The tiny remote town of Boulia on the edge of the Simpson Desert saw its population swell from 300 to 3000 this weekend as people from across the country came to watch camels hurtle down the track at the 24th annual Boulia Camel Races.
With a $45,000 prize pool up for grabs with new partner, Thirsty Camel Bottle Shops, the enthusiasm for the Melbourne Cup of camel racing was at an all time high.
The longest, toughest and most prestigious of camel races unfolded like clockwork with a record number of travellers making the epic trek.
With everything on offer from racing, placing odds, live entertainment, comedy including the Crack-up Sisters, novelty races, camp oven cooking, children's amusement rides, fireworks, the Great Australian ride-on lawn-mower race, yabby races and helicopter joy flights it was an action packed weekend.
First timers and annual pilgrims arrived in caravans, campervans, trailer-vans, tents and utes; and for the less inclined campers, luxury glamping tents were available.
From the Gold Coast, Nick and Aimee Lindsay flew in for the races in their six-seater Beechcraft Bonanza. Nick, who works for a company that makes and launches rockets, said the camel races had been on their list as a place of adventure to visit for a while.
"I came through here about two years ago when we launched a rocket about 65km south west of Boulia," he said.
"We tried to hire a caravan, but they were all booked out for the camel races. That peaked my interest.
"We booked a glamping tent, which we've really enjoyed. Not having to pitch it and being able to stand up is great.
"The event isn't quite what we expected. Camel racing is no-where near as formal as a horse racing. We love the fact that the camels are unpredictable and anything can happen.
"It's certainly been fun and has given us greater insight into life in outback Queensland."
Boulia Shire mayor Rick Britton said the event was the district's biggest and run by a very small number of volunteers.
"The Cup is the most coveted and prestigious win on the camel racing circuit and is run over a mammoth 1500 metres," Mayor Britton said.
This year's Thirsty Camel Cup was taken out by local camel, 'Gunna', trained by Boulia's Roman Czubak and owned by Tom Woodhouse.
Jockey Kelly Sloan brought his camel over the line in two minutes and 40 seconds to deliver the hometown team's first ever cup win.
"At the start I didn't think it was going to go well," he said.
"We went all the way around on the outside running rail and at about 800m he decided to take off towards the other camels.
"By that time a couple had started to trot and he went straight through them and you wouldn't have wiped the smile off me dial. From about 600m out I knew I had that cup."
The two lumbered across the finish line to the roar of the crowd.
Camels, trainers, owners and jockeys came from near and far to compete.
Uluru Camel Tour's owner Chris Hill said the 1200km drive across the Plenty Highway was worth the trip.
"We brought seven camels with us," he said.
"They travel well and the generous prize pool makes it worthwhile. But importantly, it's a great chance for our staff to have a break and a bit of fun.
"Our camel Tex took out second in the Cup and in the 400m.
"He's just a working ride camel at home and is untrained to race; but it was good to see he put a little bit of pressure on others racing. It was great to see a hometown camel take the big prize."
New South Wales team, Oakford Camels, from Anna Bay crossed the line in third place with Dolly, ridden by Abby Douglas for camel trainer Rod Sansom.
Abby was enlisted along the way by Sansom who was left a jockey short. He found Abby fighting under the name 'Baby Rabbit' in Ted Brophy's Boxing Tent in Bedourie.
Trainer and jockey Glenda Sutton of Shepparton, Victoria took home the 400m Cup final on her camel Hajime. This is the 20th year Glenda has raced at the iconic Boulia races with this weekend taking the number of wins to almost 280.
First held in 1997, The Boulia Camel Races has cemented itself as a bucket list experience for Outback adventurers.
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