Birdsville’s Big Red and Race Day
One of the ‘big’ things to do in Birdsville is to drive the 35 km out to ‘Big Red’ and see the sun set. Big Red is a 40 m sand hill fronting the Simpson Desert. There is not much human settlement between this point and the Western Australian coastline. To get across the desert from here involves traversing 1100 or so sand hills. This is something Allthego is keen on doing, but not this trip. We witnessed a number of vehicles climbing up the sand cutting to the top of Big Red, whilst a challenge it did not appear to be overly difficult, would need to let the tyres down to about 18 psi. We resisted the temptation to attempt it and instead walked up and saw others try, all successful! A great view from the top. The sky was clear of cloud, so the sunset was not a spectacular show of colours and patterns as you see in the postcards. Instead, a ball of orangey/ red slowly sinking across the horizon.
We sat on the sand enjoying the view, glass of red and some cheese. As did some others. After the scramble back down we headed off in the dusk and dust back to town.
Our day at the races arrived and we headed off in the shuttle bus to the racetrack which is about 4 km outside of town. Several thousand people were descending on the same place. It was quite a crowd and a little hard to judge how many people were there, perhaps three or four thousand. Races had also been held the day before and I suspect not everyone goes both days. Indeed there had been an exodus of vans from Birdsville before the start of the second day. But it was still a lot of people and obvious that some had been there the day before, very happy individuals!
We planted our seats not far back from the fence and the finishing post. It was a good viewing spot although we were in the sun, needed to be early to get the shady spots under the stand. It was also a good spot to observe our fellow race goers and the fashions on display. There was the usual fashions on the field competition, best dressed females, males and family groups in various categories. It seems a number of people going in these competitions take them very seriously (like in Betoota) and put in big efforts to ‘glam up’ for the occasion, even if they have to wander around amongst the stones and dust in high heels. There are others though who don’t go in the competition, but just like to hop around the place being admired by the masses.
We were also located not far from the parade ground were the horses are shown around prior to the running of each race. The strappers take them out, walk them around for all to see. Allthego noticed many astute punters wandered over to this area with their form guides and carefully pencilled their thoughts into these little books. He thought to himself that maybe Homealone should be doing this rather than relying on names and colours. But then again he saw many of these punters after the race screwing up punting tickets, giving the odd grimace or two and heading back to the bar area for more inspiration. Maybe names and colours are just as reliable after all.
Homealone was unsuccessful in picking winners here at Birdsville, did not even get a placing. Employing the same techniques of the horses name and colours, as she did in Betoota, yielded average performances and two last places. It was easy to leave after the signature event, the 1600 m Birdsville Cup. Here at Birdsville the horses run anti clockwise round the track, like in NSW. The rest of Queensland run clockwise. Why this anomaly, I don’t know.
The bus trip back to town was easy, we had a quick getaway and beat a fair bit of the crowd out of the track.