Finke Desert Race, Northern Territory

There’s something apocalyptic about the Finke weekend, the scramble at the supermarkets, people packing up their 4 wheel drives ready for every eventuality and hot tailing it in convoys out into the desert. All to watch the Finke Desert Race which has the status of being one of the most tough off-road tracks in one of the most remote places in the world and at 229 km each way I can see why.


The annual race includes motocross bikes, cars, buggies and quads taking part in a multi terrain two-day race through the desert like a scene straight from Mad Max, Fury Road. The race crosses the Finke River and according to the Finke website it is believed to be the oldest river in the world. The event has over 600 competitors from the leaders whizzing past to the more slow contestants holding up the rear and sailing through.


It was unlike anything I had seen before, spectators stand close to the track offering support and drivers whoop and cheer at their audience as they fly past. On several occasions I was leaping out of the path of bikes and cars especially while playing professional photographer. Low flying helicopters hurtle past at an alarming speed chasing the leaders in the race which adds even more adrenaline to experience.


Camping seems to also be a sport at Finke, from the basic swag and campfire to pavilions and generators. We were very lucky to be the latter however if you have read my post about Crossing The Nullarbor or The Great Central Road you will know that usually we camp with the bare essentials. Camping with locals (one being an outback tour guide) meant that we had now upgraded and learnt a whole lot more about camping out bush including digging a toilet in the rock hard ground and cooking a roast on an open fire.


Camping was freezing and incredibly windy, our original pavilion blew away after the first night so the second night we dragged our swags around the fire and got cosy. Waking up in the morning I was greeted by frost on my swag and a wet pillow to match but luckily my partner had kept the fire going all night so I could thaw out.


Fireworks are a big event, with locals setting them off at their respective camps, it doesn’t matter how old you are there is something devilish about lighting fireworks and running for your life.


The hunt is on for firewood and good spots to watch the racing from. It is truly a unique experience and was not what I expected at all. The sense of spirit was inspiring, the spot we had gotten seemed to attract casualties and each time a contestant came off their bike an onlooker would be pulling them up again.


Even an amateur car enthusiast such as myself then you will be in heaven here, the cars are mean and fly past at incredible speeds bouncing across the uneven terrain and each is uniquely modified, the variety is what makes it more entertaining for me.


I feel so lucky to have had the chance to watch the Finke Desert Race. That’s what I love about the Northern Territory, there’s always something really diverse and unusual going on and it’s another world compared with where I grew up, 30 miles north of London. It was a bit more of a picture based blog post this week hope you enjoyed I know I did!

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Useful Links

Finke Desert Race Website

About Alice Springs




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