bash too and that Gailâs sister Cathy and her husband Phil were also going. Later, a friend at my dive club, John, said he would not mind coming too, although he would not go to the concert.
Birdsville is a very small town of 140 people that is famous for the Birdsville Races and the Birdsville Hotel. It is 1,590 kilometres west of Brisbane (like driving from London through France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and to Gdansk in Poland on the Baltic Sea) and 720 kilometres south of the nearest city, Mount Isa (London to Frankfurt). I visited there in 2003 and 2010.
In February 2019 the remains of a cyclone headed down over the Gulf of Carpentaria and towards Birdsville. On the way, it dropped a huge amount of rain. Mount Isa, had over 290 mm of rain in the last few days of January and in February, all but 33 mm falling in one short period at the start of the month. The median rainfall for Mount Isa over the past 53 years is only 421 mm, so almost 70% of the normal rainfall fell in the space of less than a month.
Cloncurry to the east of Mount Isa had over 500 mm, well over its long term median rainfall for a year. Further south, Boulia had over 85 mm over the same period but it basically died out shortly after this. All the rain that fell to the west and south of Mount Isa and Cloncurry fed into the Diamantina and Georgina Rivers. This then flowed south. The Georgina River becomes Eyre Creek near Birdsville and then Warburton Creek before flowing into Lake Eyre. The Diamantina also flows into Warburton Creek.
All this water, slowly flowed south and eventually Birdsville was surrounded in all directions by water, making the town totally isolated. It was this way for quite a few weeks, then some roads reopened only to close again when a second wave of water came down the Diamantina. It took a long time to dry out and some roads did not open fully till late June 2019.
During the planning of the trip, I had to take into account I had my dog Veto with me, so had to avoid national parks and other places that do not permit dogs. I decided on a route that would take me to some spots I had never visited before as well as permitting me to camp at places that I had only briefly passed though on my previous trips.
Phil and Cathy â Mazda BT30 ute with roof top tent â leaving three days before meeting us in Birdsville
|My route as recorded by my VMS GPS and uploaded to Google Earth|
Ignore the weird dates of the files, travel is in an anticlockwise direction from Sydney
You can download the Google Earth track of this trip by clicking here and looking at it in Google Earth. TO COME
Day 1 â Tuesday 9 July 2019 â Sydney to Bourke
I get up at 4:15 am and have a shower as I have a long trip ahead and probably wonât feel like one this evening. I load the last few things into the car, put Veto on her bed on the passenger seat (with a harness attached to the seatbelt anchor) and head off at 4:45 am. I travel via the Princes Highway and King Georges Road to the M5 and then the M7 to the M4.
|All packed up and ready to go|
It is warm when I leave home (11â°C) but over the Blue Mountains it drops to 3â°C. I stop at Bathurst at 7:30 am and get breakfast from McDonalds. As I left town I stop at a park to eat and let Veto have a run. It is freezing! It is 215 kilometres to here and I have averaged 13.1 l/100 km. I am back on the road at 8:00 am. It is very foggy between Orange and Wellington and I see a car crash 10 km south of Wellington where an old VW Kombi ute appears to have turned onto the highway in front of a truck and been spun around. Lucky he was not hit square on.
At Wellington I stop at 9:50 am to go to Woolworths as I need to buy a hot chicken and some bread and bread rolls. Guess what, no rolls at all! I leave at 10:05 am and phone my cousin Sharon who lives outside of Dubbo. She has just returned from a holiday in the UK so I detour off the highway to her place for morning tea. I get there at 10:45 am. It is 420 km from home and I have averaged 12.09 l/100 km since Bathurst.
It is great to catch up, I have only seen her in recent times at the funerals of her parents. In 2010 on the way home from Central Australia I also stopped in, staying the night. After a good deal of chit-chat and a cuppa, I leave at 11:20 am. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I have a long way to go. It has warmed up to 10â°C but still very cold.
I look for a bakery that Sharon told me about in Dubbo, but the only one I find does not sell rolls. In Narromine I stop to refuel, taking 70 litres at $1.489. I have averaged 14.3 l/100 km since Sydney. I see a Coles and get some there, having stopped in the town for 15 minutes. At 12:55 pm I stop at Nevertire opposite the hotel and make lunch. I leave five minutes later and eat as I drive along. I need to make up the time I stopped at Sharons!
|A drone photo looking towards the north from the rest area||At the rest area|
I was going to stop at Nyngan to take a photo of the Big Bogan but I do not see it or signs to it. Instead I stop at 2:35 pm at a rest area south of Byrock, 698 km from home. I have averaged 14.5 l/100 km since Nevertire, travelling at 100 km/h into a headwind. I have a quick afternoon tea and also take a couple of drone photos. I leave 10 minutes later and arrive at Bourke at 3:55 pm. On the way I phone Bourke Council to check if the road to Hungerford is open. On Sunday it rained a fair bit and all the gravel roads were closed on Monday. I find that it is open to light vehicles.
The price of diesel varies over 10 cents a litre here, so I go back to the second fuel station to refuel. This is not staffed and you have to estimate the amount you need after swiping your credit card. I take 70 litres at $1.479 at 15.7 l/100 km (again, fast into a strong headwind).
