• The Travel Ten

EVENT: Birdsville Big Red Bash (16-18 July 2019)

The desert around Birdsville is set to burst into flower in a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle just in time for this awesome event and we're super excited! Our Aussie 'droughts and flooding rains' have driven farmers to the edge of sanity lately, but this silver lining is set to bring a bit of happiness into one of our favourite corners of the Outback. Think desert wildflowers, and the transformation of Lake Eyre into an inland nursery for millions of birds, including tens of thousands of coastal pelicans.

Here's what the organisers have to say:

They come for the music, but for Big Red Bash festival goers the July pilgrimage to the 40m-high Big Red sand dune in the Simpson Desert is an integral part of the bucket list experience.

“Our title as the world’s most remote music festival is well earned. We are more than a 1000km from any major city in Australia. The nearest settlement to us is the iconic township of Birdsville, which has a population of just 115. The countryside on the journey to the Big Red Bash is incredible, and with the recent floods and rainfall in the surrounding Channel Country this year even more so,” said Big Red Bash Founder and Organiser, Greg Donovan.

Music-wise the 2019 Big Red Bash will deliver one of the best line-ups in the event's history come July 16-18 2019, with Oz Rock legends Midnight Oil heading back to the outback to perform at the desert based festival along with a host of all-time Australian music greats including ARIA award-winners The Living End, Richard Clapton, 1927, Kasey Chambers and Wendy Matthews, as well as Neil Murray, Busby Marou and many more.

Mother Nature will also turn on a once in a generation spectacle as wildflowers pepper the red sands of the Simpson Desert, and Lake Eyre, Australia’s biggest salt lake, transforms into a nursery for tens of thousands of Pelicans who migrate inland to breed.

“Regardless of the direction our patrons come from to the Big Red Bash they’re in for an extraordinary year.  Outback Queensland always offers spectacular scenery, however the recent rains will deliver some incredible phenomena that are certainly once in a generation – if not once in a life time experiences,” said Greg Donovan.

The rains that have followed recent floodwaters are expected to bring the red earth of the Simpson Desert alive with a vast array of beautiful desert flowers.

“The greenery in the Channel Country already is incredible, those photos along with the images of Birdsville as an island surrounded by floodwaters have gone viral.  The next stage will be the wildflowers that appear over the coming months – which will be perfect timing to take in on the trip to the Big Red Bash.  Typically we would expect to see needlebush with creamy flowers, the ‘wattle of the desert’ the Acacia victoriae that has a beautiful show of pale yellow flowers, the Sandhill spider flower or rattlepod, the parrot bush with yellow and green beaklike flowers and carpets of daisy,” added Greg Donovan.

It is expected that yellow and senecio daisies, the purple parakeelya whose succulent leaves provided local Aboriginal’s with moisture, Billbuttons, poached egg daisy’s and bluebells will also make up the striking array of desert flora over the coming months.

And from flora to fauna the salt beds of Lake Eyre are already being transformed into a pelican nursery with thousands of the majestic birds – usually seen on coastal waterways – winging their way to the desert oasis.

“The Lake Eyre Basin filling is a rare occurrence that will usually only happen four times in 100 years.  The Lake is well on the way to filling as the waters continue to flow in from the surrounding Channel Country and the Diamantina, Georgina and Cooper Creeks, and is expected to be at or near capacity in the months leading into the Big Red Bash.  The Lake Eyre Yacht club, who don’t often get to put their boats in water, will be sailing in July and best of all, thousands of pelicans will be roosting - which will be a sight to behold for any of our travellers who take in the Lake on the way to the event,” added Greg Donovan.

It has been nearly ten years since Lake Eyre, the lowest point below sea level on the Australian mainland (15.2m below sea level) last filled, and 2019 is expected to see it once again hit the full mark.  It is a level that is traditionally only ever reached four times in 100 years, with the time before that being back in 1974-75.

Pelicans and other water birdlife including gulls and avocets have already begun migrating to the area to breed with combined numbers expected to continue swelling to the millions over the coming months.

As the usually dry salt lake bed fills it undergoes an amazing and rapid transformation. Dormant marine creatures including fish and crustaceans multiply, while weeds and algae flourish –all catering to the huge flocks of water birds that arrive from around the country to feed and raise their young before the waters evaporate.

“On these very rare occasion that there is the huge water flow into Lake Eyre the basin becomes the biggest breeding ground for Pelicans in Australia.  Previously when the Lake has filled like it’s expected to this year close to 80,000 Pelicans were born in the region.  With the Pelican population in the whole of Australia usually sitting at around 120,000 that is a huge boost to numbers that will be seen in coastal regions when the birds make the return flight back to beach destinations,” said Greg Donovan.

“There’s been years and years of research done on how the birds know when Lake Eyre has been flooded, or how they know the way there from their coastal homes that are thousands of kilometres away.  Theories include them having some kind of a bush telegraph system passing information on about good feeding grounds, to them having magnetic compasses in their brains and the ability to hear sonic vibrations of waves lapping at the shores and masses of water travelling to the Lake.  Despite the research, nobody can say categorically why this mass bird migration takes place when the Lake fills.  I think it adds to the mystery and beauty of what happens in this very special corner of the world,” Donovan added.

Those attending the Big Red Bash will be able to detour into Lake Eyre on their journey to Bashville (suggested routes are on the bigredbash.com.au site), and Birdsville is one of the most accessible points from which to see Lake Eyre by plane or helicopter, with the Lake only 20 minutes away by air.

Taking place over three bumper days and nights during the July winter school holidays, the all-ages and dog-friendly Big Red Bash offers up a uniquely Australian destination adventure for families, motoring and camping enthusiasts, all-age music-lovers, backpackers, grey-nomads and travellers from near and far alike.

Proudly supported by Tourism and Events Queensland, the Big Red Bash delivers a jam-packed program of outback activities in addition to the stellar music bill – from comedy and outdoor film screenings, to scenic helicopter flights, dune surfing, beach volleyball and camel rides.

The much-loved event also plays host to the Australian Outback Air Guitar Championships, Fashions in the Desert and the RFDS Bashville Drags, which sees festival-goers race a 500-metre dirt course donned in colourful drag outfits. Both the Fashions in the Desert and Bashville Drags events raise much-needed funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The Big Red Bash can be accessed via road vehicles, scheduled and charter flights, and bus tours. The event does not sell alcohol, but ticket-holders are permitted to bring their own food and alcohol on to the event site. In addition, there will be a range of food vendors selling both hot and cold food and beverages at the event.

The Big Red Bash also has dog-friendly camping and concert areas. However, when buying tickets, attendees will need to register their dog to attend. Children aged 11-and-under are also able to attend the event for free.

For more information, and to purchase Birdsville Big Red Bash tickets, visit www.bigredbash.com.au

What:           Birdsville Big Red Bash

Where:         Big Red sand dune, 35 km West of Birdsville

When:          Tuesday 16 July – Thursday 18 July, 2019

How much:  Starting from $92. Children aged 11-and-under enter for free.

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