For the Finke desert race we camped half way down the track. That’s the old Ghan track from Alice Springs to Finke, about 150ks as the crow flies from the geographical centre of Australia. It’s bush camping, with no facilities – no toilets, showers or even water. It’s totally self-sufficient camping.
And the dust is very red, and very fine and soft, softer than the sand on most beaches I’ve been to. Well, it’s soft unless it’s in your food or your mouth when, it feels a bit gritty.
I’ve done bush camping before, but on every other trip there has been access to water, either from a river or a dam. Even if the water wasn’t drinkable, we had water to wash ourselves, our clothes and our dishes. Out here in the outback NT, there’s no water, so no washing!
In case this all sounds like roughing it – it is. And it’s something I never saw myself doing.
When I was in my 20s I backpacked around south-east Asia, sleeping, eating and travelling on the cheap. Once I got back I swore my days of roughing it were over. I earned decent money so I paid for decent holidays. Once my kids got past the toddler/can’t take them anywhere except to see grandma and their cousins stage I took them to Noosa for resort holidays.
Then I met Doc and he dragged me kicking and screaming into the outback in a swag.
I fell in love – with the outback and sleeping under a million stars that is, I was already in love with him.
But roughing it doesn’t mean going without all luxuries.
The ute is fitted out with everything we need – a fridge, drawers for food and cooking utensils, space for my camera gear and thermal cooking pot, and an awning on the side for shade to sit in either for lunch or when we stop and camp. I can often be found of an afternoon in the shade under the awning having a glass of cold sauvignon blanc and a platter of biscuits and cheese.
I’ve even put a Swarovski crystal ring through the crocodile skin band of my akubra. After all, a girl must have some bling!
And roughing it other benefits. There’s no pressure to do anything, no crowds, no noise. The sun is usually shining, and even if it’s not you can light a big campfire to keep warm. And when it gets dark there’s a million stars to look at.
Here’s some easy tips for bush camping:
- Baby wipes make excellent all over cleansers when there’s no access to water for a shower. Get the good ones – for sensitive skin or faces – they’re much easier on your skin. I keep a big packet of cheap baby wipes as well for cleaning hands, which can be done often!
- Deodorant comes into its own when camping – you might not be able to have a shower for a few days, but you don’t have to smell like it. Perfume on the other hand is a different matter. If you haven’t washed perfume won’t disguise it – it’ll just add to it. If you’re bush camping, perfume is best left at home.
- Dry shampoo can work miracles when you can’t wash your hair. It even adds body to fine hair!
- If you wipe your dirty dishes with paper towels they’re much easier to wash up and don’t take as much water. Particularly fry pans which can be very greasy. If you’re using your drinking water to wash up it’s important to use as little as possible.
- Everybody wears the same clothes day after day while camping, you might as well too. You can always air your clothes to freshen them up a bit. String a rope between two trees, or a tree and the car, or any other two stable places and peg your clothes out to air. If you’re camping somewhere that gets cold at night, leave them out overnight. The night dew gives them an extra ‘pick-me-up’.
- If you’re travelling every few days, or when you’re feeling particularly dirty, splash out on a proper camping ground where you can at least have a shower and wash the dirt and dust off properly.
Wherever you go, and however you do it, it sure beats a dingy little office, with a stingy ray of sunshine ….