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On the 548km drive from Marree to Birdsville on what is without doubt the rockiest, harshest, most inhospitable piece of road in the known universe including Mars, Jupiter and Uranus, we were discussing why Birdsville was named Birdsville.

Paul, a television reporter, suggested it was because of the large rock that tourists visit. Deb and Jo who own a shop in the beautiful town of Bangalow that features a sealed road (sealed road, you’re dreamin’) thought it may be because the local pub is called the Birdsville Hotel. So you can see what I have had to put up with apart from trying to steer the world’s oldest Mercedes laden with four large adults, camping gear, espresso machine and gallons of expensive wine and tequila on the above mentioned roads in this year’s Shitbox Rally.

Of course, this may be the reason we shredded three tyres and two rims. In our team of seven cars (as you may remember, the Weekend Australian’s ute was taken out by a large rock trying to modify its sump) we managed to shred nine tyres, put three holes in one sump and put a large hole in the fuel tank of Michael McMichael’s (so good his mother named him twice) BMW.

Naturally being an Adelaide man and a skilled mechanic, Michael wanted to keep on driving although he was leaking more fuel than when the Exxon Valdez.

Shredded tyres and punctured sumps aside, you can’t beat this view with a stick

For $1000, you get what you pay for

For $1000, you get what you pay for

Shredded tyres and punctured sumps aside, you can’t beat this view with a stick

Told he was driving a ticking time bomb, Michael agreed for the Beemer to be repaired with chewing gum. This was after one of the more intelligent people on our team suggested we needed to get a good look at the hole even though it was pitch black. We just managed to pull him out from under the car as he got the cigarette lighter out of his shirt pocket.

This morning the Merc was off to the Ritz Carlton Tyre shop in Birdsville, owned coincidentally by a guy also named Mick. The only tyre person in town, Mick can charge what he likes. After receiving payment for our tyres, Mick said he was now going to build the first skyscraper in town and would give us the penthouse.

Breakfast was at the Birdsville Bakery, which offers tasty morning treats like curried camel-and-claret pies, kangaroo-and-sav-blanc pies, Rabbit (caution: small bones) pies, spicy chook, broo and roo pies and roadkill (emu, wallaby, kangaroo and crocodile) pies.

Talking of emu, it was easy to see that the occupants of what has been renamed theWeekend Australian Millar and More Team, were not exactly in the manner of the early settlers. Seeing an example of Australian wildlife running for the car we discussed whether it was:

a) a kangaroo

b) a wallaby

c) a wombat or

d) a platypus.

Paul, the clever TV journalist, Paul said it reminded him of something he saw on the Australian coat of arms last time he was in court — a kangaroo it was. Later a local said that our photograph clearly showed it was an emu.

Well it should be an even more exciting trip to Boulia which we believe is: (a) in Queensland, and (b) named after Lord Boulia, who invented the cheese sandwich.

Now to reader feedback:

To those who want their sponsorship money back, I say come and get it.

To those who say, “Don’t be a wuss. Get the car repaired, put a new engine in and stay driving.” Please come out here and count the number of garages. And anyway we are carrying on in that great Australian tradition of failure.


Follow my thrilling exploits at the Weekend Australian



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