Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Outback towns

Anyone who has read or heard anything about Australia has heard stories about the outback towns.  We have now visited a number of these in the various states of Australia but Birdsville was always one that held particular interest.  Perhaps this is because it is often referred to in relation to Big Red (the large sand dune nearby) or the annual races held in September during which the population swells from the 2011 census population of 283 to between 6,000 and 10,000, or the iconic Birdsville Pub and just maybe the bakery.

Many outback trips include a visit to Birdsville as it is at the beginning or end of a Simpson Desert trip, can be accessed from the south via the Birdsville Track (514 kms from Maree in South Australia through the Strzelecki Desert) or the north from Mt Isa (675 kms).  As the road heads north it is possible to take the Plenty Highway through to Central Australia and more outback adventures.

The caravan park in Birdsville is a very popular stopping off place – for us it provided great facilities after the days in the desert and I think if we asked the boys their favourite thing about Birdsville it may be the toilet, perhaps – shock, shock – a shower, able to have eggs on toast for breakfast (Tim’s favourite and sorely missed while we were bush camping).  We arrived in the dark and quickly unpacked and set up the tents before enjoying the luxury of dinner cooked with lights in the open air camp kitchen with a sink to wash up!

The caravan park is a busy place and it was interesting to meet the season camp managers who come from Christchurch in NZ and they are assisted by another couple from Palmerston North in NZ.  Both couples come to Australia for the winter months – finding jobs to help fund their time.  The managers were well organised and flexible with two older 4wd vehicles - one stored in Queensland and the other in Western Australia.  We find we meet many kiwi couples during our travels.

Unfortunately our travel period is only fourteen nights from Melbourne to Townsville and we do not have the luxury of two night stays.  It would have been great to have just relaxed and explore Birdsville but we had to pack up the tent and keep moving although we did it a bit more leisurely.  By 11 am we had walked and visited the information centre, viewed the pub and the old hospital, refuelled at the roadhouse, discussed the small planes lined up at the airport (unfortunately the Flying Doctor Service plane was not on the tarmac), walked part way round the race track with a clear purpose in mind – to visit the well-known Birdsville Bakery.   The first bakery in days and the boys could smell it from miles away!  The bakeries best known item is their curried camel pies which both Peter and Connor enjoyed, while Jake and Tim had mince pies.  It was a popular place with groups of travellers enjoying the luxury of fresh store bought items.

We hit the road again before midday this time heading for Bouderie and Boulia – two more small outback towns.



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