The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

30 September, 2014

Barbed Wire Pub, Spalding

After arriving in Adelaide we spent some time catching up with friends and relies before heading to the Clare valley for a couple of weeks with my brother.  Over the next few months we will be around Adelaide having check ups and catching up with friends. Our daughter also came over from Canada for a wedding so was good to catch up while she is in Adelaide.

On our trip to the Clare Valley done the usual winery visits and stroll around Clare etc before we decided to head to Spalding, about 45 km north of Clare.  We had heard about a free camp at the local hotel.  The Barbed Wire Pub, Spalding which housed a museum of local and other various barbed wire and fencing droppers.  There would be about 500 pieces of barbed wire along with star posts and temporary fencing posts.  The collection was put together by Leon Dobbins over about 40 years and sold when he became ill to Geoff at the Spalding hotel.

This was well worth the visit and in our case a stop over and a pub meal. You can camp at the back of the pub for free if you don't connect to the power.

Camping out the back of the Pub, free if you don't want power.

Geoff giving a talk on the barbed wire, mostly displayed in the main hall way.

Some of the star droppers

Didn't realize how many types of barbed wire

11 September, 2014

Farina, SA

We had passed Farina ruins on several occasions when travelling north but can't recall stopping to look at the historic town or stay at the camping area. So on this trip after 3 days travelling along the Birdsville track we decided to spend time at Farina.

Farina was proclaimed a town on 21/3/1878 - originally called "Government Gums", but later called "Farina" (Latin for flour) by Governor Jervois.  Original plans was to grow wheat but the climate proved unsuitable. Farina was the railhead from Pt Augusta from 2/5/1882 to 1884 when the line was extended first to Marree and then to Alice Springs.  The line closed in 1980's & was removed in 1993. Afghan camel drivers lived on Afghan Hill (eastern side of the town).  They brought in wool from the stations and delivered supplies to them.  Chinese came to Farina as construction workers on the railway and some stayed on as gardeners.  A School opened in 1879, Hotels "Transcontinental" &  "Exchange", Post Office, savings bank, telegraph station, police station, Anglican & Catholic churches, general stores, bakery, brewery, blacksmith, saddlery, hospital & butchery - the town was finally deserted in the 1980's but in its heyday the population reached approx 300 residents.

Several groups have taken on restoring the ruins and have established information boards and signposts which shows interesting history on the town and is thoroughly worth the visit.

The New Police Station 1935 to 1950

Farina Cemetery - quite detailed information boards giving info on pioneer families buried in this cemetery. The cemetery was last used in 1960. 

Chimneys are the site of  Patterson's House and Butcher Shop 1915-1989 with the underground Bakery in background

Underground Bakery - volunteers have restored this Bakery and has become operational during some of the restoration projects

Transcontinental Hotel (1878-1928)
Bush Nursing Hospital (1928-1945)
Boarding House (1945-1955)

Back of Transcontinental Hotel ruins

 Farina Cricket Ground - the resident ghost batsman! 

Another view of Transcontinental Hotel

The owners of the station run the camping ground which has recently had shower and toilet upgrades and provides hot showers when the donkey boiler is fired up.  Lovely spot to camp with plenty of space and trees.

Camping area approx 1km from Farina Ruins

Local chicks!

08 September, 2014

Down the track

Around midday on Monday 8/9 we decided to make a move down the track as majority of the Race Goers had already left.  Had a magnificent breakfast at the local Bakery (enough food to last a few days!!).   In hindsight being at the 'back of the pack' may not have been the best option ........ why? The track was not in the best condition, may be due to the amount of traffic which had traveled up and back to the races - probably the worst condition we had experienced in our previous travels. Generally the rocks were exposed - almost looking like a cobblestone effect, which certainly kept the average speed down.  At times when the track was in better condition we were able to get up to 60kph!

Just over the boarder in SA and the corrugations started.

Uninterrupted view for miles and miles in the Sturt Stoney Desert
We camped out twice on the track - first at Tippipila Creek Bush Camp (approx 200kms).  This camp even had flushing toilets!!  Were able to do a bit of  'maintenance' as vibrations caused a few "interesting incidents"!
Sunrise over the looo at Tippipila Creek Bush Camp

Mungerannie Pub
Next day travelling the road conditions had improved slightly although still not able to get above 60kph.  We experienced very strong cross winds and drove into a dust storm around Mungerannie.  With the strong wind we managed to collect quite a bit of the dust in the van.  By this time Helen was constantly reminding me that this was our home I was dragging down the Track and each time we stopped there seemed to be something that needed attention - not happy Hels!!
It was around Mungerannie the strong winds blew creating a dusty mist, not that pleasant!! 
Had planned to stay at Coopers Creek however on arrival the dust was blowing into our sandwiches so decided to drive further on to escape the conditions.  Was a great move as we stayed at Clayton Station (approx 54kms NE Marree) which was well worth the visit.  They had hot showers, flushing toilers and even a hot tub!!
Was the end of another windy day of dust and rough roads - a hot tub was most welcoming.

At Clayton camped with 2 other couples who had already started to fill the hot tub with warm spring water ..... oh so relaxing.