I drive via North Bourke (quickly stopping to take a photo of the old historic bridge) and then out to Mays Bend. This is on the Darling River and the road comes off the main tar road a few kilometres north of North Bourke. As I mentioned above, it rained here a bit on Sunday and there are a few puddles over the track. John is already there (I phoned him as I approached Bourke) so I call him on the UHF radio and find where he is.
|The Darling River at Mays Bend looking south||A drone shot of our campsite at Mays Bend|
He has already looked around and says the best spot is on the river. It is 4:25 pm as I drive in. A nice spot but we do not realise till after we have set up camp that the ground is still damp underneath and we end up with lots of mud stuck to our shoes (and tyres). Too late to move! We find some local timber and start a fire, saving the stuff I brought with me for another day.
I have some beer and nibblies (John does not drink) and take some drone photographs. Then I warm up spaghetti bolognaise I made previously. Veto has got a lot of mud on her paws and it has also stuck to the fur around the bottom of her legs. I have to clean this all off before I put her to bed in the rooftop tent.
|Our campsite at Mays Bend|
We sit around the fire till warm 10:15 pm when we go to bed. It is a warm 8â°C.
Weather: Sunny then overcast then sunny, max 13ÂșC
Arrived: Mays Bend, Bourke Time: 4:25 pm Distance: 820 kilometres
Day 2 â Wednesday 10 July 2019 â Bourke to Hungerford
Weather: Sunny, 6.6ÂșC minimum
I am awake at 5:30 am and get up at 7:10 am (I always listen to the 7 am ABC Radio News on my portable radio and sometimes the 7:45 am as well). I have breakfast and relax a bit, we do not have far to go today. We pack up and leave at 9:50 am. We head out onto the Hungerford Road. This is gravel but has three longish tar sections. We stop at Fords Bridge at 10:45 am, 72 km from Mays Bend.
|The Fords Bridge Hotel||Passing into Queensland through the wild dog fence at Hungerford|
We go to the pub where I have a stubby of beer and John a Coke ($8 total). The publican is a funny old bugger! There are two other locals drinking here already! We leave at 11:10 am. Some more tar sections, a couple of rough gravel bits but the road is mostly quite good and we sit on 95 km/h. At 1:00 pm we arrive at the Queensland border and open the Dog Proof Fence gate and go into Hungerford.
Straight over the border is the hotel and then on the right, the camping area. This is run by the council. It is one of the best I have ever seen for a non-commercial camping area. It is small, enclosed by a fence and has flushing toilets, hot showers, free washing machine and dryer! We set up camp, taking the pick of the spots as there is only one other vehicle here. The cost is $5.50 for an unpowered site and $11 for power.
|The Hungerford camping area||Hungerford Hotel|
We could have went further, but the rugby league State of Origin final match is on tonight and with Queensland and New South Wales locked at one win each, we want to watch the game in the pub. I also want to spend an evening here. It is sunny and 20â°C as we have lunch.
On the way here my UHF aerial broke off. Luckily I saw it go and found it. After lunch I make a temporary repair using fencing wire and gaffer tape. It seems to work, at least over short distances. I hope to get a new aerial in Thargomindah tomorrow. The bungy cord which holds the cover of the Shippshape rooftop tent on has broken so I have to fix this up (not too hard) and also the key fob for the car is not working, so I cannot open the car with it and I have to hold it next to the starting button to start the car. I open it and move the battery and it works. This turns out to be a temporary fix as in Birdsville I have to buy a new battery for it as it stopped totally.
|Looking north, an old Sydney bus next to the hotel, Hungerford||A drone shot looking west along the dog proof fence, Hungerford|
There are lots of flies so I put up my fly screen cabana and sit in there reading most of the afternoon (apart from a walk around town to fly the drone). We have showers and John takes the opportunity to do some washing for us both. Late in the afternoon more cars come in and by 7:00 pm there are 12 other vehicles and vans here. Of these, about seven are in one group of Cub campers. We have dinner around 6:00 pm (chicken curry and rice I made on Sunday).
At 7:30 pm we walk to the pub (having put Veto to bed). There are over 30 people here, including all but two of the people from the camping area. It is a bit crowded in the small hotel, and the TV is not in the best spot, but we have a really great evening. In a tremendously exciting game, NSW wins, thus winning the series for the second year in a row. This is the first time since 2003 we have won two series in a row!
|A drone shot of the camping area looking south towards the dog proof fence, Hungerford|
One local has lost a bet on the match with the publican (who was wearing a NSW Blues jumper etc) and now has to shave his beard off. He is with his wife and kids and he works on a property we have to pass tomorrow and we will probably see him as he will be working on a cattle grid on the road. The beers here were Coopers Pale Ale at $7 each, quite reasonable considering where we are. We are back at the cars at 10:30 pm.
Weather: Sunny, max 20ÂșC
Arrived: Hungerford Time: 1:00 pm Distance: 218 kilometres
Day 3 â Thursday 11 July 2019 â Hungerford to Noccundra
Weather: Sunny, 9.0ÂșC minimum
Well, what an annoying couple of Cub campers we have next to us. At 4:30 am one of the occupants of one van (a woman) starts talking to her partner. She continues doing this till 5:30 am when she goes to the showers to wash. About this time the other van occupants start talking. No, they cannot whisper, they talk as if it is during the day, very loud. To make things worse, the first woman has a very annoying voice. No consideration at all. I suspect that the other Cup campers might get very annoyed in coming nights if they behave the same as today.
As we do not have to go far today, we take our time getting up. We are packed up by 8:45 am and we then drive to the hotel so John can take some photos of the pub and the âartworkâ there. We are on our way at 9:00 am.
