I was paid to photograph Jungle Love Festival, but the below is my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the festival or its organisers.
I’d been asked if I’d photograph at Jungle Love Festival this year. I’d never been to Jungle Love Festival before, but had heard many good things, so was keen to go check it out and try to capture some of them with my camera.
I had intended to leave early, arriving at the new festival site near Jimna (this is the first year they’ve held the festival at this location) well before midday, with plenty of time to set up my camp and explore. However, by the time I left, Google Maps was telling me I wouldn’t get there until early afternoon. Add in a “quick trip” to the local shopping centre to get some cash out and buy an Optus-network SIM card (a half-price $1 Amaysim SIM card from Woolworths and a $4 special-deal 7-day 10GB plan) because apparently the festival area only has Optus reception (though I found that Telstra worked sometimes), then another trip home to get a SIM-card removal tool because the new SIM card didn’t have one, and then put roadworks along almost the entire route—complete with areas that had long stop/go lights—and a few cleverly-placed large vehicles going slowly in the few areas where it wasn’t 60km/h from the roadworks, and it was late afternoon by the time I arrived.
I quickly set up the tarp and my tent, but even so it was dark before I had it all set up.
The festival was pretty quiet—it didn’t really start properly until tomorrow—so I wandered around for a while trying to get a feeling for where things were, taking a few photos, and then went to bed and had a nice sleep-in, in readiness for a few late nights. It was lovely cool weather: not too cold, but cold enough that the fires around the festival were inviting, and my camp bed comforting—perfect weather for camping.
I had a nice sleep-in, some muesli for breakfast, and then went for a wander around the festival. Not a lot was happening—stuff didn’t really start until later in the day. The festival part of the site was much larger than I was expecting—laid out in a big long spiral along the top of a hill overlooking itself.
It got progressively busier throughout the day, and by the time the opening ceremony started—shortly after midday—the festival had filled out into a smorgasbord of interesting people who somehow all seemed to know that they must wear yellow or red, divide into two groups based on those colours, and have a big dance-off, keeping me busy running around trying to capture it all.
The festival organiser announced that for the first time they were selling day/weekend tickets to make up for a ticketing shortfall, which wasn’t a good sign given the increasingly inclement weather. I do like the idea of selling shorter-duration tickets though—several times I’ve wanted to go to 3- or 4-day festivals but not had the time, and they’ve not sold any shorter-duration tickets.
As seems usual with festivals, by the time things started heating up in the evening, the weather was doing the opposite—it was grey all day, but by nightfall it had started to rain and everything rapidly became very muddy.
I got back to my tent to find that the tarp—which I’d set up very hastily in the dark yesterday—had filled up with rain and collapsed. Amazingly, it had collapsed in such a way that my tent and all my gear were perfectly dry underneath it—I just couldn’t get to them. After doing what I should have done last night back when things were dry—putting up some extra poles and a lot more pegs into the now-very-wet ground in the dark—I managed to hopefully get the tarp to stay up, and went to bed. The cool weather made for a cosy night’s sleep—a nice change from the more traditional festival sweat-fest I’m used to.
Saturday 3rd September – Jungle Love Festival
The rain continued all night and all day, and the festival became an exciting mudfest—one never quite knew when one might suddenly begin an unexpected slide—turning the boring act of walking around with lots of expensive and fragile camera gear into a new and exciting adventure (though all the sensible people who wore gumboots and didn’t carry camera gear seemed to be able to stick to their boring normal-person-style walking so perhaps it was just me?)
Through some form of miracle which I was never able to understand, almost everyone else seemed to somehow remain miraculously clean and perfectly presented—the festival was full of brightly coloured, entirely clean people with perfect hair and makeup. I can only assume that they’re not actually human, so aren’t affected by trivial human things like rain, mud, gravity, and so forth.
Morning: The Shower Saga Begins
Being only human myself, I was pretty dirty after last night’s emergency tarp re-erection, so when I met my camping-neighbour clean and fresh on their way back from a nice hot shower I slid arduously through the mud in my thongs to the shower block, only to find that all the showers had been locked while I was on my way there (apparently they were worried that the rain would stop them getting water trucks in, so were saving the water for more important things like drinking and flushing toilets.)
Unfortunately, the walk to the shower block in my thongs had got me much muddier than if I had simply skipped trying to shower, and made transitioning to shoes something of an effort.
