2013 Birdsville Races & Outback Safari wrap-up

All done for another year as Birdsville is getting back to normality after approximately 7000 extra people invaded the normally placid, but iconic, outback town of 100 for the 2013 Birdsville Cup and race meet last weekend.  Just 12,000 camel curry pies were apparently sold over the two days from the local bakery! This made up just one of our days travel with two couples from Sydney, a couple from Adelaide celebrating their honeymoon and another Adelaidean, who was keen to tick off yet another race meet around the country as a very passionate horse racing fan.

Departing Adelaide, lush wheat, barley and golden canola crops across the mid-north were evident and the water in the Spencer Gulf looked very inviting as we had our first pit stop at Port Augusta. Had a great tour of the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service)  located on the airstrip and to get a further insight to the operational procedures that happen from the base. We were amazed to hear that there is an average of 24 callouts per day for this incredible service flying the sick and injured around, just from Port Augusta! After many flies were swatted, we flew over the majestic and green Flinders Ranges, into Wilpena Pound and then scooted around the amphitheatre to Blinman and touching down for lunch at Marree, the first of the outback pubs which made this trip a bit of a Flying Outback Pub Crawl. Like all things in the outback, the history is rich and if the walls could talk, we would never leave but we had bigger things ahead of us.

Across the Sturt Stony, Strzelecki and Tirari Deserts and over Moomba Oil and Gas field we headed and then greeted on touchdown by Jill Ross and her wonderful welcoming smile at Innamincka. This tiny place alongside the beautiful Cooper Creek really needs to be visited by all. The hospitality and service by Jill, her husband Greg and other staff at the Innamincka Hotel is bang on. Great rooms, cold beer and the meals cannot be any better and really are first class. The highlight for me though on Day one wasn’t my mighty Hawks smashing the Swans in the AFL first qualifying final, but the new two hour Cooper Creek boat cruise, also operated by Jill and Greg. You could only just hear the twin Honda 50’s as we pushed off the bank of the Cooper at Policeman’s Point and motored downstream, surrounded in just the best tranquil, natural and relaxed environment that you could imagine. Just this morning, we left the fresh air and rain of Adelaide and now amongst flocks of pelicans, whistling ducks, white cockatoos (to name a few) and  healthy looking dingos on a body of water teeming with tortoises and apparently schools of Yellow Belly bream, whilst getting a history lesson of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition. We actually got out to see the monument, which represented the place where the only survivor of this expedition, John King, was found. Captain Greg provided plenty of interesting facts ( and possibly a little bit of fiction) as the sun set into the balmy evening and with an esky full of cold Coopers Pale Ale, this is outback Australia like I had never experienced before, which was just superb.

Day 2 was Birdsville Cup day

After departing Innamincka, we did some low level flying over the Dig Tree and the Coongie Lakes and then joined another 300 aircraft at the very busy Birdsville Airport. People were everywhere with something for everyone as the infectious Kylie (better known as Possum) from Desert Edge Tours took us around for a town tour to see this event and the side show at close quarters.

The rows of tents were also at close quarters and we were glad that we had opted for some more comfortable digs that night! As an election vote was compulsory, so was a visit to the famous Birdsville Pub for a frothy to get warmed up for the day ahead and then of to the race track we go.

We were all dressed up and the place to be was the Trackside Pavilion, complete with another magnificent sit down outback lunch, entertainment by a Bush Poet, a sensational country -jazz-rock trio called the Mic Travers Band, electric fans that came in handy and plenty of cool drinks served up by the voluntary staff of the NAB bank. There was plenty of trackside entertainment, dressed up characters aplenty amongst the large jovial crowd in the Queensland heat and even though winners were harder to pick than a broken nose, the Goin’ Off Safari team had a terrific day of hospitality from the Birdsville Race Club.

With the Outback Loop complete, though our day wasn’t quite done so with extra inflight refreshments purchased and with spirited personalities, wheels were lifted as we headed to the most isolated pub in Australia at William Creek. Our timing was perfected to fly low level along and across Lake Eyre as the sun was setting, which provided a stunning back drop to the Australia’s largest Lake as we flew into William Creek located on the world’s largest cattle station- Anna Creek.

Disembarked and freshened up in the new Pelican Suites, the William Creek Pub was a bit than our last one visited but still enjoyable as always. A new cuisine experience is to chew your way through a 1kg Anna Creek Station rump steak, with wedges and gravy to get your name on the Wall of Fame. With only one name previously on the board, two new names will be now have to be painted on as that box also got ticked off. Tell you what, the steak is very good here as well!

We arose to a another beautiful day in the bush, had a continental breakfast back in the pub with Bert the resident dingo, a stroll around the township and departed back to Adelaide. A fantastic time was had by all and we will be ready to get back up in 2014 to do it all again. Aviator supremo and Pilot Tony Schwert was again, top shelf so thanks P1. Here’s what the group had to say :

“We have lived and travelled throughout our own state of SA, yet it still amazes us how large and untouched it is. Seeing it from the air was an excellent way to experience a brief taste of our outback and appreciate what those explorers had to endure! A well planned and executed quick-fire three day adventure by a knowledgeable, down to earth and big steak eating local. Great work Lunch!….” Daniel and Nickola, Adelaide SA

“Excellent experience! Been on plenty of horse racing trips and this is up with the best for planning, knowledge etc. The Outback is unforgettable and I will be bragging to all about the trip”…..David, Adelaide SA

” We have had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the outback and how vast and remote it is. Coming from Manly in Sydney, it is a big eye opener for us city slickers! Loved seeing dingoes in the outback & loved the cruise along Cooper Creek at Innamincka, watching the beautiful sunset. Well planned with friendly and knowledgeable guide Dave, made the trip great fun. Loved Birdsville and the races with great memories and fantastic pilot Tony. Thankyou……” Tanya and Nick, Sydney NSW

” From start to finish, this trip was planned and executed flawlessly. We have had a wonderful weekend. Thanks David for showing us a great trip and thanks Tony for smooth sailing. Seeing another part of Australia was a great adventure from flying over lush cropping farms and suddenly being above a desert landscape was amazing. As for the towns that we visited – wow, what an experience! The accommodation, the food and particularly the day at the Birdsville Races were not to be faulted. Well done!…….Julie and Kevin, Sydney NSW