A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday.


A month ago I was camping in the deepest depths of the Aussie Outback on the edge of Queensland's Simpson Desert. Roughly 1500km from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, this really was the middle of nowhere. Nowhere, yes, climatically brutal, yes, but still with not inconsiderable charm. Some of it — the wind patterns in the dunes, the starkness of the limited plant life — was actually extremely pretty and as such, a grand setting for the world's most remote music festival, the Big Red Bash.


John Farnham was this year's headline act, and I accepted an invitation to cover the event. With 9000 others, I made my way through the Outback to the temporary town of Bashville, where sand-dunes as tall as 40m provided the perfect backdrop for The Voice.
But though 69-year-old Farnham may have hit all the high notes in the Aussie desert, my phone did not: each morning, I awoke with the battery completely flat.


Aided (for the first time in years) by a good old-fashioned non-phone torch, I stumbled into the media tent in my thermals, track-pants, beanie, gloves and three jackets to recharge my phone. It was 5am and my Aussie mate in New Zealand hadn't been lying when he'd warned me of surprisingly icy desert nights. Too cold to return to my tent, I huddled next to a fire with a portly security guard named Neil. Like a lot of the characters I met in the Outback, Neil seemed to begin conversations as if he was already midway through a story.

Advertisement

"Do you mind if I join you by the fire?" I asked.

"Go ahead mate. When Sharon and I first moved out to Charleville we thought that was pretty remote. She's there with me kids while I pick up jobs like this. It's been a couple of weeks now since I've been home, just got me truck but that's all I need. Miss 'em though…"

And so it carried on. After about half an hour, Neil asked me what I did. When I told him I was in media he recoiled. "Don't quote me on anything I've said! I get nervous with media, always asking questions!" Calming Neil that he'd said nothing incriminating during his fireside monologue about Outback towns, sheilas left behind and cold nights/hot days, I bid farewell to the big man.

Returning to my phone, it read as being charged 1 per cent. After all those yarns from Neil? So I left it, climbed the Big Red Dune to watch the sunrise, numbed my fingers eating breakfast and checked my phone again after another hour: 3 per cent. 90 minutes plugged in and only 3 per cent.

Slowly the temperature was rising, on track from a minus-1C low to a very pleasant winter high of 24C, but even after three hours, the phone was barely into double figures. I was thinking there was something broken, but the clue came with a helicopter that wouldn't start. We were being treated to an early morning scenic flight over the desert.

Only problem was that it had been so cold overnight, the helicopter needed jump starting.
Yes, indeed, helicopters can freeze up overnight and have their batteries go flat, just like — as I was learning — smartphones. A ute was summoned, jumper-leads brought out and after a few splurts, the blades started to turn. Reassured we had nothing to worry about, we boarded a flying machine that only minutes earlier had given every indication of being deceased. I'm glad we did because the flight was stunning.

As for the phone, the pilot suggested something so obvious I was embarrassed I hadn't thought of it: rub the phone. Like a genie in a bottle, if you give your frozen, non-charging phone a vigorous rubbing for a few seconds, it will warm up enough to charge at a normal rate. I couldn't wait to tell Neil.

Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com