From the night before we know that the bloke that lost the bet and has to shave his beard off will be working on the road cleaning out a cattle grid. Sure enough, at 9:35 am we come across him and his worker. We stop and chat, he still has his beard but says it will be gone by next Saturday as the publican has a birthday party which he is attending. We continue on.
|Looking west along the dog proof fence and road||A drone shot looking down at where I fixed the snorkel|
Soon after I notice that the snorkel on my car is vibrating. I stop and have a look. The three screws that hold it to the driverâs side pillar have almost totally come out. John pulls up soon after and with his help, I attempt to put them back in. the bottom two present no problem, but the top one has enlarge the hole and is free wheeling. Well, that will have to do. While here I take some footage from the drone of the road and the dog fence which is only a few dozen metres away.
We are back on the road by 9:45 am but at 10:05 am we stop for morning tea. Here I discover that the water pump for my hot water shower is running. It looks like a stone has hit the switch and turned it on. I open the car bonnet and disconnect the earth from the pump. I leave it this way for the rest of the trip, only connecting it when I need to use the pump. We leave at 10:15 am and at 11:40 am arrive in Thargomindah. The road has been pretty good, enabling us to sit on 80 to 90 km/h most of the way. I have averaged about 12.9 l/100 km for the last bit. We have covered 169 km this morning, all on gravel.
We go to the fuel station and refuel. I take 58.2 litres at $1.695, meaning an average of 14.3 litres per 100 kilometres since leaving Bourke. After this I go to a mechanics across from the fuel station and buy a new UHF radio aerial. This cost $125, quite reasonable. I attach the upper part of the aerial to the old one (I will fit the bottom half once I get home as it is a little different). I also gaffer tape the aerial so it cannot come loose. Next stop is the Foodworks which has a pretty good selection of food items. I buy a Vegemite as I forgot mine.
We leave town at 12:08 pm and head out on the Bulloo Developmental Road (also called Bundeena Road) and at 12:37 we stop near a windmill exactly 40 km out of town. The road is a good tar one and it will remain that all the way today and most of tomorrow. It is now a nice 22â°C and there are lots of flies around. We depart at 1:05 pm and I soon realise that my UHF is still not working great.
At 2:20 pm we arrive at Noccundra which is about 19 kilometres down the Warrie Gate Road. We drive down to the waterhole on the Wilson River. We end up picking a spot at the eastern end and set up camp. We have driven 106 km since lunch at 90 km/h. I put up the cabana so we can get away from the flies.
|Looking west along Noccundra Waterhole with the hotel top right||A drone shot looking east at sunset|
Later I look at why the UHF is not working good. I discover that the aerial cable is quite loose at the back of the radio module, once that is fixed, it all works great. I take the handheld and take Veto for a walk. I go up to the pub and then a long way to the west. John can still hear me and I can hear him (he is using my radio).
After this I read for a while and then start a fire. At 5:20 pm we have drinks and nibblies and after this I cook a nice steak which I have with a packet pasta. After this I put Veto to bed in the rooftop tent and we walk up to the pub. There are free showers in the public toilet block next to the pub. This is new and was not here back in 2010 when I last visited. We have showers and then go to the pub for a drink.
There are quite a few people in the pub, some having dinner and others just a drink (there is accommodation at the back of the pub). I have a Coopers Pale Ale for $7.50 and John a ginger beer. The Pain in the Ass from Hungerford is here, something I noticed earlier when I walked past with Veto. He is a loud mouth know it all and now has been drinking here for at least four hours. We avoid him as it was enough last night putting up with him at the camping area (we also avoided him at the pub).
Later a couple of women (Cheryl and Deb) come in from dinner. They are travelling to the BRB in an MDC van. We will run into them a number of times over the coming week and a half. I have a couple more beers and we head back to the camp and are in bed by 9:30 pm. It is still quite warm, about 15â°C.
Weather: Sunny, max 22ÂșC
Arrived: Noccundra WaterholeTime: 2:20 pm Distance: 314.5 kilometres
Day 4 â Friday 12 July 2019 â Noccundra to Innamincka (note all times NSW time)
Weather: Fine 8.6ÂșC minimum
I am awake at 7:00 am and listen to the radio news. It is still quite dark as the sun does not come up till 7:30 am which is when I get up. I send the drone up and take some sunrise photographs of the waterhole area. We have breakfast and pack up. John takes a bit longer than me to pack up as he has more stuff to put away whereas my rooftop tent only takes a few minutes to pull down and secure. We leave camp at 8:55 am and stop at the toilets and then travel to the cemetery which we noticed on the way in. This was a waste of time as there is only one headstone and only one other marked grave.
We head off at 9:15 am. It has warmed up to 12â°C now. We turn left onto the Bulloo Developmental Road and turn left onto the Innamincka Road just over seven kilometres later. The road is tar nearly all the way to the South Australian border, by my count there was only five kilometres of gravel but the council web site says there are 12 kilometres still to be tarred. Either way, a big change from 2010 when it was only tarred to the last of the oil refineries.
We sit on 90 km/h and at 10:37 am we stop at Cooper Creek for morning tea. We have travelled 117 kilometres in 80 minutes. There are a lot of kites and swallows flying around and the river (and despite the name it is a river) has water flowing in it, quite rare. I take some drone photos as well. I stopped here for lunch nine years ago, it is a bit different now with a tar road.
|A drone shot of Coopers Creek||A panoramic photograph along the Innamincka Developmental Road|
We leave at 11:05 am and continue on our way. About 40 kilometres on we come to the gravel section and then five kilometres past the end of the gravel there is a whole new section of road that is many kilometres south of the old road. At 11:45 am we stop for a few minutes to take some photos and shortly after we come to the turn off to the Dig Tree. John has not been to see it before (I have been there twice), so we and dozens of other cars head out on the very dusty gravel road to the waterhole on the Cooper Creek.
