Birdsville is a tiny town on the edge of the Simpson Desert, hundreds of miles from pretty much everywhere else. Its remoteness is, in fact, one of the things that makes it almost legendary. The Birdsville Pub features in books and songs that celebrate just how isolated one can be in the Outback. Associated with the town is the Birdsville Track, a still-rugged stretch of unpaved road that connects the town with the the next nearest town a few hundred kilometers south.
As remote and unassuming as Birdsville is, there are a few activities of note. Of course, there are the Birdsville Races, which draw thousands of people to the area for a few days each year. But there are delights for those of us who like areas such as this precisely because we prefer to avoid crowds. There is a considerable amount of bird life in the area. The dune fields of the Simpson Desert are nearby. And there is a wonderful little museum—the Birdsville Working Museum—which was created by John Menzies. Menzies has gathered a fascinating collection of everything related to life in the region—and Menzies himself demonstrates much of the work, from blacksmithing to drawing water to harnessing work animals. There are sections for toys, hospital equipment, jewelry, wagons, art, and more. It is really a remarkable place.
But that was a bonus. I really went to Birdsville for two things: the pub and the track. I wanted to have a meal in the old Birdsville Pub, as there are few things I could do in life that would be more tied to legend. And I wanted to travel the Birdsville Track. This track initially became famous as a postal run—someone actually had to drive the track every few days. The postman on the track was almost as famous as the drivers on the stagecoach lines of an earlier era. Fortunately, my friends Nikki and Richard were willing to accommodate my desire. And fortunately, too, they had the equipment and experience to take on the challenge. (Poor Richard had to change flat tires four times and had to replace two tires. And then there was the shattered rear windshield. It really is a rough road—though in all fairness to the track, not all that damage was sustained there. We were driving around the Outback for a couple of weeks.)
Some of the most famous shots of the Birdsville Pub show it in outline against a sunset—and being a great one for tradition, I had to try for such a shot myself. A sunset seems fitting at this point, as I’m about to leave Queensland for the Northern Territory. So farewell to the Sunshine State.