We arrived in the Ghost town of Betoota, with a population of zero. The population used to be 1, he was the Publican who is now buried behind the ruins of the pub.
The only other thing left in Betoota is the race coarse which comes alive once a year for the Betoota races. Caravans where rolling in off the dirt roads from all over Australia to park up around the race track. Once we were set up and after using the amazing facilities ( hot showers and flushing toilets), incredible considering the location ( middle of nowhere). We were set to start with the weekend off with the Friday night live entertainment and $10 meal. A buffet of barbeque meats and array of salads it felt like Christmas! With full bellies we bush danced the night away with new friends Lorna and Leo.
Before we knew it, it was the next morning and they were off and racing with the first race, I had just missed out on putting my bet on the winning horse. It was a bad start to the day on the betting front and unfortunately it didn’t improve. As the day went on we had met a lot of new faces, who would have thought in the next few weeks we would become great friends.
Waking up a little rusty Sunday morning it was time to pack up, and drive on to Birdsville. Just like that Betoota will remain a ghost town…. Until next years races.
After a drive of a very bare landscape besides a spectacular aboriginal art piece of a rainbow serpent, created by two aboriginal sisters.
We had finally arrived in Birdsville, as we got there on the Monday it was still very quiet around town and not many people had arrived yet, which was a incredible transformation to watch in the coming week as the normal population of 75 swelled to -/+ 7000.
Once we had secured and set up our spot in the “common area” our little piece of the Diamantina for the next 2 weeks, it was time for lunch so what else to do but head to the iconic Birdsville bakery for a famous camel pie. Michael tried and enjoyed the curried camel pie as I played it safe with the plain beef. We picked ourselves up a fresh loaf of multigrain bread, to which this day we believe is the best bread in Australia, and we have been to a lot of bakeries on our travels. Very satisfied with our bakery lunch we strolled across the town to quench our thirst at the iconic Birdsville Hotel. The first of many drinks to come at the pub over the next 2 weeks.
Our first full day in Birdsville we ventured out to “Big Red” which is a big red sand dune situated on the eastern side of the Simpson dessert. We made it to the top! Just…. But we made it and enjoyed the view.
The main reason which brought us to Birdsville in the first place was that we had put our names down to volunteer on the race weekend. We did it for an experience and to see a different perspective to this remote event, plus it was a good excuse to travel the far distances and we got free entry to the races. On the Wednesday we had our volunteer training where the team leader turned out to be a guy who Michael went to school with, such a small world run into someone you hadn’t seen since high school and of all places, Birdsville. After a brief training we were ready to volunteer, but with our first shift wasn’t until Friday but there was plenty to do around town during the week to keep us busy. That night we registered for the 6km fun run which was the next morning. Rising bright and early to run around the Birsdsville race track and into town. We didn’t do too bad, considering we are not runners and with no training we came 3rd and 4th with Michael coming 3rd he won $100 prize money which was great to pay for some of our fuel to get here. Our new friend Caron came 2nd ! After all it was a fun run and that it was.
After our morning run there was no better recovery then going to the pub for a beer and pizza for lunch with our new friends, before we knew, it was 4 o’clock and another day had nearly past. Thursday morning we woke with the expected very sore bodies. I spent the morning baking ANZAC biscuits to donate to the schools fundraiser cake stall. With a school that only consisted of 6 kids there were many cakes, biscuits, slices etc.. It was such a hit! with all the grey nomads lining up to purchase a sweet treat, I think they sold out within the first 15 minutes.
The rest of the afternoon we spent at the visitor centre where we watched documentaries about Birdsville, and the Diamantina shire. We leant so much about the history, the land and most importantly the people, the incredible bonds and relationships between the white and indigenous people which keep this area alive.