The Dig Tree is famous for being the site where the ill-fated Burke and Wills Expedition stayed over the summer of 1860-1 while the main party headed north of the Gulf of Carpentaria. When they did not return by their specified date (13 weeks maximum they were told to wait), the depot party led by Brahe stayed another five weeks. They left on the morning of 21 April 1861 and the main party arrived the same afternoon, exhausted.
When Brahe left, he buried some supplies and a note and on a tree marked a distance and directions to dig (hence the name Dig Tree). Burke and Wills dug up the supplies and discovered that Brahe had left only hours before, but they were in no condition to follow. Burke and Wills eventually died further down the Cooper and only King survived, tended to by local Aborigines. This is a very historic place, now on private property.
As mentioned, there are dozens of cars here and a big bus. We arrive there at 12:30 pm and have lunch. John has a look around and I also take some photos, even though I camped here last time I visited (it is a great spot). Most of the 30 plus cars leave before we do and it becomes a bit quieter. We depart at 1:15 pm and head back to the Innamincka Road. It is tar all the way to the border but once in South Australia the road deteriorates badly. As I cross the border the clock on my car changes automatically to South Australian time (30 minutes later). I never noticed it do that before, even when crossing into Queensland over summer.
Apparently the South Australian and Queensland Governments agreed to tar the road from Adelaide to Brisbane, but the South Australians have not kept up their side of the bargain. The road is very rough and at 2:10 pm we arrive at Innamincka, 71 kilometres from the Dig Tree. We join the queue for fuel at the roadhouse which is perhaps five cars long on each line. It does not take too long to refuel as most cars only need to top up. I take 62 litres at $1.90 a litre, averaging 14.1 litres per 100 kilometres for the 439 kilometres since Thargomindah.
After this we park the cars and have a beer at the Innamincka Hotel, Coopers Pale Ale schooner (15 ounces) for a very expensive $10. We sit outside and notice that there is Optus phone coverage but no Telstra. We also see that there are some blokes up the communications tower and later Telstra is available too. At 3:15 pm we arrive at the Innamincka Town Common and pick a campsite. It is very crowded here and at the other campsites along the Cooper Creek, with at least one hundred cars around.
|Using the firepit at Innamincka||A drone shot of the Town Common at innamincka, Coopers Creek at left|
We set up camp and then read for the rest of the afternoon. I later erect my new firepit and we have a small fire in it. I take some drone photographs of the sunset as well. We have drinks and nibblies. I have chicken breast with a spicy seasoning and the remains of last nightâs pasta. I go to bed at 10:40 pm and read till 11:30 pm.
Weather: Sunny, maximum of 19ÂșC
Arrived: Town Common, Innamincka Time: 2:40 pm Distance: 89 kilometres
Day 5â Saturday 13 July 2019 â Innamincka to Haddons Corner (note all times NSW time)
Weather: Sunny, minumum 8.3ÂșC
I get up at 7:40 after the SA 7:00 am ABC radio news. It is cool as there is a bit of southerly wind. We have breakfast and then I notice that my rear right tyre is down. I get the compressor out and pump it back up. A later check shows that it seems to be still okay, so the leak is very minor. After taking more drone photographs, we pack up and leave at 9:15 am. John wants something from the store at the roadhouse, so while he is in there, I fill up my small water container from the tap outside the showers and toilets.
We leave at 9:30 am and take the Cordello Downs Road and cross the Cooper Creek via the causeway. Just out of town next to the airport we turn right onto the Loop Road (also called Flood Bypass Road). This is a very scenic road which passes through some small hills and mesas. We stop for a few minutes at 9:55 am to take some photos (see below) but it was too windy to send the drone up. The road soon after crosses into Queensland and we run south along the border fence for 2.5 kilometres before turning to the east.
|The spectacular scenery on the Loop Road|
At 10:32 am we stop at Peteâs Peril Creek (real name Mulgerra Creek) where our late friend Peter Trayhurn rolled his Land Cruiser Troopcarrier back in 2010 (he and his kids were okay and the car was only slightly dented â he continued on the trip, albeit with a side detour to have it checked out). I take a few photos of the spot. We have morning tea while here and leave at 10:55 am.
|Petes's Peril Creek in 2019||The Land Cruiser on its side, look how much water there was in 2010!|
Seven minutes later we arrive at the Arrabury Road. Here we are only a few kilometres from where it joins the Innamincka Road and where yesterday we turned for the Dig Tree. We turn left and head north. The road is pretty good but a bit further along it gets worse, with lots of rocks.
Soon we climb up a bit onto a plateau where the road is much better, being sandier. However, John radios me at 11:25 am that he has a flat tyre. I turn around and go back a short distance. Well, flat tyre is not an accurate description, it is totally destroyed. We set about changing it. While we are doing this, five cars pass us, all slowing to check we are okay. We are back on the road by 12:08 pm. While stopped, I also added some air to my tyre as it had dropped a bit.
|The Queensland/South Australian border, Queensland on left||John's ruined tyre|
I have pressure montors on my tyres, so I know the pressures as I drive. While I was driving, the tyre has not dropped at all. Whatever has holed it seems to only let air out when I am stopped. At 12:53 pm we stop on the border of Bulloo and Barcoo Shires in a creek bed and have lunch. Between where John had the flat and here I have counted at least 10 dead tyres on the side of the road. We also saw a few small flocks of budgies.
I make a spaghetti bolognaise jaffle which I eat while trying to avoid eating the many flies that are around. We leave at 1:25 pm. At 2:23 pm we stop in a creek and cut some timber and we leave seven minutes later. Out here the only place to find good timber is in the creeks.
