Given the percentage of people who said they would be interested in potentially attending The Big Red Bash next year in our recent poll, I thought I’d share 6 things which come to mind when I reflect on my own experience. I’ve already had a number of people reach out and mention that they head bush specifically to escape people, and like them I tend to enjoy time in smaller, more intimate settings generally. Having said that though, I really thought the Big Red Bash experience was amazing, even being in close proximity to 9,000 other people!
Anyway, here they are…
1. Prepare for dust
It. Is. Everywhere.
I was told to expect dust, and a wise man suggested I take a face shield to help filter it(which we did), and yet I still wasn’t prepared for the dust. You breathe it, you constantly taste it, and it gets into and onto every surface. There is no escaping it. The good news is that while it isn’t overly pleasant, but its also not that hard to deal with. Just don’t think about the cleaning afterwards, and if you use contact lenses, I’d suggest you also bring a pair of glasses in case your eyes get irritated with the dust.
2. Water Management
As a sponsor, I was out there for a week. And there is no provision for topping up your water tanks. You need to carry enough to last for the week, and use it wisely. I drove in with a 108L water tank, plus and additional 60L of water for 4 people. I reckon we went through about 140L in 7 days. That was without showers though – we did small bird baths and used wet wipes for all the critical areas. I was 2 adults and 2 young kids, so we used about 5L per person per day without showers. This includes washing up and waste water. We were careful to wash only when there was enough dirty plates to justify the filling of the sink. Additionally, don’t forget to take a container for your grey water (any dirty water from washing up etc) – you’ll need to trap it and dispose of it in special bins.
3. Two Fridges are a must
I took two Waeco CF-X 65L Fridges to the Big Red Bash – one in the back of the truck, and one in the Trailer. I set one as a Fridge, and one as a freezer. We pre-packed all the meat and froze down extra milk and anything we could manage, as well as filled the 65L Fridge with produce. Aside from a few minor topups for bread and some fresh salad items, we were self sufficient for the two weeks we were away. I’ll do a writeup soon on my experience with the Waeco Fridges, but they worked very well – our Campsite was extra popular with the friends our kids had made when they learned we had frozen poppers and Zooper Doopers every day in the Desert! We still did our share of eating out in towns along the way, especially enjoying a few quiet beverages whenever we got the chance, but we were able to be remote for much longer thanks to both fridges.
It was handy that we were located right next to the food plaza, which offered an impressive variety of food, from Wendys to freshly baked pies, and even wood fired Pizza. I’m sure it resulted in us spending way more than we needed to on takeaway though…There is an abundance of food options at the Bash. I even got a Wendys Supershake. Really. And prices are reasonable considering how remote you are, but it’s very easy to burn through any cash you take (and no reception means no eftpos!). So having a Fridge and Freezer was very important to being able to provide for everyone for the trip.
I also found that two fridges created some redundancy, which I needed in the end. Unknown to me prior to leaving Sydney, the second Battery in the HQGU was cactus. I did only pickup the Patrol in the days before we left, and with the focus on getting it tuned and ready to travel, I didn’t check the battery. There was a hint in the form of an intermittent fault in the Redarc system, but I assumed it was an electrical short somewhere in the wiring (our GU has done lots of travelling and we’ve come across this previously).
Anyway, I found out for certain that the battery was an issue only once we got to The Bash, thanks to Cam from Redarc who happened to be right next to us and was straight over to try and help out (the service and support Redarc provides is amazing!). Unfortunately there was no provision for replacement while at the Bash. That meant that either one Fridge couldn’t work, or I had an immediate challenge of managing power (which is covered later on).
4. Social interactions are different (and by that we mean way better)
If you are from a major city, the truth is that our society has become scared of real social interaction. Its blindingly obvious. We hide behind our devices and walk past each other without acknowledging one another or even saying hello.
When you get out to smaller towns though, you notice instantly that people have more time for each other, and that is amplified on the way to (and at) the Bash. People are sociable, keen to help each other, and it is a relaxed and really enjoyable experience even if you are a bit of an introvert.
I’m not shy when it comes to a yarn, but I still reckon I had more enjoyable in depth conversations with strangers in the 6 days at the Bash than I would have the rest of the year combined.
Out there, people just care more for each other I reckon. There was great evidence of this on unsealed roads once we got past Bourke. If someone was stopped on the road, 98% of travellers would slow down and wait to be waved on before they continued driving. You won’t see that interest in a strangers well being in peak hour traffic in Sydney or Melbourne!
5. The Constant battle for power
This was something I experienced more than I’d like to admit. The new Tvan I towed has dual batteries, and a 120W roof mounted solar panel. However, with the issues I experienced with the dual battery system in the car, I had to rely on the trailer to run the second Fridge whenever we were stopped, which created a deficit on the system. To make matters worse, the trailer didn’t charge reliably from the vehicle when moving because the system cut out to protect the main battery.
I used an additional Redarc 79 Watt Amphorous panel which we keep in the HQGU to help try to make the most of the Sun and help the roof mounted panel try to recharge the batteries, but even that wasn’t quite enough – we only really achieved about 4 hours a day of positive charge given the additional loads on the batteries.
The amount of dust also meant that despite regular cleaning, the solar panels wouldn’t have been operating at peak efficiency.
Luckily I’d made the decision to bring a generator to allow us to erect our new inflatable Marquee. I found that in the end, every 3 days or so I had to run the generator for 3-4 hours to help get the batteries back to full charge.
This was a great learning for me, and as a result I’ll be investing in a much bigger solar panel as a secondary support to the roof mounted one in order to be better prepared in future to sustain the drain of two fridges from one vehicle.
It was also fascinating to see how much dust reduced the efficiency of the solar panels.
6. There’s no such thing as smooth sailing in the Outback
One of the other things I learned while at the Bash is that nothing comes away completely unscathed from a trip to the Outback. That’s not to say that anything major is going to go wrong on a trip out there, but the truth is that the trip is hard on vehicles, and invariably everyone has something not go to plan. For us it was issues with the second battery in the GU, and then a breakdown at Deon’s Lookout (which I managed to fix without needing recovering which was very lucky). For others I spoke to it was windscreen chips. One guy had issues with his fuel pump, and another I spoke to had the rocks off the road break off the tap to his water tank. Yet another had issues with his electric brakes. Others blew tyres – in fact I heard that the tyre guy in Birdsville did 80 repairs in one day. The point I’m making is that even with the perfect preparation, everyone has a problem somewhere along the way. Expect it – prepare for what you think might happen, work through it and embrace the adventure and challenge that it creates.
In summary, it was a very special experience, which started the moment I left the driveway. I’d highly recommend experiencing it at least once.
If there is anything you’d like to know about the Bash, or if you have any questions, please reach out!
Did you know Club 4X4 now offers 24/7 claims support? So you can get help and advice on making a claim or getting recovered any time of day or night…