GONE BUSH

Men’s Style RE­CENTLY TOOK IN THE BIRDSVILLE RACES AS WELL AS THE DUST, FLIES AND VAST OPEN SKIES OF THE BIRDSVILLE TRACK ON A CAMP­ING TRIP DRIV­ING THE MAZDA BT-50.

Men's Style (Australia) - - Priority Male -

One of Aus­tralia’s most iconic out­back events is the an­nual Birdsville Races, held in the re­mote town of Birdsville on the edge of Aus­tralia’s vast Simp­son Desert. The event swells Birdsville’s pop­u­la­tion of 115 peo­ple to about 7,000 peo­ple dur­ing the week­end of race-go­ing and par­ty­ing, and this year Men’s Style was in the thick of it be­fore a drive down the leg­endary Birdsville Track in a Mazda BT-50.

The fa­mous desert race meet draws a wide cast of char­ac­ters – many in fancy dress – from all parts of Aus­tralia to watch horses and jock­eys bat­tle the end­less dust in a seven-race meet, first held back in the 1880s. Aus­tralian Gover­norGen­eral Peter Cos­grove at­tended the hos­pi­tal­ity mar­quee along with Men’s Style as we en­joyed the dry con­di­tions with – what else in Aus­tralia? – icy cold beer.

Once the race meet was over the crowd headed back to town to con­gre­gate around the fa­mous Birdsville Ho­tel, where a range of bushies demon­strated whip-

crack­ing and other bush skills in front of the pub, watched by a thirsty, can-chug­ging crowd. Op­po­site the pub Fred Bro­phy’s fa­mous box­ing tent sets up for the du­ra­tion of the race meet, where all-com­ers ar­rive to take on Bro­phy’s in­ter­na­tional troupe in will­ing bouts definitely not sanc­tioned by the WBA, WBA , IBF or RSPCA. Bro­phy’s tent is an old-school fix­ture of the Birdsville event.

That night Men’s Style ‘glamped’ in ‘Tent City’ on the edge of town, treated to more cold beers and the makeshift gourmet feast pre­pared by our tour­ing chef for the next cou­ple of days, Ade­laide’s Billy Dohnt of Billy Dohnt Does. There’s some­thing sur­real about sit­ting in a camp chair un­der a tent watch­ing the stars come up over the Aus­tralian desert while eat­ing a meal you’d be more likely to find in a top Sydney restau­rant… but hell, it was en­joy­able.

Once the con­cert at the Birdsville Ho­tel wrapped up about 1am, we got some sleep ahead of a big day – driv­ing the famed Birdsville Track into South Aus­tralia in the Mazda BT-50.

After Billy’s break­fast of ba­con and eggs with hol­landaise we hopped into the cars for the un­miss­able photo op out­side the Birdsville Ho­tel, sur­pris­ingly spic and span after the rau­cous night be­fore. There were things to im­me­di­ately note about the 4X4 Dual Cab BT-50 we hopped in: while it looked like a rugged, bush-bash­ing piece of equip­ment that most of the bushies would use ev­ery day, it felt like a city SUV once you sat be­hind the wheel, i.e. com­fort­able.

After a brief safety talk from drive man­ager Tony and a warn­ing about some of the road con­di­tions on the Track, we left Birdsville via a po­lice breath test­ing unit (passed!) and hit the open road. The fa­mous Track was in fairly good nick and as we opened up the BT-50’S 3.2 litre five-cylin­der turbo diesel en­gine, we were soon pass­ing car­a­van­ners on their re­turn from the races. About two hours into the drive we hit some soft sand and hard-to-spot hol­lows in the road which put the han­dling ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the car to the test. Steer­ing and sus­pen­sion were re­mark­able in these con­di­tions, with driver and pas­sen­ger in com­plete com­fort as the BT-50 bumped through the dips and back onto the flat track.

That night we camped at Clay­ton Sta­tion, most of the way down the track to­wards our fi­nal stop of Mar­ree. A trip to a nearby mesa saw some of the party test the car up a rocky in­cline to the top, where the view of a mob of kan­ga­roos and the tree­less plain in the late af­ter­noon was a peer­less sight. Back at the camp Billy worked his magic on the We­ber and tales were told and marsh­mal­lows in­cin­er­ated around a rip-roar­ing camp fire.

The next day we rolled into Mar­ree for lunch at “prob­a­bly” the only pub in Mar­ree (it is the only pub in Mar­ree) be­fore fly­ing out on our jour­neys home. Re­mark­able places vis­ited in a re­mark­ably tough car.

The Clay­ton Sta­tion camp (main pic); post-races at the Birdsville Ho­tel (above, top); at the race meet (above, mid­dle); Billy Dohnt (above).

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