Photos of Outback Festivals in the Northern Territory, Australia

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Outback Festivals of the Northern Territory

The Territory is an easygoing place and the Australian humour really takes over at the madcap festivals that are typical of life in this place.Alice Springs, in the arid Centre, is the scene for the yearly Henley-on-Todd Regatta, where "boat races" are held with bottomless boats, held up by the contestants who have to run through the dry riverbed. There are crazy bathtub races too and whole naval battles by, among others, "Vikings" and "Pirates" crewing battle boats on truck's chassis, bristling with mortars and high pressure coloured water cannons hurling flour bombs at their opponents. But if it rains and there is water in the river, the boat race has to be cancelled!

Start Henley-on-Todd
Race bottomless boats
The American team
Viking ship
Viking crew
Finishing line
Womens' boat race
Bathtub race
Viking dragon boat
Pirate ship
HMAS Defender
Pirates and Vikings
Victorious crew
After the battle
Mindil Beach, Darwin
Ambulance boat
A Beer Can Yacht
A Beer Can Canoe
Sailing the Yacht
Sand sculptures
Henley-on-Mindil race
At the finish line
Going for the finish

In 1962, the idea was taken up to hold a rowing and sailing regatta in Alice Springs - and the fact that the town was over 1,500 kilometres from the nearest large body of water was never seen as a problem. So, to parody the annual Henley Royal Regatta on the River Thames in England, they named the event the Henley-on-Todd.

Watching seemingly sane people race in bottomless "eights", "bath tubs" and yachts through the deep coarse sand of the Todd River is a sight to behold. The multi-event program attracts many local and international participants from the audience who often finish up on world TV news paddling canoes with sand shovels and in "land lubber" events like filling empty 44 gallon drums with sand. The event is run entirely on a volunteer basis by the three Rotary Clubs based in the Alice. The entire proceeds - well over a million dollars raised over the years - is allocated to local, national and international humanitarian projects.

Mindil Beach in Darwin is the scene of the yearly Beer Can Regatta, where participants make good use of the thousands of aluminium beer cans by making boats in all shapes and sizes from them and then proceed to hold mock battles in the shallow sea there. Children, too, participate, although they may only use soft drink cans!

Funds generated during the day are donated to various charities in the Darwin region each year. The main event is a race between boats built entirely out of beer cans with locals and tourists alike cheering as the home made boats of cans wallow, flounder and sink off Mindil Beach. The fleet includes all kinds of canoes, speedboats, and even giant Viking warships with fire hoses and other weaponry.

For those who don't like to get wet there are competitions such as Henley-on-Mindil, a series of races along the beach with bottomless boats. There are all kinds of other wacky activities and there are the Mindil Beach Markets which go into the night following the regatta.