The Big Red Bash and Vision Splendid Roadtrip

In Travel by PhilLeave a Comment

It’s a nice little coincidence how this epic trip came about. I was filming at the Outback Rock and Blues festival at Undara National Park and met a well traveled, older rocker couple. If these two were grey nomads then they were the coolest ones I’ve met so far. We got talking over a few bevvies, frothies, coldies and they started talking about other outback music festivals they have been to. “You have to get to the Big Red Bash at Birdsville’ they said, “make sure you go ok?” so I agreed and put the bash on my list and promised them I’d go there one of these years. Little did I know it would be sooner rather than later.

3 weeks had passed and I randomly got a call asking if I wanted to go on a 9 day outback roadtrip through Winton to see the Vision Splendid Film festival and then finish up at The Big Red bash on the edge of the Simpson Desert just out of Birdsville.  The answer was most definitely yes! It’s called the Big Red bash because it is located at the base of ‘Big Red’, the biggest sand dune in the Simpson Desert near the Queensland border.

After a flight from Cairns to Brisbane I met up with my roadtrip buddy/chaperone at the Brisbane airport. It’s safe to say that Lizzie and I got along pretty much straight away and I knew this was going to be not only a big trip work wise but another amazing life adventure.

We jumped on a plane from Brisbane to Longreach and picked up our mine spec Toyota Prado from the airport. We decided to stock up on supplies and get something to eat in town before departing. There is pretty much everything you need in Longreach, except a tripod (more on that later) First stop….Winton for the Vision Spendid Film Festival!

It was a decent drive and many songs were sung at the top of our lungs. We named our new Prado Priscilla……….the queen of the desert. Seemed fitting.

I don’t know much about Winton other than what my dad had said about it and things I’d heard over the years from mates but it turns out there is quite a lot there. More than I expected.

The North Gregory Hotel is apparently where Banjo Patterson performed the first live performance of  Waltzing Matilda and over the road they have just opened the new Waltzing Maltilda Center. It’s a great pub with nice rooms up stairs and you can catch them reciting poems and Waltzing Matilda there on certain days.

We had a few days in town so we decided to explore of course, Lark Quarry and the Dinosaur stampede was the first stop and it was mind blowing. The drive was nice and we were a bit early so went for a walk on one of the tracks at the site. We took the short one but there’s a longer one too.

The dinosaur stampede made my imagination work overtime. You’ll know what I mean if you visit but the way Bec (the ranger we met) told the story she made it come alive. Bec really loves dinosauring! Well worth a visit.

We the took the long way back and went around to Carisbrooke Station. Another cool stop and thankfully we kept exploring and found some pretty amazing areas.

On the way back to Winton we decided that during the night we’d test out some astrophotography shots to see how they would come out. Considering I didn’t have a tripod I think they came out pretty well. I knew then I had to find OR make a tripod! That night we had dinner and a beer then crashed, a big first day.

On the previous day we’d managed to get a key to Rangelands Park. Lucky us because it’s private land and you generally need to take tours in there but we really wanted to get a few specific shots. After seeing it I would say that the tours are definitely worth it so get on them if you are in Winton with enough time to Explore. The different elevated areas are called ‘Jump up country’ which I now realize is because the land looks like it jumps up from the ground……….makes sense.

We did sunrise and sunset there and again shot the stars but made sure we made it back in time for dinner and one of the films at the festival. The film we caught on this night was the story about Midnight Oil, loved it.

On day 3 we went to Bladensburg National Park for some more wildlife spotting and the check out some more historical spots. We also wanted to shoot the signs into town and then get geared up for the final night of the Vision Splendid Film Festival. The festival goes for a whole week and each night there are great short and long films played. The other highlight of the festival is that 50 kids come to Winton and over the week have to film and produce a film and then show it on the final night. Sponsored by Qantas they can then win a prize and the glory of taking out one of the prestigious trophies on offer. The theater is under the stars (rarely rains in Winton) and it is very well done. We enjoyed the after party and entertainment and then crashed so we were ready for the next days drive to Boulia on the next adventure.

Birdsville here we come …….. via Middleton and Boulia

At breakfast we got asked by the festival organiser if we would mind taking someone to Birdsville for the bash and we both instantly said yes, the more the merrier. Turned out to be a legend of a human John ……. so we picked him up and set off to the Bash, via Middleton pub and Boulia.

