3 four wheel drives, 3 caravans, 4 families, no phone reception and just under 6000 kilometres conquered in 12 days!! And what an adventure we had!
As we had never undertaken a four wheel driving or desert expedition before, our expectations were a cocktail of excitement, nerves (had we packed everything we should?!) and impatience to begin our adventure. Add two excited little girls to the mix who didn’t particularly have a great track record for travelling long distances at all, a caravan we’d never towed before, over 400kms of dirt roads, and two other vehicles and vans in convoy, what could go wrong?! Very little as it fortunately turned out, only two bogging incidents (now infamous!), 3 flat tyres, 2 cracked windscreens and memories that will last a life time!
Birdsville, the Big Red Bash & back!
Birdsville, our destination, home of the world famous camel races and more recently the ‘Big Red Bash’ concert, is situated between Stuart’s Stony Desert, the Simpson desert and the Channel Country. The Big Red Bash is renowned for its’ fabulous, family friendly (you’re even allowed to bring your favourite canines!), 3 day music festival, staged in front of Big Red, the largest sand dune in the Simpson Desert. It is the most remote music festival in the world and this year featured some of Australia’s great artists including Kate Cebrano, Lee Kernaghan, James Reyne and Mark Seymour, Troy Cassar-Daley, James Blundell and many more.
Complete with a last minute lift kit, we set off on the initial 12hr leg to Brisbane to begin our adventure. There we met up with the fabulous Luke Bird of Adventure Shack who’s Jayco Expanda caravan we’d hired through Camplify- Australia’s AirB’N”B of caravans. Luke had added the necessary brake controller (from Elecbrakes, to the caravan, with the easy to use phone app which saved us buying a brake controller, and we were set! With our combined online Woolworths food/drink order of just under $800 arriving at our friends’ place much to their surprise, we packed all the caravans and excitedly tried to sleep before our early departure. With our last hot showers and coffee’s for quite a while, we took photos of all our troop in a row, made our favourite purchase of the trip- our new walkie talkie and hit the road. The ever- changing scenery never got boring- with large cacti tree’s providing a great game of spotto for the kids until they became too numerous to count. With several fuel and pit stops and after only losing each other once out of cb range, we eventually found each other and a great free camp site next to a river at Mitchell. We had a fabulous fire, dinner of delicious BBQ’d Murray Gold cod, fire melted marshmellows and luckily the only light rain overnight for the whole trip. With a stop in Charleville and one of our last lovely barista made coffee’s, we drove the next day until arriving at the very picturesque and historic Cooper’s Creek, by the side of a river next to a bridge. In a considerate attempt to provide water views- our van and car proceeded to get bogged in the soft sand which kept all the men entertained and girls with the 6 kids busy wood hunting and playing games by starlight!! Absolute waterfront views were indeed enjoyed over breaky by everyone the next morning!!
We continued our adventures until the tarred roads ended and the red dirt road began for over 300kms. Our little convoy halted to stretch our legs, take selfies with emus in the background and the pretty scenery, share some chocolates for energy and let the air out of our tyres. An hour later we were off again and into the dust zone! Fortunately for us we were basically traffic free- except for passing the odd road train and occasional 4WD, which was a blessing in reducing the amount of dust! Our lunch stops comprised of opening one van for a production line meal prep of wraps, whilst supervising children playing safely (away from the road and snakes!) and accompanying those brave enough to tackle the pit toilets without too many screams and dramas! Our CB’s provided a hilarious source of entertainment with the banter between all cars and occupants constant which made the trip so much fun. We never got bored with any of the country side and fell in love with the vast plains, amazing clouds and abundant wildlife that included many emu’s, kangaroos, eagles, wild boars, wild cats, dogs, cows and echidnas to mention a few. Despite all the random animals that came very close indeed in their road crossings right front of us we were all fortunately spared any major collisions except for 2 cracked windscreens and almost being run off the road by a port-a-loo truck!!
After one flat tyre and a few other adventures we finally made it to Birdsville! Our friends had to collect their tickets and refuel but we didn’t realise it was another 40 kms to Big Red and they had a lock out time! We made it just in time to the check in point and joined the other 7000 odd vans that already set up camp with fires aglow. Stunning sunsets and sunrises, fabulous fires morning and night, amazing clouds and desert, cool mornings and nights and hot days were the perfect backdrop for the music and bash. KFC even custom built a special big red truck complete with a big red slide and face painting area for the kids, to bring the bird to Birdsville!! It was the first taste ever for some locals and the big red and white buckets of complimentary hot chicken and chips were certainly one of the highlights of the days!! One of our little girls had a birthday on the trip so we had a party celebration one night where we washed all the girls hair fireside in a bucket (which was a memorable first for them all!!), painted their nails and braided their hair and all felt very glamorous for the surprise cake and pass the parcel!
The 3 days of fun eventually came to and end and we packed up again and joined the dusty procession slowly back towards Birdsville. There was so much traffic there were police directing the thousands of vans through the small town comprising of one bakery, one famous pub and two servos! Our adventures and beautiful desert scenery continued back along the dirt roads and back to our favourite Cooper’s Creek where we proceeded to get bogged in the same picturesque spot for old time’s sake! The next night’s campsite was also perfect, just us and the stars and was determined by our friends sustaining a flat tyre while turning around! The next morning we had the best hot shower of our lives at the nearby Toompine Southwestern Hotel! Most stores were closed for milk and bread and tyres, however we were able to purchase coffee, ice creams and opals in the quaint little town of Quilpie! Our last night camp spot was found after dark and during set up we somehow managed to lock ourselves out of the van to add to the excitement as you can imagine with tired kids!! Fortunately our amazing Luke came to the rescue with the best #caravan hack, and showed us how a small child could climb up through a small door and cupboard and unlock it from inside!! A small child did just that and saved the day/night!! We drove past immense sized cotton fields and eventually back into phone reception (unfortunately!), civilization and pizza again as we came into Toowoomba. Then came the cleaning! The joys of red dirt!! With over 1000 videos and photos between us and memories that will last a lifetime we are already excitedly planning ideas for next years great adventure!
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