R.I.P Walter B. Barnes

It is with extreme sadness that The Birdsville Roadhouse reports that Mr Walter B. Barnes has passed away after a long battle with a mysterious illness/injury. He was almost 8 years old. Wally’s health had been been deteriorating since mid January despite the best efforts of everyone around him. Long time family friend and awesome vet, Keith Newby, flew to Birdsville on Monday afternoon to assess Wally’s condition. Keith operated and removed his front left leg in a last ditch effort to save Wal’s life but sadly he didn’t make it through the night. He was buried on Tuesday morning. Walter will be sorely missed around town as he was often referred to as the ‘Unofficial Mayor of Birdsville’. Amongst all his unofficial duties he also found time to hold down at least two full-time jobs at the Roadhouse as both the ‘Customer Relations Officer’ and 24-hour security guard. Wal was easily the hardest working employee the Roadhouse has ever been blessed with and I doubt if he will ever be replaced. Keep an eye on this space over the next few days as we add photos and memories of Wal.

Introducing Krakka Koldee Racing

Many of you will be aware that the Birdsville Roadhouse is associated with the Krakka Koldee off-road racing team. Barnes’y and Sam are working hard to get their new Nissan 350z-powered pro-lite buggy ready for the Finke Desert Race in June.

If you’re not familiar with the world of off-road racing, it’s a thrilling sport that combines the best of motorsport and rally with four-wheel-drive terrain. For many four-wheel-drive enthusiasts that visit Birdsville, seeing the buggies in the workshop is a source of fascination. They’re mean-looking, powerful machines that can conquer almost any type of track.

The Finke Desert Race, a two-day event where buggies (and motorbikes) race from Alice Springs to the small township of Finke, is the most renowned off-road race in Australia. It joins the ranks of Mexico’s Baja 1000 as one of the world’s most famous off-road races.

Competitors can race a number of different types of buggies ranging from two-seater ‘sportsman’ buggies with up to 1300cc motors to ‘pro’ buggies with up to 6000cc motors to ‘trophy trucks‘ with up to 6000cc motors. Most buggies are built with their engines in the back of the vehicle, but trophy trucks have the engine in the front. There is also a separate class for standard four-wheel-drives.

Off-road racing became prominent in Australia in the late 60s. ‘Buggy Clubs’, or off-road racing clubs, sprung up around the country with increasing amounts of people building buggies or adapting Volkwagen Beetles to suit driving on sand and rough tracks. In the late 70s, Barnes’y bought his first buggy for $50 and joined the Millicent Sand Buggy Club. Since then, he has upgraded through five buggies, and introduced his son, Sam, to the sport. 

Sam began navigating for Barnes’y in 2004 at the Sunraysia 500 in Mildura. Together, and with Bronwynne for support, they’ve travelled to compete in many races around the country. With Barnes’y at the wheel and Sam in the navigators’ seat, they won their class at the Finke Desert Race twice. When Sam started driving, in 2007, he successfully completed many races, culminating in winning his class at the 2009 Finke Desert Race.

Although off-road racing buggies were originally derived from Volkswagen Beetles, a lot has changed over the four decades since the sport’s inception in Australia. Buggies have become bigger, tougher and a hell of a lot heavier. Sam says that this has made both positive and negative impacts on the sport. When once it was possible for a DIY buggy builder or mechanic to participate in the sport with some success, it’s now too expensive for the every-day person to race competitively. However, for the spectators, bigger, tougher buggies means more spectacular jumps, drifts and stunts in races.

The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport supports the Australian Off-road Championship, which began in 1981. It’s comprised of four or five races each year and the winners are calculated on a points-based system over the year. Last years’ overall winner was Dave Fellows, of Peter Kittle Motorsports. But, each class of buggies also has their own winner. Barnes’y and Sam were the ‘sportsman’ class winners numerous times before upgrading to the ‘pro-lite’ class in which they’re yet to race.

After replacing the engine in their new pro-lite buggy, Barnes’y and Sam couldn’t get it running smoothly again. When driving, the buggy was misfiring at 6300-6750 revs. It was a mystery problem that couldn’t be googled. They tried every possible mechanical solution including replacing sensors, looking for fuel problems, upgrading to shielded wires, testing the exhaust gas breakdown and changing Motec computer programs, all to no avail. 

The buggy is currently being rewired by a specialist in Brisbane and we should be hearing more news about it shortly. Hopefully, the wiring will have fixed the mystery problem and Sam can take it for a few runs near Birdsville to get a feel for the driver’s seat before heading off to Finke in June. Wish him luck! 

