Just back from a long weekend in Bedourie where the highlight was a trip to Big Red west of Birdsville. This adventure was planned months ago as neither my Bedourie friends nor I had been to the dune but it was put in doubt by the big rains down south which played havoc with the Birdsville Races last week.
Even as I drove the five hours down from Mount Isa to Bedourie on Thursday, the news was that the road to Birdsville was open for 4WD but the Big Red road was still closed. It was fingers crossed for Friday morning.
The news in the morning was good – Diamantina Council had just re-opened the Birdsville-Big Red road to 4WD access only.
So I set off with my friends in their big Prado and the car proved its worth on the drive.
There was plenty of water over the road between Bedourie and Birdsville but the track out to Big Red was a serious challenge.
We saw one vehicle stuck awaiting help from a council grader to get out of the mud. Local knowledge said the best strategy was to stay on the centre of road where the base was hardest and we made it through, taking about 30 to 40 minutes to drive the 30km from Birdsville.
The 30m high dunes stand out in the flat wilderness and situated on a north-south alignment they provide great views east towards Birdsville and the Channel Country and west into the vastness of the Simpson Desert. Below is the view east with the site of the campground below where the annual Big Red Bash concert is held (though like the Birdsville Races it was rain affected this year and moved into town.)
Below is the view west into the Simpson Desert National Park. There is a track down below which remains officially closed though that wasn’t stopping two intrepid South Australians we met on the top of the Dune who were heading to Adelaide via Maree. They cheerfully invited us to join them. We respectfully declined. It would be a long journey even they could somehow make it through. A sign along the way says the Birdsville Bakery was a “cupla miles away” but in the other direction the Mount Dare pub was a “cupla days away “.
It was a bit blowy on top of the sand dunes so we didn’t hang around for long but we stayed long enough to enjoy the endless view into the desert. This was as far as the road was open, it was clear the further south you went the more rain there was.
The Prado comfortably managed the job up and down.
Then it was back through the puddles and rivers of water to Birdsville. Take my word for it that it was muddy in parts and it felt like proper bush bashing.
Back in town Birdsville had emptied out the thousands of racegoers during the week and was back to its sleepy self.
However we didn’t go to the pub but our preferred option which is the Birdsville Bakery. The Bakery only opens in winter but it has a good vibe and a good way in slogans: “It’s a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll.”
On the wall inside is what looks like a cardboard cut-out but is an actual photo of Malcolm Turnbull with the Bakery owner in August 2015 eating one of their famed camel pies. As communications minister Turnbull was out this way with then-local MP Bruce Scott to check out local telecoms difficulties. But the tagline on the photo tells you what happened next: “Old mate Malc got the top job 2 weeks after he had a Curried Camel Pie! What will it do for you?” As for me, I never got to find out, plumping for a chicken and mayo roll instead. Unlike Turnbull, the only thing I spilled was breadcrumbs.
The Diamantina was running freely in Birdsville as was the Eyre Creek further north (pictured below). The bird life was amazing and all that lovely water should be filling Lake Eyre up nicely.