Pitching a tent has never been my idea of fun. I’d hardly have considered myself a glamper, let alone a camper. So, when a friend messaged me proposing an outback camping trip through the Kimberley region of Western Australia I wasn’t so sure. I’ve never been one to turn down a challenge though. So I agreed and got it booked before I could think too much about it. My exact words: it looks like it’ll be a unique experience although it’s unlikely I’ll be swimming anywhere there are crocodiles!
And there I was, three months later, waiting for the truck to pick up my friends and me whilst being teased for the number of bags I was hauling with me (cue the nickname ‘5 bag Bing’ which unfortunately stuck).
The next 9 days travelling from Broome to Darwin will go down as some of the best of my life. Not only did I completely fall in love with the back to basics experience (camping convert), I met some incredible people, saw breath-taking sights and did things I never thought I would.
So, here’s my breakdown of what I embraced when wild camping down under… and why I think you should do the same!
That’s right, I’m diving straight in with the toilet talk! There’s nothing quite like being told there’ll be a communal hole. Cue a bunch of city goers perfecting the art of finding the ultimate spot to dig. Far enough from camp for privacy but not so far you’d get lost in the dark. Appropriate coverage of trees and bushes and a decent view for the countless dunny selfies. Now, I’ve always been a bit particular about where I do my business. But, whilst some members of the group conveniently only needed to go the moment we arrived at a gas station, I quickly came to relish my nature time. When else in life is it acceptable to go on the ground? Ultimately though, the hardest thing to embrace? Covering the hole back up…
The dust and dirt
It’s not often (I hope) that you can say you’ve only had two showers in nine days. When faced with that reality, you soon stop caring what you look like and how long you’ve been wearing the same clothes – the views and adventures are far more important. So I got toothpaste down a clean top? Unknowingly spent the morning with thick, red dirt smeared down my arm? Might have caught a bit of spray during a bush wee? Who cares? With no mirrors and everyone in the same boat it just doesn’t matter and makes the fresh water swims even more satisfying. Plus, it makes for epic wet wipe competitions on the bus.
The fact that Australia is home to some of the world’s deadliest creatures is enough to put people off visiting the country entirely, let alone resting their heads on the red ground! I for one am not a fan of snakes or spiders but remarkably got rather excited whenever one was discovered by the group. The surge in adrenaline was probably to blame but seeing these creatures in their own habitat was unsurprisingly incredible compared to visiting the reptile house at London Zoo. Think of it as a safari down under. And don’t worry, other than a curious black headed whip snake which jumped into the water to join us or the hundreds of wolf spiders roaming camp one night, the critters mainly stayed out of our way and we all survived to tell the tales!
Getting to know your fellow campers
Travelling with friends can sometimes make getting to know other people seem a bit pointless. I already had my travel buddies, why would I need more? Well, experience shows that a camp fire game of two truths and a lie works wonders in breaking down barriers, enticing us all to learn more about each other. Does he have a severed toe? Is he a member of nobility? Did the police think he was being drunkenly kidnapped? Don’t miss out on the chance to get to know fellow like-minded travellers of different ages and nationalities with countlessly awesome stories. We bonded along the way, helped each other out (covering that dunny was a two person job; one to shovel while I gagged) and created memories together. Roll on the reunions!
Being truly off the grid
It can be hard to escape the pull of technology nowadays. We spend most of our time completely connected to others and the world through your phone. This just isn’t possible in the outback. Other than hotspots in a few towns along the way, the bush doesn’t come with Wi-Fi or a 4G signal. Or plug sockets for charging come to that. Enjoy the novelty of putting the phones away. Stare out the window. Sing along to a questionable playlist. Dust off childhood games. Some of the funniest moments I had were trying to covertly make someone ‘it’ with a scrap of paper or watching theatrical deaths of those ‘murdered’ with the danger stone. Particularly when random people nearby had no clue what we were up to! Forget FOMO, be present and embrace the beauty and laughs of the real world.
Waking up before the sun
Being told we’d be waking up around 5am that first morning sparked a collective groan and cries of ‘but that’s so early’, ‘we’re on holiday!’ etc. Fast-forward through the next 8 hours of swag slumber (turns out going to bed at 9pm isn’t a hardship) and our guide revealed his secret weapon – an epic wake up song that saw us opening our eyes to the most breath-taking view of the sun starting to break through across the horizon. We were speechless and soon forgot the time because it made sense – why would you miss such a beautiful part of the day? I’ll admit, I haven’t managed to witness a London day break yet, but my morning song remains the same and I certainly wouldn’t have missed all those wild sunrises for an extra hour in bed!
Going with the flow
For some, myself included, relinquishing control can be a challenge. But Mother Nature doesn’t tend to work within the constraints of a well thought through travel spreadsheet. And a journey through the outback is one place to discover it. Wide spread bush fires. Roads closed due to flood damage. Two flat tyres within a few hours. Gorges not yet open for the season. Some of the things that throw the planned itinerary completely off course. Embrace the change. It adds to the adventure. No one trip is the same and there’s nothing better than a unique set of experiences and the excitement of what might go wrong next. After all, you can sit back and relax whilst the guide figures out Plan B, C and D!
Giving new things a go
Whether bouldering your way through a gorge, clambering up waterfalls, chopping firewood, trying to find joy in rope swings, learning to twirl a fire stick or launching yourself into a lake home to 25,000 crocodiles (yes, I did end up doing what I said I wouldn’t!) there’s plenty of new things to try out in the outback. My advice? Get involved, face your fears, take a leap of faith or just get someone else to push you. You’ll learn things about yourself you just can’t in normal day to day life and come away with memories you’ll treasure forever.
Sound like things you’d like to embrace? If so, maybe it’s time to plan a wild camping adventure of your own…check out Kimberley Adventure Tours for more info!