Well played festival shower block. You win this round.
Festival shower block: 1; Wet-shoed photographer: nil.
I was hoping for some crazy photogenic mudfest shenanigans, but for whatever reason—perhaps because it was too cold, or perhaps just the wrong demographic—instead of turning into a crazy mudfest, most people managed to stay quite clean and civilised.
The rain eased off during the day, and we even had an almost-sunset on the hilltop, complete with festival-hilltop-y things like hooping, festival fairies, mushroom people and an excellent ladybug-lady.
By night the rain had returned. I slid from venue to venue, hiding my camera gear under my umbrella and trying to follow the crowds to whatever exciting thing was on, without succumbing to the mud. I spent a lot of time around the various large fires scattered across the site, drying, warming, and chatting.
Night: The Shower Saga Continues
I wasn’t falling for the whole “spend ages walking to the shower only to find it’s closed” thing again, so this time on the way back to my camp for the night I dropped past the shower block—something of an effort in itself given the slipperiness of the hill the shower block lives on—and tested it. To my relief, it was open and nicely hot. Someone even popped out of the Ops HQ nearby to ask me if it was all working well.
I headed back down to my camp, went through the long and unpleasant procedure of removing my mud-soaked shoes and carefully sliding the long and arduous route back up the hill to the shower in my thongs, only to be met at the shower block by someone who was in the process of locking them all—apparently the shower pump was shorting out the main generator. This was particularly annoying as there were still people showering—I had only just missed it! They told me that I could choose between having a shower, or having a first aid tent—and they weren’t overly impressed when I, who didn’t need a first aid tent at the moment, told them I’d choose the shower please. Sadly they did not let me shower, so I had to slide back down to my tent again—now twice as dirty as before I started my failed shower mission—and have my own thoroughly unpleasant “shower” out of some water bottles, before going to bed.
Festival shower block: 2; Poor muddy photographer: nil.
The rain stopped last night, but the mud persisted throughout the day, slowly becoming less muddy. To my surprise, people began to leave the festival, and by evening quite a lot of people had left—which seemed odd to me given that the weather had now cleared up and it was perfect festival weather, but I suppose they probably had to get back to work tomorrow.
Pretty much everyone was bogged. The lucky ones were able to be pushed out by helpful bystanders, but many people needed proper towing. Official-looking people were running around trying to stop the patrons from towing each other out, presumably for some sort of risk mitigation reason, and instead putting them on an official towing list that quickly grew to be hours long, then towing them out safely. It was an epic—but fun to watch—mess.
Morning: The Shower Saga Continues
I’d learnt my lesson by now and wasn’t going to make the mistake of wasting time trying to have a shower again, so it was “a bit annoying” when I walked into the festival past the shower block—which seemed to be working just fine—and saw all the nice clean looking people coming out of their lovely hot showers.
Festival shower block: 3; Muddy photographer-hero: nil.
The remaining people who hadn’t rushed home (or who were totally bogged and couldn’t get out even if they wanted to), seemed to have a lot of fun—and I ran around trying to photographically capture some of that until my emergency bag of jelly beans and red frogs wasn’t enough to keep me awake and I had to go to bed—but despite the good weather, it never quite felt like it reached the heights of yesterday’s mud-filled festivities: Saturday, it seems, remains the peak day even if it rains.
I pottered around slowly packing up my camp, going for a wander down to the creek, and collecting some pineapples from the cooking area, before driving back to Brisbane and its sad normality.
Morning: The Shower Saga Concludes
The showers were on and running when I walked past them—so I headed back where my camp used to be and grabbed a towel and some toiletries and had a shower. I probably didn’t really need a shower as I was about to drive home where my shower doesn’t hate me and is almost always available, but by this stage I felt obliged to have a shower.
So ha, take that festival shower block.
Festival shower block: 3, Squeaky-clean photographer: 1.
Once home in Brisbane (via just as many roadworks as on the way up—they’re adding in those extra-wide centre lines to, it seems, all the roads—which means they’re widening them all by a tiny bit, which apparently requires closing half the road for a very long time and making the rest of it 60 km/h for no apparent reason), I unpacked the car, and had a normal shower in my normal shower—but it wasn’t quite the same.
I miss the festival shower block.
Page design influenced by (and some design elements taken from) www.junglelovefestival.com.au