Both Barnes’y and Sam would like to thank their sponsors; Jaycar ElectronicsPhillip’s Foote Restaurant, Birdsville Roadhouse, Teagle Excavations, Millicent Tyre Power and the Outback Loop, for their generous support and patience while developing the new buggy.

*There’s just two weeks left to vote for The Galah Session in the Best Australian Blogs 2012 competition. Click here if you would like to vote for us and help put Birdsville and the Krakka Koldee Racing Team on the map!

And the polls are open…

Voting has opened for the Best Australian Blog Awards, which we’re nominated for! It’s a fantastic initiative of the Sydney Writers’ Centre to promote the active Australian blogosphere. As we’re such a new blog (less than a month old!) and we’re blogging from a remote area, we need your help to get Birdsville on the map. Let’s promote our beautiful outback by blogging about it and sharing our news. Click on the button below to vote for us in the People’s Choice Awards. All entered blogs are listed in alphabetical order – we’re under ‘T’. That’s ‘t’ for thank you for voting! 

We’re nominated for the Best Australian Blog Awards 2012!

Hello lovely followers! Just a quick note to let you know that people’s choice voting opens tomorrow at 5pm for the Best Australian Blog Awards 2012 run by the Sydney Wrtiers’ Centre. We’ve just been nominated and as we’re such a new blog, we need your support! Help us get Birdsville on the map by voting. We’ll tweet and facebook the voting form as soon as it’s available so you can all help us promote our beautiful outback!

First woman to run across the Simpson Desert!

Jane Trumper, three kilometres from Birdsville. Photo: Kelly Theobald

Over the past week we’d heard incredulous whispers from travellers that had emerged from the Simpson Desert. Was there really a woman running across the desert? Many of our customers had seen her as they passed her in their four-wheel-drives. They spoke of a small woman with huge determination. Her name is Jane Trumper. She is a 51-year-old mother of three and the first woman ever to run across the Simpson Desert.

On Tuesday afternoon we got word that she would be reaching Birdsville in a matter of minutes. Kelly and Sam went out to meet her as she reached the cattle yards on the outskirts of town. She pumped her arms in the air when she saw them in Onslo, asked how far it was to town and if the pub had a glass of cold white wine waiting for her.

They followed her as she jogged the last two kilometres to the Birdsville Hotel, preceded by the Birdsville Policeman, Neale, with his lights flashing. The pub was buzzing with people as they waited to welcome the amazing woman.

After running 664 kilomtres and climbing over 1200 sand dunes, she was still strong enough to jokingly turn around and start running back. But, as the crowd cheered and photos were taken, the enormity of the feat hit us all.

And why hadn’t we heard about her crossing sooner? Jane’s friend Suse said that Jane didn’t want to publicise the trip too much before they set out, just in case they didn’t make it. They didn’t want any extra pressure.

Jane Trumper (right) and friend Suse as they run into Birdsville. Photo: Kelly Theobald

When we spoke to Jane today, she was busy fielding calls from the ABC, AAP, and other major media outlets, including Mt Isa’s North West Star. However, she said that the media attention was surprising. “I’m proud that I did it, but I don’t understand why I’m getting so much attention,” she told Kelly. “I didn’t do it for this! I hardly even consider myself a runner.”

What she did do it for is Bear Cottage, a children’s hospice in Sydney, where her medical student daughter volunteers. “I had to pick something that’s close to my heart,” she said. “I have three healthy kids – I think that anyone’s who’s got a sick kid is going through a hell of a lot more than running 664 kilometres across a desert. They go through this emotional drain every day. If I can do it for ten days, it’s not that hard.”

What was hard was finding a support crew. She placed an ad on the VKS Radio website but in mid-February still only had one vehicle interested. Luckily, she found another vehicle and her American friend, Suse, also decided to join her, running a few kilometres every day. Neither Jane nor Suse had ever met the four members of their support crew. Luckily, it worked out for the best. “The support crew were absolutely awesome,” she says. “They’d only drive five kilometres ahead of me and they’d have cold water and cold drinks ready. Whatever I wanted was right there. They were incredibly patient. I’ve never had anybody do so much for me. Suse set up my tent for me every night and Gary would take it down every morning. Really, I was pretty pampered!”

Jane (left) cheers as she reaches the Birdsville Hotel. Photo: Kelly Theobald

When she set out though, the region was experiencing uncharacteristic April heat. Jane was beginning to question the task ahead of her. “The temperature was 45 degrees on the day I started, April fools day. That was the biggest downer. I thought: ‘what the hell have I started and how the hell am I going to do another nine days if it stays like this?’ It was stinking hot. I drank about 15 litres of fluid that day,” she says. “I was expecting the terrain because I’d been here before so it was the heat, more than anything, that got to me.”