At 2:45 pm we turn off to Haddons Corner. This is a good road and we arrive at the corner at 3:00 pm. Haddons Corner is the top right (north-east) corner of South Australia. We go to the corner post and take some photos.
We then walk to look for a camping spot as the wind is quite strong and we want to get out of it. There is an undercover table near the corner but it is very exposed. We check out a few spots but in the end decide to camp on the eastern side of the last dune before the corner where it is a bit protected.
|The Haddons Corner post||John at Haddons Corner, he is in South Australia and I am in Queensland!|
It is a nice spot, with some flat sand to camp on and we start setting up at 3:45 pm. After we have set up, I pull out the hot shower and heat water for us both. It is nice to have a shower after a couple of days on the road. We collect a fair bit of timber for a fire, there is a lot around although it is small stuff. I then start the fire (it burns quite well) and we have drinks and nibblies.
After we arrived, four other cars came in. Three left but the other one appears to have camped near the corner. The wind drops as sunset comes and then disappears totally once it is dark. I cook chicken curry with steamed rice for dinner. We go to bed about 9:30 pm.
|Our camp site at Haddons Corner which is over the dune|
Weather: Sunny, maximum of 20ÂșC
Arrived: Haddons Corner Time: 3:00 pm Distance: 256 kilometres
Day 6 â Sunday 14 July 2019 â Haddons Corner to Betoota
Weather: Sunny and minimum of 3.4ÂșC
It was quite cold during the night and even at 7:40 am when I get after the SA ABC news up it is very cool. The wind comes back up at 8:00 am. Before that I try to take some drone photos, only getting a couple before the phone battery dies. I have breakfast and notice that the tyre has gone down again. It is only 14 psi, so I pump it back up. We pack up after another leisurely morning and leave at 9:25 am.
|Looking towards Haddons Corner|
It is 52 kilometres to the Birdsville Developmental Road and we turn left towards Birdsville. We can see dust from dozens of cars ahead and behind us. I count at least 11 visible in front of me! This section of road is not as good as the road from Haddons Corner except for some small sections of tar, including one emergency aircraft runway. At 10:37 am we arrive at Deons Lookout which is a few hundred metres off the road. This is right at a spot where you drop from a plateau at 186 metres to about 110 metres. There are great views to the north and west.
It is very windy and cool, with lots of dust everywhere. I would have loved to send the drone up but it is far too windy. I have a cup of tea while here. A women tells me my tyre is leaking, she can hear it. No way I can hear it leaking, even though I know it is! We leave at 10:50 am and quickly get on the road as there are dozens of cars coming from the east.
|The view from Deons Lookout looking north|
Soon we come to a tar section where we can do 100 km/h and 15 kilometres from the lookout we reach the turn off to Betoota. This is the old road and it is about seven kilometres to Betoota. We go and have a quick look at the Betoota Hotel which only reopened last week. We head down to the Betoota Waterhole and find a spot at the eastern end. It is 11:20 am as we set up camp near some trees which protect us from the worst of the wind.
|John with Veto out front of the Betoota Hotel||An old truck at Betoota Hotel|
We have lunch and I get up in the rooftop tent to escape the flies while reading. Later I cut some some more timber for firewood as there is a lot of stuff in the dry river bed near us (there is water towards the western end). At 3:00 pm we walk to the pub and I have a Tooheys Extra Dry (now called TED!) for the ridiculously low price of $5. John has to have a water as the publican has sold out of soft drinks. Apparently there were over 100 caravans camped out in front of the hotel each of the last three nights, so he has been busy.
|Our campsite at Betoota||Camp oven is on with the roast for dinner|
The hotel has had a lot of work done on it, but it is still not finished. Well done! More cars come in during the afternoon and by 5:00 pm there are at least 12. At 4:00 pm I start a fire as we are having a roast dinner (it is my birthday). I have a Woolworths marinated beef which I put on at 5:00 pm and about 20 minutes later put on potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes.
|A drone shot of the waterhole and campsite, hotel top right||Drone shot of the Betoota Hotel|
After drinks around the fire, I take the camp oven off the coals at 6:25 pm. It is cooked and the meat is so tender. After dinner we sit around the fire as it is really quite nice here. During the afternoon John and I have talked to some people camped near us. One couple is Josh and Kate also in a VW Amarok. I have a few beers and we chat till 9:30 pm when we go to bed.
Weather: Sunny but windy, maximum of 23ÂșC
Arrived: Betoota Waterhole, Betoota Time: 11:30 am Distance: 113 kilometres
Day 7 â Monday 15 July 2019 â Betoota to Big Red Bash
Weather: Sunny and a minimum of 3.8ÂșC
I am up at 7:10 am as we want to leave early so we get to Birdsville as early as possible to avoid the fuel queues. We have breakfast and are packed up by 8:15 am. After a short stop at the public toilets near the pub, we leave at 8:25 am.
|Inside the Betoota Hotel||Inside the Betoota Hotel|
We arrive at Birdsville at 10:35 am, 167 kilometres along. There have been lots of cars, some going quite slow, but a few tarred overtaking sections meant we could get past them. We mostly sit on 85 km/h. As we near town, I have phone coverage so I phone my brother Stephen. He tells me that the smaller fuel station opposite the pub ran out of diesel this morning and the fuel queue to the roadhouse is not too bad, so I decide to get straight on it. As it turns out, the end is right next to where Stephen and Gail are camped.