By this stage we had relalised that singing at the top of our lungs to classic tunes was a great was to pass the time on big stretches and between spotting wildlife. Not sure how John felt about this but he endured it.

We stopped at a couple of amazing places on the way including a little shack that had been used in the movie The Proposition.

We also stopped in at the Middleton Pub, it really is in the middle of nowhere!! John knew Lester and Marie the publicans and they had some amazing stories to tell. Not all G rated either but hilarious. Say hi from Phil, Lizzie and John if you pass through there!

Boulia was our overnight stop and we met the deputy mayor and stayed at the Desert Sands Motel which was really nice. Bec told us all about the Boulia Camel Races that they have every year and it sounds like the town comes alive with it. I’ve put that event on the list too!

During the whole trip I was pinching myself at how lucky we were to be experiencing all of this and the drive through the outback just cemented the reasons I love this country. Most our population lives on the coast but there is so much space, life and beauty in the outback proving that the diversity that we have in Australia is something very special. It can also feel very baron.

The drive to Birdsville was amazing and we made a few little stops on the way. These ruins were pretty cool to look around.

When we got into Birdsville we pretty much just left everything in the car and went in for a beer, it had been a long trip and a cold beer was due. The iconic Birdsville Hotel was packed and the beer was shared with Travis band, great blokes. Sunset was approaching though so I had to cut it off at 1 and get some shots at sunset. At the same time we met Brooke Supple and she asked if I could take some photos of her for her portfolio so we did that too.

(this picture cost a few bucks, if you use a camera in the pub you have to donate to the Royal Flying Doctors!)

That night we had a few drinks in the amazing and historical Birdsville pub but got an early one since we were starting early to get shots around Birdsville and then get out to the Big Red Bash!

In the morning we went and got some famous pies from the Birdsville bakery, went to the marshes behind the caravan park and did some bird watching at sunrise. Soon after we decided to check out of the hotel  and get on the road towards the Big Red Bash and beat the rush. Turns out a lot of people were already there and it was easy to get in.

The first thing I noticed as we drove into the festival site was of course the massive sand dune but also that all the volunteers on the way in were really friendly and happy. We did everything we had to do including meeting the organisers and media contacts and then I went and did some scouting and shooting. They had tents prepared for us so everything was pretty much sorted.

To set the scene, the Big Red Bash is set at the base of the biggest sand dune in the Simpson Desert. Technically it’s on the edge of the desert but it all feels like desert out there. This year there were over 9000 people there. To think that after the week is done this massive camp city dissapears is amazing. It started as a followup event to the Big Red Run but now is even bigger than the run. Everyone brings there campers, trucks, caravans, mogs and same amazing vehicles and camps for up too 5 days. It’s amazing!!

Sunrises and sunsets are highlights and everyone treks up the dunes for them……….sunsets often include beer, wine and champagne. Throughout the day kids and big kids (adults) sand board down the dunes, play volleyball at the top and there’s even a cross dress run. Gotta see it to believe it. We even slept at the top of the dunes for a night to get star shots, cold but worth it.

The lineup is always amazing and this year there was The Hoodoo Gurus, The Angles, John Farnham, Darryl Braithwait, Kate Cerbrano and so many other great artists. One of my favorite views is looking at the stage and seeing the people on the dune behind enjoying the music.

There is a helicopter there doing flights for the whole event, we were lucky enough to get in the chopper on the final day and shoot back over the event. Looks like burning man from the air but is certainly different from the ground.

Bottom line is that this event is well worth attending and to be a part of capturing it was something special. The whole road trip from Longreach through Winton for the Vision Splendid film festival and all of the little surprises in between made it an epic outback adventure. Big Red Bash and Outback Queensland……you’ll be seeing me again for sure.

A massive thanks goes out to everyone who made the trip easy and all the cool people we met along the way at the bash and festival  who made it fun. A special thanks to Lizzie and Tourism and Events Queensland for making it such a cool trip. Not much sleep but worth it! If you have any feedback or have been to the bash I’d love to hear from you and see your photos and hear your comments. Thanks and we’ll share another adventure soon!

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