Howgirl’s guide to bush survival

I am literally penning this entry from the safety of my single horse trailer, wedged firmly in sand, along with my trusty ute…somewhere in the outback.

We are meant to be heading back to the big smoke. The next post was meant to be about reacclimatising after the isolation of the station.

Instead I find myself laden with all my prized possessions – horse, ute, dog… quite like a debutante who never quite makes it to the ball.

If I survive this, here is a comprehensive list of all the things you need when you’re stuck out in the bush:

  1. Willpower. You do NOT want to eat your entire stash of muesli bars and cookies out of boredom. You will hate yourself for it hours later when you are actually starving.
  2. Common sense. Don’t try riding back to the homestead on your trusty steed. God knows he’ll do it for you, but first rule of Outback Survival: stay with the car!
  3. Your wits. It’s hot. There are flies everywhere. Reptiles everywhere. Your little white fluffy dog keeps going missing. The clouds start looking like the channel 7 rescue chopper. Every puff of wind sounds like the crunch of tyres against road. Keep your wits about you before you draw a face on your bucket and dub your new friend “Wilson”.
  4. A backpacker. Two reasons: backpackers always get rescued in the end and he or she may negate the need for you to name/converse with your bucket.
  5. Wonderwoman undies. Just in case you don’t heed my advice about staying with the car and you need to change your horse-sweat-soaked pants in public.

Later that day…

It’s hot. To test our old mate Murphy and his stupid Laws we’ve stripped off to our undies in the hopes that someone will materialise out of thin air to catch us in our jocks. Not so.

The Backpacker and I have stopped caring about the fly bites. We’ve stopped holding our breath every time a puff of wind doubles as the sound of a car approaching. We’ve quashed any sort of social pretence we may have been upholding, and in a few short desperate hours we are now totally comfortable burping, fluffing, and doing any other sort of bodily function within the general vicinity of each other.

The horse has given up on any sort of rescue mission and is lazing under the boughs of a tree, shaded from the merciless sun beating down on us. Our camp looks like an indigenous dot painting, the towel we’ve made our base having shifted from one side of the horse trailer to the other, following the sun. Midday sucked.

Four hours in we were hopeful. When we made it to four hours we just knew someone would come looking. We were expected in town around then. We got a bit happy, chugged down our water without a second thought, had a few too many cookies.

An hour later we had packed up camp, ready to be rescued.

Another hour passed. We started to resent our potential rescuers. Started to wonder just how much value they really placed on our lives.

Another hour passed and dinner time loomed ahead. The water ran out. We tried the first dregs of the water in the drum for the radiator if we needed it. It dehydrated us more as panic set in – the water was disgusting.

A fit of delirious giggles passed. Sunburn passed. Hunger pangs passed. The divulging of lifelong secrets passed. No cars passed though. Murphy’s Law.

As the clock ticked over on to the eight hour mark we were convinced that bungarras were looming closer, ready to eat us for dinner. Death by Dingoes would be printed all over the weekend news. It would be like opening up the Chamberlain mystery all over again.

Then it happened. I heard it first. I strained my ears, unable to trust my senses. The Backpacker sprang up from the foetal position in the sand. We looked at each other. Too scared to jinx it, we waited.

The plume of dust came first, followed by the jangling ute. We saw it on the horizon. But who was it? The Boss? Nup. Not flash enough to be him. The neighbour… No. Who the heck?

The rig kept flying at us. The Backpacker got nervous. She flung herself in its path.

Finally, the tyres crunched to a stop. And my heart started to beat again.

“What’s up?” the young, drunk jackaroo drawled, hanging his head out the window.

The Backpacker looked at me. If he wasn’t our only rescuer I swear she would have fly-kicked him.

Suddenly I recognised him. The Jackaroo! The one who’d been MIA since we got our Christmas bonus and he took off to town. We were expecting him back last month…..better late than never!

“Oh, uh, I see your a little….stuck?” he continued, eyeing over the scene with fogginess.

“Uh, you could say that,” I said, trying to not look too desperate. “Any chance you could maybe pull us out?”

I swung my arms a little hopefully.

“Yeah. Well. I reckon I could try?”

Hope. Hope is all you need.

He stumbled out of the rig. Inspected the damage. Had a smoke (we clearly weren’t in a hurry). Disappeared.

“Where’s our rescuer?” The Backpacker asked, freaking out.

I looked around. I thought he was on the other side of the ute, finding a point to pull from, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t anywhere. Our rescuer had vanished. Had we imagined him?


He was just taking a leak.

After some fumbling about he decided to pull us out backward, horse trailer first. Then he turned our whole rig around. Stumbled around for a bit. Lit up a smoke.

Finally we were away again. All packed up. Horse loaded up. Dog with all limbs attached.

“Thanks so much!” we said, over and over to our rescuer. For a few moments we treated him like Captain America. Until he opened his mouth again.

“No worries girls. Just try and keep your tyres in the tracks next time aye?”

That was it. I had to physically restrain the Backpacker from king-hitting him in the ovaries.

We got in the ute, turned the engine over, looked at each other. The dirt. The stench. The sunburn. The discomfort. The cracked lips. Parched mouths. We survived. And no one would believe that our epic eight hour ordeal was over, just like that – the most epic anticlimax of all time, complete with a knight in shining alfoil.

This article has been contributed anonymously under the pen name “Howgirl Cowgirl”.