Stephen comes over and we chat. The queue ends up being exactly one kilometre long and after 45 minutes I have refueled. I was lucky and because my fuel filler is on the right hand side, I was told to jump about 20 cars which all had left hand fills! Gailâs sister Cathy and her husband Phil ended up being five cars ahead of me before I leapfrogged them. I take 75.3 litres at $1.75 which for the 545 kilometres since Innamincka gives an average of 13.8 litres per 100 kilometres.
I then drive to the roadhouseâs repair area and back the Cruiser into a bay. My leaking tyre is taken off and repaired, cost is $45 and it is fixed by 11:50 am. John and I drive up to near the pub and park. I go and get the tickets to the BRB from the visitorâs centre, very quick transaction. We then walk to the Birdsville Hotel where we plan to have lunch. However, I am told to leave the beer garden as the bloke reckons it is a ârestaurantâ so dogs are not permitted. First pub I have not been permitted to take Veto into on this trip.
Instead, we go to the area near the visitor centre where there are some food trucks and I have some hot chips, very nice they were. Before this I walked back to the roadhouse as my car key fob stopped working totally. I get two large button batteries for $9, not too bad a price.
|Sahara up in the air getting tyre repaired||The screw that got in my tyre!!|
At 12:35 pm I leave John who is going to stay at Birdsville till we return from the concert in four days time. He has already ascertained that they have a replacement Coopers tyre in his size for $300, cheaper than he paid for them in Sydney. He will get this replaced in a couple of days once the crowd has dissipated. I stop at the cattle yards as I leave town as I have forgotten to fill up my water containers. There are a couple of drinking water taps here so I fill up my containers (I had already topped up my main tank from these).
I arrive in the dog camping area at 1:35 pm and find that Josh and Kate who were camped next to us last night are in the adjacent spot! I set up camp and am finished by 2:20 pm. I go for a short walk to see the toilets etc. When I return I am met by Bernie and Jan Mulheron. Wow, they found me already! Bernie was a year above me at school and I have not seen him for close to 40 years I reckon. They knew I was going to be in the dog section and they saw the Rabbitohs flag I put up.
|My campsite at the Big Red Bash||Me and Veto with Bernie|
We talk for ages about what we have been doing and what other blokes we went to school with are up to. Fantastic to see Bernie and also meet Jan. After this my brother Stephen calls me on the UHF (I am carrying around my small portable) and tells me where they are. He also walks down to find me. I have a cuppa and relax a bit before tonightâs event. It is very dusty, the ground is a very fine talcum powder and the wind is blowing it around as people and vehicles go past.
A bit after 5:00 pm Veto and I walk down to the concert area. I have put her booties on to protect her paws from the prickles that are said to be around, but twice I have to put them on again as I did not make them tight enough. It is a 10 minute walk. I take a couple of beers and some nibblies as well as my chair. Tonightâs entertainment is Midnight Oil 1984, a recent documentary about when Peter Garrett ran for the Senate as a member of the Nuclear Disarmament Party. It is really good.
|Veto and I set up at the concert site||Peter Garrett on the movie screen|
This finishes about 7:00 pm and after we walk back to the car, I heat up chicken curry and rice I made two nights ago. After putting Veto to bed, I walk to Stephenâs camping spot which is basically on the same road I am on but one row back. It takes me 15 minutes and some looking to find them. We sit around their fire and have two more beers. I am back by 10:00 pm and read in bed for a bit before going to sleep.
Weather: Sunny and windy, maximum of 17ÂșC
Arrived: Big Red Bash Time: 1:25 pm Distance: 206 kilometres
Day 8 â Tuesday 16 July 2019 â Big Red Bash
Weather: Sunny, minimum 5.3ÂșC
I wake at 6:00 am and read till I get up, listening to ABC news at 7:00 am and 7:45 am. It cook myself a bacon sandwich, something I hardly ever do for breakfast. At 9:10 am Veto and I walk to the top of Big Red where you can get phone coverage if you are with Telstra. I make a couple of phone calls and post some photographs on Facebook.
The wind comes up at 9:00 am, not too strong at first but picking up later in the day. Once again it is cool and from the south. I am back at the car by 10:10 am and have morning tea with Stephen who has dropped over. I read till 11:50 am when Veto and I walk to the concert area to watch the Nutbush City Limits dance record attempt. Stephen, Gail, Phil and Cathy are in it. The record was set last year here and this year they break it for a new world record of 2,330 participants.
|Veto and I at the concert site||Gail, Stephen and I at the concert|
I purchase a curry camel pie from the Smiths pie truck, a full size semi-trailer which is set up as a bakery. It was nice, but the pie is only 50% full of meat. Okay I suppose, but should have had more meat for $7.50. We walk back to the car, a trip that takes ages because all the kids want to play with Veto. I read for a while and then prepare for the concert, getting tea, Coke and orange and some biscuits for me and Veto.
Veto and I walk back at 2:15 pm with my chair and a small cooler with the food and drinks. Stephen and the others find me and sit in the dog area with us. The concert starts late at 3:15 pm. John Swan (from Swanee and Jimmy Barnesâ brother) is first up. He was not on the artist list but is replacing Wendy Matthews who is quite sick. He was only average, his voice nothing like it used to be. Second up was Dale Ryder (Boom Crash Opera), pretty good, then Mark Williams (Dragon), very good followed by Steve Balbi (Noiseworks) who was also great. The compere is Mark Gable from Choirboys who sings an occasional song over the next few days. He is excellent.
|The concert area ||The fire pit at Stephens|
There were small breaks between some acts, they mostly played for 30 minutes, with two acts playing and then a break of 20 minutes or so. In the breaks, the Crackup Sisters performed. I found them okay in small doses, but after four days they get a bit annoying and unfunny in my view. Richard Clapton was the main act tonight and he played from 6:30 pm for an hour. Very good, still sounds like he always did. After this most of todayâs acts each did a song from the Easybeats. This included Sorry, Friday on My Mind, Itâs Easy and Sheâs So Fine. Also performed was Evie (Parts 1, 2 and 3). Brilliant, one of the highlights of the Bash! This finished at 8:00 pm.
