Betoota and our first road ‘drama’
We are now in Birdsville for a week or so. Leaving Windorah we set out west on a good sealed road to the turnoff to Birdsville. From this point on the road is mostly reasonable gravel with a few rough spots and loose rocky stretches. A few cattle beside the road, not much wildlife to be seen. It took us a little under three hours to make it the 240 km to Betoota.
Just short of Betoota there is a lookout, named after Deon; he was a young helicopter pilot who was killed in a crash nearby. Great views over the landscape here. We alighted for a good look around. Strolling around the van Allthego noticed some water spurting from under the van, creating a rather large wet patch. A quick look saw that we had sprung a leak, the tap on one of the water tanks had been knocked off by a stone, hence the water pouring out. For how long was the question? Allthego quickly sprung into action under the van with his index finger dutifully inserted into the tank to stem the flow. This could not be the solution though……..after some deep thought a rag was stuffed into the hole. This allowed time to search around for a piece of shrub timber to fashion into a plug to fill the gap. A very suitable piece was found and along with some plumbing and gaffer tape the flow was arrested. We had lost half our water, the remainder just enough to get us through the two nights at Betoota in the free camp beside the creek. No camping grounds or power at Betoota and limited water.
So we limped into Betoota and settled in beside the creek with a fair few other people. Betoota has been holding a race day continuously for 40 years. Nobody has lived at Betoota for 20 years. The last resident was the publican and when he died in 1997 the pub closed. It then slowly fell into disrepair and is now marked on maps as ‘ruins’. But it is being reopened and has undergone significant repairs and modernisation. It was due to reopen for the races but has run into some bureaucracy which has held things up, some suggest maliciously. Anyway we were able to have drink as a ‘social licence’ had ben obtained. You had to buy tickets that were swapped for drinks and eats. All proceeds going to charity. There were 50 or 60 people there at the time, but evidence of plenty others! The next day was race day so we retired to our abode by the creek. The plug in the water tank was holding well.
Plenty of action on race day. All up there must have been close to 750 people in attendance for the 6 race program. We grabbed our camp chairs and sat in a covered enclosure not far from the finish line. Great view of the track and the various characters coming and going from the bookie tent and bar area. Plenty of fashions of the field on display, ‘quality’ somewhat variable! All seemed to be having a good time. The local member flew in on a little plane, having come from Canberra for the day. There is dedication for you.
Homealone managed to pick two winners and a third place based on the horses names and colours. Same principles also yielded a last place. We didn’t lose any money or for that matter win any as in her usual style no bets had been placed. We departed after the fourth race to ready for our departure the next morning for Birdsville.