Luckily, it soon cooled and she was able to finish the run with only a few encounters with wildlife. “Emus were chasing me yesterday, which was kind of fun. I’m hoping there are some good photos,” she says. “They were coming up to the road and having a good look but they never got really close because I had a car with me. We had dingoes at our campsite a few nights ago, though”.

Jane after the run with Neale, the Birdsville cop. Photo: Kelly Theobald

Amazingly, Jane feels absolutely fine after her epic run. In fact, she’s ready to do it all again. “I could easily have gone out there today and done another 66 kilometre day. I feel just the way I did on day two.”

Well, Jane. We’re very proud of you and it’s a pleasure to have you in Birdsville for the few days that you’re here. Good luck with your marathon on Sunday (yes, this Sunday!) and we encourage all of our readers to donate to your cause! You can do so here.

If you would like to know more about Jane and her running, including the Simpson Desert crossing, head to her blog.

Jane and her support crew celebrate outside the Birdsville Hotel. Photo: Kelly Theobald

Jane would like to thank her sponsors Hoka One One footwear, Skirt Sports, InJinji and Northside Runners.

Easter Update: Birdsville News

For sale at the Birdsville Roadhouse – yum!

As easter approaches the fridges fill with easter eggs, the smell of fresh hot cross buns wafts from the Birdsville Bakery and the freezer is raided for prawns, oysters and fish. This year, as easter is smack bang in the middle of Queensland school holidays, the long weekend also means that we’ll be busy with travelers coming through town on their holidays. This week has already been very busy with people traveling through Queensland and many of them are crossing the Simpson Desert. 

The Birdsville Bakery opens tomorrow!

The Birdsville Bakery will be opening tomorrow and we’re all very excited to see what will be on the menu this year. I’ve heard that my favourite finger buns are being replaced with jam scrolls, though. The scrolls are almost as delicious so I think I can live with that. Dusty is also making Hot Cross Buns for the weekend. Until he opens tomorrow, we’ll be selling them at the roadhouse. We also have a range of easter eggs in stock if the easter bunny needs to visit your camp on Sunday! The Bakery will be open for breakfast and lunch everyday, starting tomorrow, and dinner on selected nights. Dusty’s ‘Birdsville Fried Chicken’ will be launched tomorrow night, too!

Fresh Hot Cross Buns for sale!

An increasing amount of vehicles are traveling through the Simpson Desert and we sold out of Birdsville 4×4 Club sand flags yesterday. But, they’re back in stock due to popular demand. We’ve had reports that the desert tracks are in good condition and there’s lots of animals and flowers around to make the journey even more rewarding. 

Flowers in the desert. Photo: Kelly Theobald

This week we’ve had warmer than average April temperatures in Birdsville. We’re glad that summer is hanging around a little bit longer as the dry heat is much nicer than the freezing winter nights! Luckily it’s not too hot though – the mercury briefly reached 39.5 degrees yesterday but the nights are mild and comfortable. 

Pelicans at Cuttaburra Crossing. Photo: Kelly Theobald

The warm weather is also increasing the number of pelicans in the area. If you’re traveling between Birdsville and Bedourie, you might have noticed the flocks of pelicans at the Eyre Creek Cuttaburra Crossing. Pelicans love the warm temperatures of inland Australia and after rain they flock to large expanses of water like Lake Eyre and the permanent waterhole at Cuttaburra Crossing. They’re also likely to breed around this time of year, but we haven’t seen any nesting pelicans ourselves, yet. If you want to see the pelicans, make sure you check to road conditions before you travel. At the time of writing, the Bedourie-Birdsville road is restricted to high-clearance vehicles as water is covering the road at the Cuttaburra Crossing. Drive with caution through the water – at least you’ll have lots of time to take photos! 

Just in time for easter, the Birdsville Hotel has released a new menu. So far we’ve tried the South Australian rump steak and the lip-smacking proscuitto-wrapped Kangaroo fillets served with macadamias and berries. Make sure you try both the Hotel and the Bakery menus while you’re in town to experience the best of Birdsville’s culinary delights. 

Two Beetles side by side. Sam and Kelly are on the right.

On Monday, a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle arrived in Birdsville. A young couple from Belgium purchased the car in Perth and have been traveling around Australia for a few months. They’re about to start a job in Richmond, central Queesnland, and passed through Birdsville on their way there. You may know that the Birdsville Roadhouse’s Sam and Kelly recently bought a 1964 Volkwagen Beetle and will be driving it across the Simpson Desert later in the year. It’s not often there’s two Beetles here, so it was good to get a photo of them together.