After this I walk back to the car and feed Veto and put her to bed in the tent. I then walk to Stephens where Gail serves up spaghetti bolognaise. We have a couple of beers around the fire and I return to my car at 11:00 pm. Here I speak to Josh and Kate from next door (Kate is Russian) and I go to bed at 11:45 pm.
|A panoramic photograph from the top of Big Red|
Weather: Sunny, maximum of 20ÂșC
Still at: Big Red Bash
Day 9 â Wednesday 17 July 2019 â Big Red Bash
Weather: Sunny, minimum 5.6ÂșC (for some reason, inside the tent is 1.5â°C colder most nights)
Once again I am awake early, but the sun does not come up till almost 7:30 am, so I do not bother getting up till 8:00 am. About 7:25 am a bagpiper plays each morning, heralding the sunrise. He is apparently on the top of Big Red. Then, the helicopter starts its engine and right on sunrise, lifts off for a few circuits with punters on board for the sunrise. The helicopter flies right through the day, even when the concert is on. However, it cannot even be heard when the groups are playing.
After getting up I have breakfast and then at 9:45 am I again walk with Veto to the top of the dune. I try to upload some photos to Facebook but there are too many people here and it continually fails. We are back at the car at 11:10 am. I read and then make lunch and get things together for todayâs concert. I take similar things to yesterday with the addition of one beer. As I have no ice, I put the cans in beer coolers and then inside the cooler. They keep cold enough for when I have them.
We walk to the concert at 12:45 pm and at 1:00 pm the concert starts. We sit a row back from where we sat yesterday as we discovered that being in the first row meant we got a lot of dust over us from all the people walking along the passageway to and from the toilets. Much better today.
|Ready for the second day of the concert||XXXX delivery truck! Not really, truck collecting grey water and urine!|
Today starts with The Chantoozies (Ally and Tottie are hot at the age of 57 and 56!) who are very good. Mark Gable then performs followed by Eurogliders. Both are great. Then comes Bjorn Again, the Abba tribute band that has been around for years. They are excellent and really get the crowd involved. They play for 60 minutes.
Next up is Chocolate Starfish, the surprise of the BRB. The lead singer, Adam Thompson, is brilliant, so alive and he really gets everyone going. They do a set of covers, with the first one being Bat Out of Hell, perhaps as good as Meatloaf at his prime (I saw him twice at his peak). They also do Carly Simonâs Youâre So Vain as part of their set. Next up is 1927 who are okay and then an INXS tribute which is great, performed by the Chantoozies, Adam Thompson and Steve Balbi etc.
During the afternoon the plane bringing Midnight Oil to Birdsville does two circuits of the concert area so that they can see it from the air. Everyone waves a lot!
At 6:15 pm there is a break so I take Veto back to the car, feed her and put her to bed. I also grab two more beers. On the way back I detour via the food vans and order a pizza ($20). The waiting time is 60 minutes. The main act tonight is The Living End. They play from just after 6:30 pm. I get my pizza at 7:45 pm (exactly 60 minutes as predicted). After I finish it, I leave at 8:10 pm as I am not really into The Living End. They are very good, but I do not know any of their music. Back at the car I can still hear them very clearly, so I do not really miss anything.
They play till well after 8:40 pm. I start a fire in next doorâs firepit and Josh and Kate finally arrive at 9:30 pm as they have had problems pulling their trolley in the sand as it is loaded with a car fridge and a 115 ah battery! Their dog, Cookie, is not well and they had to take him to the vet today. Later the vet and her partner came over for drinks. I go to bed at 12:15 am.
Today had great weather, the wind did not blow at all. I was in shorts from 11 am till after 6 pm when I took Veto back to the car.
Weather: Sunny, maximum of 25.6ÂșC
Still at: Big Red Bash
Day 10 â Thursday 18 July 2019 â Big Red Bash
Weather: minimum of 4.1ÂșC and fine
As usual I get up at 8:00 am after the news. There is no wind at all, a bit different to the first two days here and the few days before that. I have a bacon sandwich for breakfast and then pack up the shower tent. It looks like it is going to be very warm today, so I change into shorts at 9:00 am.
Veto and I walk to the top of Big Red for phone coverage. I upload some more photos to Facebook and check my email etc. I send an SMS to John in Birdsville in reply to one of his. We are back at the car at 10:10 am, Veto really enjoys the real sand of the dune compared to the dirt and dust of the camping area. There are a lot more flies today due to the lack of wind and increased temperature, but they are not bad enough to make me put on my fly net.
|Another panoramic photograph from Big Red |
I fill the main water tank with water from my 20 litre container, it takes it all. I then repack my unused timber into its bin and put some more things away so I have less to do tomorrow. I put Veto to bed for a nap and I then walk to the plaza area. Even though it is an hour before the gates open and two hours before the concert starts, there are hundreds already queued up. No idea why, there is not really that much difference in where you sit.