This monument south of Maree in 2012 commemorates the 150th anniversary of the crossing from Adelaide to Van Dieman Gulf by John McDouall Stuart
Stopped for a coffee in Maree - Helen pleased as finally of the Birdsville Track!  Traveled onto Farina for our next camp.

06 September, 2014

Birdsville Races 2014

We arrived at Birdsville on the Monday before the race meeting which starts on Friday with the running of the Birdsville Cup on the Saturday (1st Saturday in September).  This would give us time to settle in and also take in the atmosphere and other events leading up to the big day.

It was just as well ............ when we drove through Birdsville it was busy as expected but when we went out to the free camping area between Birdsville and the Diamantina River, we were blown away with the large number of groups already there and also the number of caravans.  Birdsville is a town with a normal population of 115 people, during the racing carnival it grows to estimated 7,000 people (which we thought were already here!)

Birdsville Race track, racing first Saturday in September
I would have estimated that more than 2,000 caravans (all types)  were camped in and around Birdsville.  The caravan park has a total of 1000 sites (54 powered) which seemed full by Friday of camper trailers, caravans and swags.  The remaining camped between the town and the race track, which is where we were.

At least 2,000 caravans seemed to be camping out from town

Will we all fit??

Our camp

The first time for our new camp fire, cooking stew.

The Shell service station is across from the caravan park, this was also the general store with a small selection of essential supplies and some fresh vegies.  The workshop was always busy repairing tyres and recovering vehicles which needed assistance.

There was always a long line up for fuel, with only 2 service stations in town, Shell being the most popular even though 3 cents a litre more than the Mogas. 

On Wednesday the carnival activities started, they had yoga sessions in the morning for the early risers a fun run (6.5km) from the race track to town across the old Diamentina crossing.

Fun Run on Wednesday
In 2007 due to the Equine flu virus no horses competed at Birdsville, so to entertain those who had come to watch a horse race the organizers ran what is now known as the Equine Games.  This is now run on the Thursday before the Birdsville races and still includes other games and an opportunity to raise more money for the RFDS.  The events were hilarious and combined with quick witted and sometime risque commentary, it certainly set up the carnival atmosphere which carried on over the remaining days.

The crowd gathers in front of the Hotel for the Equine Games

Entertainment before and during the games

The crowd is building in and outside the pub

Horses ready

Enterained by S. T. Ruth and her "pool boy" while jockeys are getting ready, you can see here the beer can is used to roll the string around and pulls the horses to the finish line.

She's a real cracker of a girl !!


Crowd gathered as the games continued

Contestants had to place a toilet brush in between their legs, run to their partner who had a toilet roll between their legs, put the toilet roll on the brush (no hands to assist), then run back to the finish line with toilet roll on the toilet brush.

From Tuesday 2/9 through to Sunday 7/9 the organizers had planned different entertainment for the multitudes enjoyment & raising money for RFDS including:  History of the Birdsville Races - the concept of this iconic race meeting & how it came to be;  Cultural Presentation - traditional owners of the Wangkangurru & Yarluyandi land;  Photographic Exhibition - local entries showing landscape & characters of the Diamantina; Movies - Last Mail from Birdsville & The Back of Beyond; Book signings - Sue Williams; Bush Cricket; RFDS Cocktail Party; Fred Brophy's Boxing Troupe; Music Concerts + free live entertainment at the Birdsville Pub from 6pm onwards, plus many more.  We thought the organizers did a fantastic job both in providing entertainment and facilities throughout the carnival.
Some lads dressed in hessian sacks traveled in a Oldsmobile to Birdsville
A star attraction to the Birdsville Races is Fred Brophy, an Australian icon. He's a fourth generation showman who still operates his boxing tent – the last of its kind in the world. He has spent his whole life on the road as a forth generation showman.  In 1960's Fred set up his own Boxing Tent and has been touring outback Qld.  

Fred Brophy announcing the boxers
We attended the Races on Saturday which included the running of the Birdsville Cup. Caught the bus out to the track, found a good spot undercover (shade all day) where we sat and soaked up the atmosphere.  Geoff has been a couple of times to the Races with "the boys" however this was my first visit and I must say I had a ball.  Watched the Race Fashion Competition (oh yes some do dress up equivalent to the Melbourne Cup), but I must say when the dust blew some of the outfits were not practical! !  Still they looked beautiful - even some of the men were dressed to kill.  We had a few bets and at the end of the day came out about even.  Caught the bus back to our camp for a quick shower & refresh then back into town for some more festivities.

Lucky enough to get a set under the pavilion

These are NOT the jockeys, we caught the bus to the races with this lot, it's a wonder it stopped.  Many people and groups dress up in all sorts of attire for the races.

General admission area 

A lot more refined, corporate tent area.

The Birdsville Cup, my horse ran 4th ...... bugger!!

Another icon at Birdsville is the Bakery - a must visit!
Enjoying a Curried Camel pie ...... yum

There was a mass exodus Saturday after the race, Sunday and Monday morning. We waited until after the rush and left after lunch Monday, heading south down the track.