Finally Friday had arrived and it was our first day of volunteering. We had the cocktail party shift which involved serving arrival drinks and cocktail food, which was a fun night had by all. The next morning was the first day of racing and we were rostered on for the early shift in the kitchen for the trackside marquee. It was a busy morning of preparing canapes and small meals for the marquee guests. We had so much fun working in a pop up kitchen with the friendliest chefs and kitchen crew from the Ol Factory Inn in Adelaide. Once our shift was finished it was a quick outfit change to go and join our friends trackside for the rest of the races.
Friday night was a night to remember as we attended a show in the well known Fred Bropheys tent, it was entertaining show and interesting to see what goes on in the historic fighting tent.
Saturday we were on the later shift in the kitchen so that meant we could watch the races before our shift. After spending most of the day punting, watching the races and the fashions on the field it was time for us to go and volunteer. Our Saturday shift involved doing the dishes… a lot of them and packing up the kitchen. Time flew by and we were off with the left over food as freebies. That night they put on some food and drinks for the volunteers and that was just the start of the night as we carried on dancing the night away with our friends Karen, Paul and Alan at the pub.
Sunday morning everyone was packing up their camps and all started clearing out, by mid day majority of the people had left. At lunch time we met the remainder of our friends that were still in town to exchange numbers and have a final drink together, Michael and I weren’t feeling so great from the night before so it was a lemonade and a pie at the bakery for lunch a quiet relaxing afternoon.
Monday was Michaels 25th Birthday! I spent the morning baking a cake, before we headed out for the day. We vistited pelican point, the Burke and Will tree, the cemetery and then drove to the SA/ QLD border.
To celebrate we met Caron and Martin at the pub for a buffet dinner of delicious lamb shanks and veges. It’s not everyday you can say you celebrated a birthday in Birdsville.
With having some time up our sleeve before heading to Bedourie we spent the next day with Karen and Martin fishing along the banks of the Diamantina river. Forgetting the kettle we made do with a milo tin to boil the water which worked a treat as we enjoyed a cuppa and left over birthday cake.
That afternoon we packed up our caravan, hitched up and drove over to where Karen and Martin were set up as they had invited us over for dinner. That’s the beauty of having a house on wheels we could just take it with us instead of risking the boozing drive home. It was such a great night, with a superb roast dinner, drinks, and even better company.
The next morning it was time to move on and say goodbye to Birdsville as we headed off in convoy with Caron and Martin. Passing ruins and some other interesting sites along the way.
We arrived in Bedourie just in time for lunch at the pub, where we enjoyed the best fried chicken burger.
After lunch we checked in to the caravan park in town to do some much needed washing of clothes and bodies. As the night came we shared food with Caron and martin to make up a meal and spent the night playing scategories ( our new favourite board game).
In the morning we went for a stroll to the racetrack and around town before returning to the caravan park to pack up to and then set up again at the race track.
Friday night was Rodeo night! What at night it was! So entertaining to watch and was something we had both never experienced before, it was a great start to kick off the weekend.
The next morning after a big fry up for brekky it was time to get ready for the final race meet of the Simpson desert spring racing carnival.
It was another fun filled day of racing, followed by a night around the fire sharing meals and playing scategories with the company of new friends.
The spring carnival had come to an end and it was time to head to Boulia, a small town known for its Min Min lights which have many different stories and beliefs of people seeing these unexplained lights and to this day no one knows what they are. We camped down by the river and spent the afternoon flicking a line in.
The next couple of days was spent mostly driving. We passed through the town of Middleton which was literally a pub in the middle of nowhere with a character of a publican, we enjoyed a nice cold drink.
Continuing to drive we briefly stopped in Winton before stopping for the night in a nearby rest area. This was our last night travelling in convoy with Caron and Martin, we arrived the next morning in Longreach where we said our goodbyes not forever, just for now as this was just the start of a life long friendship. We made so many memories, new friends and also caught up with friends we had met in Cowell, SA right at the start of our travels. Our time in the Diamantina was unforgettable from the people we met, to the vast landscape it was defiantly a highlight of our trip.
Read next week to see where we go next 🙂