I have a look around the various companies exhibiting, including MDC caravans. I really like the 15HR, my pick if I was to get a van. I was going to get some sweet food, but the queues were too long. I then bought a couple of BRB beer coolers ($25 for 2), a great LED headlamp to replace mine which is hardly putting out any light ($35 with two rechargeable 18650 batteries, charger etc) and a windscreen crack repair kit ($25).
I am back at the car by noon. I make some lunch and pack food and drinks for this afternoonâs concert. At 12:55 pm I walk to the concert. As well as the usual things like camera, Vetoâs jacket and water, bug spray and sunscreen, today I take my flannelette shirts and jumper for when it gets cool after the sun drops behind the dune.
The concert starts 10 minutes early at 1:05 pm. Stephen and the others again join me in the dog section. We are a back another row today as a lot more people came in early today. However, it makes no difference to our view at all.
The first act is Neil Murray who is pretty good, then duo Busby Marou who are excellent (and later join Midnight Oil for a song, Treaty). Next up is Steve Kilbey who is really crap, looks like he really did not want to be there.
|Veto on Big Red||In the mosh pit as Midnight Oil plays|
Casey Chambers is on about 4:30 pm for a one hour set. She is excellent, very funny and tells a lot of stories. There is a break at 5:30 pm so I take Veto back to the car, feed her and put her to bed. I get a couple more beers and head back.
Midnight Oil take the stage at 6:00 pm. They have just flown in from Germany where they performed less than 48 hours ago in Dusseldorf. After the first two songs I move to the mosh pit and spend the rest of the concert there (apart from going back for a beer at one stage). Peter Garrett is electrifying as normal, crazy dancing and all.
They play virtually all of their major songs (but not King of the Mountain). After an encore or two, they finish at 8:20 pm, 140 minutes of magnificence. I am glad that I have come and finally seen them play in the flesh, well worth the trip just for this one performance.
After the concert I order a brisket roll ($15) and walk back to the car. I get a couple more beers (I did not drink one of the ones I took to the concert so I swap for a colder one) and then walk to Stephenâs campsite. We again sit around the fire and have a very nice time.
I head back to the car, arriving at 11:10 pm and after doing a few things, I go to bed at 11:25 pm.
Weather: Fine, maximum of 26.5ÂșC
Still at: Big Red Bash
Day 12 â Friday 19 July 2019 â Big Red Bash to Birdsville
Weather: Minimum of 3.7ÂșC and fine
Last night was really quite warm till about 4:00 am when it got a lot colder. At 5:15 am the caravan next door starts to get ready to leave. He runs his engine for at least 15 minutes before leaving at 6:05 am. Very inconsiderate, but then he did put up a tape barrier around his spot! Lots of other vehicles leave before 7:00 am, even though everything says you cannot leave till then.
I get up at 8:00 am after listening to the news where I heard that last night at 10:30 pm some bloke was found unconscious here after consuming home made liquor. He was flown to Charleville apparently.
|A drone shot of the concert area which is far right, note the stage etc is already gone||Looking back from west of Big Red towards where I was camped, check out all the dust from the cars already leaving|
At 9:00 am Veto and I walk to the top of Big Red and I take some photos using my drone. You are not allowed to fly them during the concert due to the helicopter doing circuits as well as the other drones flying around filming the concert for the big screens (one either side of the stage). I get some nice shots.
I notice that the stage is totally gone as are the big screens and the two semi-trailers that were parked to their right. Wow, never heard a thing during the night. I come back and pack up the rest of my things and at 9:40 am I leave my campsite.
It takes till 10:35 to get out of the camping area. It should have been quicker but the road marshals are letting equal numbers go from each street. This is unfair for the back two rows as there are three times the number of people camped in these as the front ones due to the way things are set out. Tip, drive to a front street to exit or, even sneaker, head to the back one and take the secret route out!
|Drone shot of the top of Big Red||The Diamantina River next to where we camped|
The traffic flow once we are on the âmainâ road moves at a constant 80 km/h. At 11:05 am I stop where I filled up my water on the way in hoping to have a shower at the advertised showers. Bugger, they are locked! I then go to the town dump and get rid of all my rubbish. Most people are also doing this, but there is no traffic jam.
I have received another SMS from John telling me where he is and at 11:20 am I find him no problem at all. He has got some spots on the Diamantina River, about 150 metres off the road. He has picked a nice spot. I look over the spots he has chosen. I SMS Stephen telling him where we are and that there is a good spot for his van.
At 2:00 pm Phil arrives, has a look and calls Stephen. They decide it is too far from town as they want to go to the Birdsville Hotel tonight for dinner. I then move my car to the spot I want and set it up. John retrieves his car from where he had put it to reserve more spots. At 2:40 pm we walk with Veto to town. It is a nice walk, about 40 minutes.
We buy an ice cream from the roadhouse, Streets Gaytime, and only $4 (I saw them for $5 in Sydney after I got home). We walk back via Stephen's and tell them we will go to the pub too, but not for dinner. We are back at the campsite at 4:15 pm. We have drinks and nibblies after about 5:30 pm and then cook dinner. I have pork fillets and seasoning with more canned potatoes.
|Inside the Birdsville Hotel|
We then drive to the pub in Johnâs car. We cannot find Stephen and the others eating, so we go to the bar. We speak to a few people and the others come in a little later on. I have three TEDs at $9 (!!) each. I also try to find the St George Scuba Club sticker I put on the barâs fridge door back in 2010, but it is not there. We get back to the campsite at 11:00 pm.
Weather: Fine, maximum of 25ÂșC
Arrived: Diamantina River, Town Common, Birdsville Time: 11:20 am Distance: 42 kilometres
Click here for the next part of this trip