The 24th Annual Outback Car Trek left Bathurst on Sunday, 2 June. For 7 days, over 300 participants will travel 3,300 kms in pre-1978 cars through Outback NSW and Queensland en route to Coolum on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in aid of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) who are celebrating their 85th anniversary this year.
The Outback Trek has raised around $20 million for the RFDS since its inception in 1990 and last year raised in excess of $1.4 million – an amount it hopes to match or even better this year.
The following is an account by Nick Bleszynski from the RFDS of life on the road with the Outback Trek (OBT).
The Queenslanders are feeling cocky. At breakfast we are confronted by ranks of burly maroon shirted Queenslanders, which could only be answered by a cry of “Come on you Blues!” and some friendly banter. Tonight is Game One of State of Origin and we’re in Queensland who have won the previous eight series – and don’t we know it.
The day starts with a local story as heart-warming as the breakfast we enjoy at the showgrounds. Some of the Trekies had gone along to a local tyre dealer, Monaro Tyres, to get new tyres and spares but the owners refused to take any money. The RFDS had airlifted her son to hospital following an accident on his property.
Morning tea is taken at the tiny settlement of Begonia whose school has just 13 pupils who seize the influx of trekkers with both hands. Little hands are thrust aloft offering Tombola and raffle tickets and tickets for the intriguingly entitled, “Cow Pat Lotto.” A breathless pupil explained that a numbered grid is drawn on the ground and a cow led around it until it drops a cow pat on one of the squares.
I don’t know much about cow psychology, but the one they produced was obviously suffering from performance anxiety as 300 curious trekkers looked on and was unable pick a winner. However, no sooner had the cars disappeared than a shout went up. Daisy the cow had spoken and car number 86 had been blessed.
The prize and a sample of said cow pat were later presented to the bemused driver in front of a reporter from the Warrego Watchman newspaper – the story fulfilling two of the prime journalistic criteria – colour and movement. Should make a great story with headline to match.
Day 4 was also notable for the fact that we had breakfast, morning tea and lunch and dinner in four different communities – each of whom tried to outdo the other with a delicious selection of home bakes, soups and meals. How many Lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, chocolate caramel squares and slices of gooey chocolate cake is a man expected to eat in a week? I’ll let you know at the end of Day 7.
But Day 4 wasn’t finished yet. After reaching Charleville and having dinner and yet more home bakes the Trekies descended on the historic and exotically named Corones Hotel to watch the State of Origin rugby league. The vocal locals were soon silenced as the Blues cast off a decade of failure to record a very convincing win. The foundations of the grand old pub shook with the thunderous chants of “New South Wales.” It was good clean fun and the hotel went all out to make sure a good night was had by all.