Surviving a New Year Festival in Australia–As a Visually Impaired Person!

The Decision to Go to the Festival

woodfordia spelled out with big letters

I had heard a lot about the Woodford Folk Festival…that it was an amazing event and one should experience this music extravaganza at least once in one’s life. So, I was very excited when my partner booked for us to go to the festival in December 2014.

“It might be a bit of a challenge though, getting around with one hundred thousand people?” he said.

“Nah. I’m up for the challenge. It will be fun!” I reassured us both.

Dealing with Heat and Thousands of People

So off we went by plane to Queensland—inland, in northeast Australia –to make our way in the heat of summer…in high spirits with adventure in our hearts and with plenty of sun-screen on our skin. There we were, for one whole week, with thousands upon thousands of other music lovers, crazy folk like us, all eager to welcome in the New Year, listening to dozens of international and local music acts. The music was world class but the heat? It was so unbearably hot, I thought I would die! Even at 7 a.m., the tropical heat was so hot, when I tried to apply face cream; the moisturizer was swimming around on my face!

Challenge of Sighted People Seeing My White Cane in the Dark

The real challenge came in the evenings when we got caught up in the throng of music lovers, all plodding along the dusty track like cattle as we moved on to the next concert. Very few people could see my white cane in the dark, and even though Harry was doing his best as my body guard to protect our space, we got fed up with being bumped and knocked around.

“There has to be a better way,” he said in frustration. “I’ve got it!”

white cane with led lighting

Using LED Lighting to “Stand Out in a Crowd!”

The next thing I knew, we had made our way to a market stall selling a myriad of LED lights. Within ten minutes, Harry had strapped a string of these small bright lights to the length of my cane that made it light up like a Christmas tree – it was brilliant! Harry was so proud of his new invention as folk moved around us rather than land on top of us, as we steamed ahead with renewed confidence. The added bonus was that if I happened to get lost, I could raise it in the air and he’d be able to see it glowing in the dark above the crowd, yea!

Finding My Tent

I’d also packed something that I knew would make our lives easier. To find our tent during daylight hours among nine hundred other tents, I planted a fake bouquet of flowers at the front of our canvas tent. It worked so well…it was amazing…sighted folk were using my patch of daisies as a guide to take a left turn to find their identical tents!

This place where we were camping was called Tent city, which we fondly renamed IN’TEN’SITY! Being at Woodfordia was truly a test in endurance, persistence and innovative living, but…don’t ask me why…I’m still a sucker for a great music festival!

Back Home Safe

We are back home in Melbourne now, with blasting hot winds, with temperatures in the high-forty degrees Celsius which seems cool in comparison to the dripping, tropical heat of the festival. But, the best thing about being home is having coffee in a real bed in the mornings, no need for queues for the toilet or shower, and specially lighted canes– ain’t home sweet!

Am I laughing about this experience? Well, it’s taken a while! You may want to read more posts in this series about how others are coping with life’s challenges.

Read more on traveling outdoors with visual impairment. And find out more about techniques and research on getting around.