Outback or bush, call it what you like, this would be the remotest, driest, hottest festival that I’d ever been to and unlike some travels where spontaneity keeps the magic alive, this needed planning. At least a little.
Event organisers emailed out a survival guide a few weeks before the start date of 10th November 2012, warning of bugs and beasties and dangerous drop access roads, of shrivel-inducing temperatures and complete communication cut-off.
This wasn’t a festival for pussycats.
Instead it would be a moment for thousands of wiry revellers, eclipse chasers, festival die-hards, musicians, DJs and artisans to unite. A seven day festival of music and workshops, of crafting and consciousness building, of stomping feet, raised hands and banging heads, a seven day festival created around the total solar eclipse visible within Far North Queensland, Australia.
Me and my crew were nearly ready. One final stock up and then we’d start the journey inland from Cairns, away from city structure into a landscape of termite mounds and tracks that led to houses a million miles from anywhere else.
So what did we bring? What might work for you next time the eclipse festival fever grips Australia again in 2028? Or whatever hot and humid festival that might be coming up shortly?
- Drinking water. Lots. We each got through about 4 litres a day. Onsite water was not considered safe to drink so we brought what looked like a ridiculous amount and it only just lasted.
- Water sprayers/misters. Handheld are fine but the full on backpack, gardening maintenance style were best. And fun. And in demand. Spray and dance and stay safe and hydated.
- Sunscreen. Far North Queensland heat and full on rays need a little thought.
- Sunglasses. Super bright light. Some hangovers. Sensitivity.
- Longlasting snacks. Nuts and other nutritious, energy giving nibbles.
- First aid kit with all the basics including antiseptic cream and plasters/bandaids. Obvious.
- Ear plugs. The music never stops (apart from during the actual eclipse, so that’s maybe an hour of quiet in a whole week).
- Eye mask. Days and nights get a little mixed up and who knows when you want or need some shut-eye?
- Tent, sleeping mat and a sleeping bag liner/sheet. Make sure your tent has plenty of ventilation, or do as some people did and only set up the inner tent.
- Tarpaulin. A friend lent this to us and it provided an extra layer of amazing sun protection over both tents whilst also marking our tenting territory.
- Cool box/Eski. Ice available on site meant cold drinks and a longer life for fresh food. And every Aussie seems to travel with an Eski. Maybe if I was Australian this would be up there as an essential item.
- Face/dust mask/scarf of some sort. Dust got everywhere. You learnt to live with the constant dirty taste it in your mouth, of a layer coating your teeth (and everything else).
- Alcohol/cigarettes. Both could be bought at the festival but prices were a little inflated and most people came suitably stocked. The same was true for all other poisons.
- Baby/wet wipes. Crawling in to bed having wiped off some of the dust layers was more than a luxury.
- Electrolytes. We brought a big tub of GatorAid and although I can’t stand the stuff, I needed it to replace all those salts lost through dancing and dehydration. We stuck it in water bottles and brought it along on daytime missions into the festival.
- Solar shower. Yep. Although they offered $5 showers on site (outdoor but with privacy), having our own rig meant that once a day I had about five minutes of feeling dust free and clean. It was wonderful.
- Cooking gear. The festival didn’t actually allow open flames and the discovery of our cooking gear could have led to us being kicked off site, yet it saved us some money and meant mornings could still start with a percolated coffee. What we soon realised was that there were so many great eating spots serving great quality feeds at decent prices that cooking at camp wasn’t actually quite as desirable as we expected.
- Parasol. I carried mine with me everywhere, a plain green thing. Other’s carried theirs everywhere and I realised my idea of a parasol was entirely unoriginal and everyone else’s were much more beautiful and decorative. But functionwise? They all did the job.
- Light sabers, wigs and glow masks. And face paints. Even if we transported a broken light saber all the way from New South Wales to Far North Queensland, it still formed part of an essential festival fancy dress kit. Okay, maybe not essential. But adds to the fun.
- Fairy lights and decorations to create home. I’m a Cancerian so maybe my want to nest wherever I base myself was realised through these little camp set-up pleasures. Others clearly have this down to an art.
- Proper pillow. Some people would scoff but few people complain when they get to lay their head down on a comfy pillow rather than a squished together, hard pile of clothes. I slept beautifully, through doof and human traffic. I’m sure the pillow helped some.
- Change of clothes and pillow cases. Clean, dust free stuff saved for near the end would have been amazing. Instead we slept in our own dirt and dust. Ah well.
Anything I’ve forgotten to mention? That I should know about for next time?