Graham Cahill. — February 21, 2014
OH&S is so prevalent these days that to not be wearing “high vis” while checking in at Perth airport means you are the odd one out, steel cap boots are worn in the office, inductions require inductions before being inducted, there are whole shops selling nothing but PPE and getting a splinter requires management approval and signatures in triplicate plus a ream of stamped forms before it can be removed.
So, to suggest heading bush solo for a week with no mobile coverage is like announcing you have decided to try and walk across the Pacific; unheard off, ludicrous and destined to end in disaster. With some prior preparation and confidence in your own abilities; nothing could be further from the truth.
While I spend a generous portion of my year in the fantastic Australian bush, for the most part I share a campsite with photographers, film camera's, schedules, routines, scripts, sponsors and producers. All good fun and I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China; however should the opportunity arise whereby I can get away solo, I grab the chance with both hands. See by pairing things down to self-reliance, in a remote area, I just find the experience so much more rewarding.
This is not a new interest; I have been a keen solo explorer since I was in high school. I have been comfortable with my own company and even more so, alone in wilderness areas for as long as I can remember. Extended kayak, 4WD and hiking trips have taken me all over Australia, spending long periods solo in some of the country’s most stunning environments.
This time alone, or “me time” as I have coined it, is something I now find I need; it’s as much a part of my life as a healthy diet or a good night’s sleep. Sure, I can go a couple of weeks eating poorly while filming, or struggle through a period of minimal sleep during long days on the road but ultimately that balance needs to be addressed with a good feed and a solid nights rest. Likewise, my time away from the bush can only last so long before that balance must be restored.
Many a time I’ve been asked, “But what do you DO all alone, don’t you get bored??”. Boredom has never been a feature of a solo expedition, quite the opposite in fact. With the multitude of things needed to function on a daily basis, from navigation and travel to cooking and camp setting, I find actually slowing down is harder than getting bored.
Right there is the key for me, the slowing down. Once you have established either a routine of travel or a have a campsite set, the slowing down process and starting to experience the bush around you is when the magic happens. Sometimes this will actually take a couple of days, the letting go of time frames and the tension of daily life can be hard to do. Once you settle into the rhythm of the bush however, it’s a feeling of relaxation unlike anything else I’ve been able to find.
Listening to the sounds of the bush, watching the daily movements of its inhabitants and for me, the smells that accompany the whole scene are addictive. Sitting under canvas in a southern forest as a late afternoon shower passes, the smells of the newly wet bush flooding the camp and the scrub birds hustling for space in the understory. Or watching a sunset over a dry, dusty Midwest river bed lined with pink and white gums, home to emus, swans and laconic kangaroos; all sharing one isolated waterhole.
I’m not for a second suggesting that these scenes and that feeling of connectedness with the bush cannot be achieved while in the presence of others; it can, for sure. I just find that I have come to appreciate it more when solo. Perhaps that’s just me. I don’t think so though. I honestly believe there is something to be gained by throwing caution to the wind and stepping outside your normal comfort zone and in this case, trying a solo bush trip.
For sure, follow safety norms, such as informing someone of your intended route or location, take a sat phone; keep it as safe as possible but then once you arrive, turn off that motor or down that pack and let it all sink in. Slow down, shrug off the cloak of daily life and allow the Aussie bush sounds, smells and sights soak in. High Vis shirts and steel capped boots are optional!