Get lucky in Julia Creek

GREAT DAY OUT: Race day at the track is something else, but you have to pace yourself.
GREAT DAY OUT: Race day at the track is something else, but you have to pace yourself. Contributed

"SO you're here for the triathlon," the young woman looked nonplussed while chatting to the svelte 1.8m man.

"Guess that means I won't be getting lucky with you tonight."

And she disappeared into the crowd.

That's how things roll in the Outback.

And having a good time at the Dirt n Dust Festival is mandatory.

You get given little choice in an action-packed weekend that is unique on the Australian events calendar.

It's an amazing combination of a triathlon, gala race day with gourmet luncheon, bull ride ... all followed by a massive party in the usually quiet cattle and mining town of Julia Creek, 664km west of Townsville.

The town will come alive for the festival this year on April 20, 21 and 22.

This adventure into the Outback's north-west is unforgettable and will have you longing for a return. Rural hospitality is at its best from the moment you get into town. People love to have a chat down the main street, and everyone gets a wave when you pass on the highway.

Things get under way on the Friday night next door to the Town and Country pub, which is transformed into festival central.

A welcoming dinner enables the triathletes to carb-load, while those not entered in the race can party on with the band.

From sun-up on Saturday, it's action aplenty as entrants prepare to take on a challenging sprint distance over three disciplines.

Competitors jump on the bus to start their race and swim 800m in Eastern Creek, about 25km from town. After cycling back, they do three loops of the main street on foot, all in rising temperatures.

The triathletes are given brilliant support from the spectators who line the main street.

There is a short rest before donning your best garb for the races.

Don't be fooled by the "turf club" moniker: it's a dirt track all the way. Hats are seemingly the measure of the man, and some wonderful characters converge to catch the action.

Those looking for something special while there should put the Red Claw Luncheon on their agenda.

It's important to pace yourself at the races, because the fun is only just beginning. As the sun sets the serious, action arrives.

Australia's best bull riders go on show. Part of the Pro Bull Riding calendar, this is serious stuff as you see man's attempt to tame the wildest of beasts.

After the bull ride winner is crowned, you'll mark time 'til the real partying begins. The live bands return to the main stage, leaving the triathletes, racegoers and bull riders to celebrate into the wee hours.

The kids aren't forgotten in all the athletic activity, and they have their own triathlon on Sunday morning. Children of all ages have a go and the race provides a brilliant finish to an amazing weekend.


Down under in Mount Isa

WANT to know why miners earn so much money? Visit the Hard Times Mine.

Donning the orange overalls, gumboots, helmet and lantern, it's as close as you'll get without signing up for a job underground.

You head below in a cage and get to touch, smell and feel your way around a mine.

While Hard Times Mine has never been in operation, and was constructed only for tourism purposes, it's a brilliant way to gain an insight into mining operations.

Old machinery is scattered around the tunnels, and you even get the chance to feel the power of an air-leg drill, see how they blast a face and hear what it sounds like below the surface when they light the wick.

Turning off your head lantern proves an eerie feeling and gives you an immediate respect for those who tackle the tunnels each day.

The minimum age for visitors is is seven. Entry fees: adult $45, concession $38, child $26, family $119.60 (two adults two children).

Tours run seven days a week, but bookings are essential.



The 2012 festival will be held on April 20, 21 and 22.

Julia Creek is on the Overlander's Way, which stretches from Tennant Creek to Townsville.

The town has a population of about 600.

The festival started with a couple of locals spinning yarns at the Town and Country Club bar back in 1994.

They wanted to put Julia Creek on the map. So they came up with an idea to host a triathlon, and with support along the way from a legend like Brad Bevan, it's become one of the most colourful events on the sport's calendar.

It's organised by a non-for-profit group and assisted by many locals - one in five of the McKinlay Shire residents volunteers in some way.

For more information visit Queensland Holidays and Dirt n Dust.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  julia creek outback travel travelling

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