The Birdsville Races 2017

In early 2017 Jenny and I decided that a trip to the Birdsville Races to be held in early September would be in order. We planned to get there via Tocumwal, central and west outback NSW including Ivanhoe, White Cliffs, Milparinka, Tibooburra and Camerons Corner. From there we went across to Merty Merty and up the Old Strzelecki Track to Innaminka.

It must be said that the Ivanhoe pub is a trap. We went across the road from the caravan park to the pub for a quick drink and a meal. The pre-dinner drinks were pretty quick which was what we had in mind. Jenny had the lamb shanks and what a meal that was – nearly as good as the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club. My vegetarian meal was huge and very, very good too. The after dinner drinks turned into a pretty boozy and late night. What a great place!

Anyway here’s a photo of the map as Google Maps will only give the wrong route. I suspect it’s because it doesn’t think that the Old Strzelecki Track is a viabl option. It’s only the map of the last bit from Cameron Corner to Birdsville.

Follow the black line

The trip to Birdsville was pretty uneventful and the country we drove through was spectacular – it was a privilege to be able to drive through there. Here’s a few photos that I took with my phone on the way up.

Hmm an impending RFDS runway
The actual runway
The fence at Cameron Corner
The Cameron Corner corner post
A bit of gibber plain road.

This bit of road is the Walkers Crossing track. It’s pretty rough and the view above is the same in all directions. Flat, featureless and awe inspiring.

Sculpture at the south end of the Strzelecki Track

When I got out of the car to take this photo I noticed that our water tank was leaking. One of the seams had split, probably due to “oil can effect” while we were bouncing across the road from Tibooburra. All we could do was to stand by and watch nearly 100 litres of water soak into the red dirt. We had nothing to catch it in either.

When we got to Innaminka we managed to get some safe water containers and about 50 litres of water. Pricey but necessary.

Once we got to Birdsville and got set up we, of course, made the obligatory trip to the pub. We wanted a drink as well as a few bottles of plonk to take back to our camp. We got a couple of bottles of Outback Loop 2014 Shiraz and it was damn good so the next day we got ourselves a dozen more.

This is a very nice drop.

We camped by the Diamantina River which is a very pleasant area. Good thing that we had our own dunny and water supply as we were about half a kilometre from the toilets and tap.

We went into town we had a good look around and managed to get a couple of showers over the five days that we were there.The showers were $5 but the money went to a local youth charity. They were run by volunteers and were kept spotlessly clean.

The Birdsville Pub

The pub was pretty busy. As well as the people on the footpath and road it was jam packed inside. Next day it was off to the races.

The queue outside the racecourse

After a day at the races it was time to head back to our camp. There was nothing random about the breath testing – they were stopping everyone and as you can see the queue was quite substantial.

After a very pleasant few days at Birdsville it was time to pack up, do some shopping for food and head in the general direction of home. Straight down the Birdsville Track to Marree, Leigh Creek, down through the Flinders Ranges and through the Victorian Mallee district and along the highway to home.

It sounds pretty uneventful but it wasn’t. About half way between Birdsville and Mungeranie we had our first puncture. We stopped for a pee and I could hear a gentle pssss coming from the rear of the car. Sure enough the passenger side rear was on its way down. Oh well, change tyres and on we went. A little bit further on there was this strange noise which, it turns out, was caused by this :-

One destroyed tyre and rim.

This one was the camper. Changing the camper tyres is more of a pain than the car but in time it was done. Now that we had no more spares for the car we felt a little vulnerable but headed off regardless.

When we got to Mungeranie we decided that before anything else a quick drink in the pub was in order. We had exactly one drink, paid for a couple of nights camping and went outside to find that we had another puncture. A near thing, it could’ve left us stranded if it had happened any earlier. On the flat tyre we very gingerly drove over to our spot and put the camper up. We decided to leave fixing the tyres until the next morning and to have dinner in the pub. Considering where it is, in the middle of nowhere, the meals were damn good. After dinner we sat around and had a couple more drinks before retiring to bed for the night.

Next morning it was tyre repair time. One of the tyres was OK to be plugged but the other needed patching so I took it over to the workshop. While Phil was having a look at it I asked if there was any work around. He told me that if I had a helicopter and a licence to drive it there’s a heap of mustering and bore running work. Pity we had neither.

While Phil was patching the tyre I was plugging the other one and we got to talking about speed and tyre pressures. Phil was of the opinion that tyres hard or soft and speed fast or slow didn’t make any difference. If there’s a rock with you name on it then there’s a rock with your name on it and you’ll get a puncture.

We also talked about the people in their 4×4 utes with big tyres tearing along at a huge rate of knots spraying stones into other peoples windscreens. Phil reckoned that we’d see at least a couple getting wheel bearings replaced at Marree. The trip down the bottom half of the Birdsville track to Marree was uneventful.

When we got to Marree we camped at the Drovers Run Caravan Park. This is a great park and Jo and Brenton put a damper or two on every night with butter and golden syrup. Needless to say we got into some of that and had a few glasses of red to wash it down. When we got back over to the camper we decided that neither of us was hungry so we had another couple of glasses and went to bed.

Next day I mentioned to Brenton, the only mechanic in town, what Phil had said and he reckoned that rear wheel bearings are his most common repair.

Off we went to Leigh Creek and the bitumen. The rest of the trip home was trouble, and puncture, free and once we hit the bitumen we knew for sure that our Birdsville Races trip was over apart from the boring highway trip home. We’ll do it again sometime I reckon.

The Flinders Ranges from a distance

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