Birdsville – the busiest place in the world?!

A cartoonist called Lynn Johnston once said, “An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything”. So, we would like to repair our reputation as Birdsville’s best source of news by apologising for our absence on the Galah Session over the past few weeks, which is due to an incredibly busy month in Birdsville.

We’ve had interesting characters reach town after achieving amazing physical feats, we’ve competed in the Finke Desert Race in Alice Springs and have become an official sponsor of The Long Walk Home, Jenna Brook’s walk across the Simpson Desert.

It was Jenna’s walk that inspired German cyclist Walter Leven to dedicate his planned 6000-kilometre four-month-long outback ride to raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. After weeks of communication, Walter and Jenna finally met in Birdsville and chatted about the RFDS, their training and the outback over a cuppa.

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Walter Leven and Jenna Brook.

Shortly after Walter continued on his ride, Birdsville was graced with a visit from Merv Hughes, former Australian Cricketer, to promote the importance of men’s health.

The next day, a very healthy Owen Davies walked into town after a 994-kilometre journey following the Georgina River from Camooweal, far northwest Queensland. He had been travelling with his pack of nine goats for two months and reached Birdsville on the wettest day we’d had all year!


Merv Hughes with Councillor Jody Barr. Photo courtesy Diamantina Shire Council

The day after that, Dick and Pip Smith were in Birdsville visiting friends. They’re supporters of The Long Walk Home and caught up with Jenna at the pub before coming to the Birdsville Roadhouse to check on the progress of our Pro-Lite buggy.

Around this time, travellers James and Steph were stranded in town with a blown head gasket. Luckily, they loved the place and agreed to work at the Roadhouse when we took off for Finke, the greatest off-road race in the country. They’re still here and might be hanging around longer, yay!


Dick Smith and Jenna Brook. Photo courtesy The Long Walk Home

Later that week, a plane made an emergency landing 500 metres short of the Birdsville airstrip and our little town made the national news. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the plane was successfully recovered.

We were just about to leave for Finke when our supply truck got bogged on the Birdsville Track. The track was soft after a couple of days of heavy rain and driver Richard was forced to wait at Mungerannie Hotel until the track reopened and dried out. We finally received our supplies and the Krakka Koldee Racing team hit the road as soon as they were unpacked.


Emergency landing. Photo courtesy the Outback Loop

The Finke Desert Race is an annual 460-kilometre race from Alice Springs to the remote community of Finke and back, along the old Ghan line. This year, there were over 80 buggies and cars competing, as well as almost 600 motorbikes and quads. We were one of 8 Pro-Lite buggies in the race.

Unfortunately, though, a broken rear stub axle and engine problems forced us to withdraw from the race during prologue on the Saturday. We’re now working hard to get the buggy back into shape for the next race. Keep an eye out for Kelly’s Finke coverage in the next issue of Outback Magazine for more information on the race.


The Krakka Koldee driver and navigator team

While we were at Finke, the Birdsville Photography Group held an opening night for their ‘On The Land’ exhibition. Prizes were awarded for the best photographs and all attendees reported having a lovely evening. We saw the exhibition at the Wirrarri Information Centre on our return and were amazed by the high quality of all of the photos. It really is a visual reminder of why we love living in Birdsville.

On Friday, the Birdsville State School P&C committee held their monthly bingo night, which was enjoyed by all and next weekend the Birdsville Social Club is holding their annual horse and motorbike gymkhana. The Krakka Koldee Racing Team might even be demonstrating the speed of their ultra-reliable 1300cc Suzuki-powered buggy on the bike enduro track over the weekend.


Birdsville State School students and staff

Lastly, there’s only a week until Jenna Brook sets off on her ‘Long Walk Home’. As we’re now official sponsors, we can officially recommend that you donate to her walk, which supports the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Phew, we’ve seen a lot of action in the past few weeks! Birdsville may be a small town, but life is certainly eventful. 


Owen Davies in Birdsville. Keep an eye out for Kelly’s article about Owen in the next edition of Outback Magazine.

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.


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