Birdsville and more Lake Eyre

posted in: Other, Photography, Travel | 2

It’s day 4 of our Lake Eyre adventure. If you’ve missed the previous episodes, here’s day 1, day 2 and day 3.

Birdsville from the air. All of it.
Birdsville from the air. All of it.
The Birdsville pub
The Birdsville pub

We landed in Birdsville and I get to cross another entry off my bucket list. Birdsville is probably THE hottest place in Australia. The official highest recorded temperature is apparently 49.5 – but that’s in the shade.

It was Good Friday, one of the few days of the year when everybody shuts up shop. The pub’s front bar was closed, but since we were guests we got to use the Lizard Bar. This is another tiny outback town which has made a name for itself. People come here from everywhere on the 1st September for the Birdsville Cup, a gazetted thoroughbred race. The population swells from about 160 to eight to ten thousand. Then they all go home and it’s over for another year.

I was a little bit bemused at learning we were going to be taken for a half-hour bus tour of the town. But it actually turned out to be a heap of fun. We were shown the race course, and the permanent lagoon (part of the Diamantina river), and the nearby camping ground. Our guide explained that the influx of visitors for the Cup puts a strain on the town resources, especially the rubbish tip. The burning of rubbish is forbidden (OH&S) but as it happens the Birdsville tip seems to be struck by lightning every Wednesday at 2pm. Act of God, know what I mean? We saw the standpipe where the town’s water supply comes up steaming from the artesian basin. The water goes through a cooling tower and filters before it’s pumped to houses, but it’s never really cold. We were taken to admire the new street lights in a housing area at the edge of town. No houses, but nice lights. Our guide explained that there are about 4 rateable properties in Birdsville, so most of the town’s money comes from grants from drought or flood. The lights were from one grant, the streets were added later from another grant. They’d like a flood, please. They’ve had enough drought for now. Then we popped into the Birdsville Bakery for a chance to buy a curried camel pie and other tasty goodies.

The racetrack
The Birdsville Track, made famous by Tom Kruse on the longest mail run in Australia
Birdsville’s town water supply comes up from the Great Artesian Basin
    The Birdsville Bakery. And that gentleman with his hands on his hips is Trevor Wright, dictator of William Creek
The Birdsville Bakery.

Our guide epitomised the kind of people you get in the outback – tough, resilient, with a wicked sense of humour. They have a cultivated disdain for bureaucracy, which is understandable. Rules and regulations dreamed up by clerks sitting at desks in air conditioned comfort in Canberra or Brisbane just don’t make sense out here. Practicality is the name of the game.

And then it was back into the planes for another look at Lake Eyre before we met our trusty guide at Marree. This time we also flew over the part of the lake where Sir Donald Campbell broke the land speed record in Bluebird in 1964. This flight I was even more impressed with the scenery as aboriginal art.

This is a cattle station with a serious airstrip
There’s algae in the salt, hence the pink colour
The water won’t last long
Reminds me of the Nazca plain
Chaos theory in action

2 Responses

  1. West to Bourke – Greta van der Rol

    […] We walked over to the Riverside Hotel for dinner that night where we were greeted by a lovely lady who made up for Mister Grumpy. She told us the pub wasn’t busy on Friday night – the locals go to the bowls club where they run raffles and the like. She was on a sort of working holiday and she would be in Birdsville when the famous Birdsville Races were held next month. We shared a few stories with her, extolling the virtues of the half-hour bus tour of Birdsville (another very tiny town) we’d enjoyed a few years before. Here’s the link to that story. […]

  2. Ed Hoornaert

    How appropriate that you flew into Birdsville.

    The hottest I’ve experienced since moving to Arizona (from Canada’s balmy -40) is 47 C. For people who might be inclined to say that Birdsville’s extra 2.5 degrees wouldn’t make much difference — nope! Even when it’s super hot, getting a bit hotter matters a lot.

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