Let’s fly to Birdsville!
Stu’s 40th was always going to be a big one.
A very good friend of ours, Stu Piper, wanted to do something a bit different recently to celebrate his 40th, and man did he accomplish that! After much research, he managed to convince 11 of his best mates (girls & boys), to join he and his wife, Lou on a four-day flying adventure in two aircraft leaving Melbourne’s Yarra Valley and heading up through the South Australian outback to the Birdsville Races and back.
They chartered two Navajos from Lilydale Air Services, beautifully flown by Lilydale pilots Roger and Jonathan Merridew, (about whom the entire team raved solidly) and from the reports I’m getting back, this bunch of very urbanised city-slickers had the time of their lives. As only the outback can do, that red dust worked its magic, big time - I reckon it filters through to the creases of your heart, as well as your clothes, and can’t help but leave an impression that stays with you for a very long time.
As this is an unlikely group to hit the back roads in anything but the latest 4WD, I thought I’d share a few of their comments and pix, just to celebrate a brilliant idea. An idea that warrants nothing less than blatant copying by anyone who’s not too thrilled with the thought of a long table at the local Thai for their next big birthday…. read on, be inspired, and start looking outside the square.
Thurs: Lilydale - Prairie Pub at Parachilna (Flinders Ranges) for lunch - William Creek Pub (overnight)
Fri: William Creek - Lake Eyre - Innamincka - Birdsville
Weekend: Making spectacles of themselves at Australia’s most iconic outback race meeting .
Sunday: Birdsville - Broken Hill - Lilydale.
Stu asked his fellow flying revellers to sum up the trip:
Sue: “Four states in four days, fizzy drinks, floral skirts, great friends, fantastic fun. Flying here, flying there - let’s just fly everywhere!!”
Louise: “Birdsville turned out to be as fun and exciting as the first rock concert I ever attended. I felt youthful again! The visions we witnessed from our plane were more inspiring than any painting I have seen in a gallery. And the experience of flying was like being a little kid dreaming again .. or swinging high on a swing. But best or worst, our Birdsville adventure showed me my secret lust for blood-thirsty sports! Fred Brophy - loved it. I have never laughed or enjoyed live entertainment as I did in that boxing tent .. Tom Thumb rules! I want that trip to be my “ground hog day”.
Jus: “Super weekend - loved it all, but watching Roger’s Navajo land at Parachilna with the sun glinting off the body of the plane and the red dust swirling around his wings in the middle of this country is locked in my brain, striding on to the airfield at Birdsville to our tents and waking up in the midst of a hundred planes was a real kick and chatting to two local trainers about the preparation and travel of their horses to the Birdsville Races 2009 - priceless! Many, many thanks for a wonderful experience.”
Kym: “What a great trip. Highlight? I would have to say that it was the complete change from the ordinary. To jump from Melbourne to Birdsville via a couple of pubs and a heap of great scenery on two light aircraft was unreal. So far removed from my daily life it was incredible. It felt like I had been away for way longer than four days and it was a bit hard to believe it had all happened when I was driving from home Melbourne on Sunday evening. Happy 40th mate.”
Anthony: “Having the opportunity of sharing the experience of a once in a lifetime outback adventure with a group of your closest mates; flying around the outback with the Pipers in the Pipers, really was something special and an absolute privilege. Since returning to the mundane aspects of my part time life, I have, strangely perhaps, missed not getting in a small plane every morning, drinking beer in an isolated pub at lunch and sleeping in a bag on a mat under a plane.
Phil: “From the sky the outback becomes an abstract artwork of fantastic colours and shapes rather than the endless kilometres of dusty roads you experience when driving. Time spent with friends both new and old, enjoying great food, exploring new experiences and having a good laugh - that’s what made Stu’s 40th an event to remember.”
"Flying (as opposed to driving) around the outback is obviously something very few people will ever get to do. The abbreviated journey was a plus. I’ve been spoilt forever as I can’t imagine ever venturing to those parts of the country by road now that I’ve done it on the wing. Thanks so much for including us. What a fortunate life we live. Happy 40th matey.”
Peter: “I’ve got to say (yet again!) what a fantastic trip it was and congratulations to you on the brilliant job you did putting it all together - a once in a lifetime event that we’ll all remember forever. The highlight would definitely be the flying - what a way to see the outback! It’s amazing what can be achieved in four days - a journey of 3000+ kms, four states, covering some of the best scenery you’ll ever see, along with a million laughs - sensational.”
Adrian: “As a traditional road traveller, who uses a 4WD vehicle and camper trailer for up to ten hours a day over 1000 kms, the exposure to a far more relaxed and pleasurable experience of flying to Birdsville via light aircraft has left a profound impression on me that I will never ever forget. The other side of me remembers: the cry from numerous revellers in Birdsville (who kept seeing us all wearing those white T-shirts) of “Who the bloody hell is Stu?”, and the look on the same revellers when they saw a grown man walking around town carrying an inflatable sheep.”
See, it’s not just me that the Australian Outback has seared through to the core of - I dare anyone to spend time out here and not be deeply affected by it. If you want a hand organising your own trip, as I did for Stu, just contact me.
To contact Lilydale Air Services: www.lilydaleairport.com.au
1.On May 27th, 2010 at 8:12 pm leah Says:
What a great trip. Just found your site while trying to plan the same trip for my husband 50th. Was thinking of just the two of us, but not now. How many friends can I rope in. We live an hour north of Brisbane any advise you can give me to make it a great trip please let me know. What is next on your list??
2.On June 2nd, 2010 at 9:17 am Shelley Says:
I’m guessing you’re private pilots in your own plane?
I always love calling into Longreach. Stockmans Hall of Fame and the Aviation Museum are really worth a visit. We stay at the Jumbuck hotel, right near the airport. Windorah also good, the Cooper Cabins have been recommended to me, though we’ve only ever called in there for refuelling, not stay the night.
In that general area, though a little south of your track to Birdsville, have a look at visiting places like Hungerford (on the NSW border) with its great old pub, Nuccundra for the same reason (though watch your prop on the stoney airstrip), Innamincka also good fun and you can also land and visit the Dig Tree nearby.
We’ve just returned from a 13-day safari with five other aircraft up through Qld to Groote Eylandt, across to Kakadu, into the Kimberley and home via Kings Creek Station (fantastic place!) and Arkaroola in the Flinders Rangers of SA. That was another organised by Stawell Aviation. So I’m filthy and SO behind with domestics, not to mention work!
Good luck with your planning
3.On August 4th, 2010 at 1:48 pm ronan Says:
I have been talking of doing somthing like this for ages, can I ask how much it was in total or is that to hard?
Too hard!! Give Lilydale Air a call: 03 9739 1211 or email: email@example.com