My time in the Outback (by Nikki Shah)

Who would have thought that a conversation I had with Mike years ago about a random rally he had read about, would have turned into this… 


What do you get when you put two women with very little clue on how to even change a flat tire, an Audi, Holden, Subaru, Toyota, Mercedes and Saab , all from pre 1993 (note that some of these are not the most reliable of cars when old) together in the middle of the Australian outback?


$28,761 raised for Cancer Council. that’s what. As well as a few other things along the way…

1 broken exhaust

Two fallen off mufflers

3 bent tyre rims 

14 flat tyres (1 car was the majority culprit here)

1 broken suspension 

1 broken phone 

3 oil leaks 

2 lost indicators 

1 saved echidna 

More dead road kill than km’s travelled 

1 broken tent

50+ Beroccas  consumed                                                                                         

No more than 2 showers in 5 days

Over 40 code yellows (male bathroom stop)

4 code G&T (female bathroom stop)

5 crazy loud snorers 

60 refuels

Enough dust inhaled to fill around 100 Dyson’s 

24 fancy dress outfits 

1 car tow 

2 blown fuses 

48 pack lunches 

Over 1000 photos (many of a dirt tracks) 

12 new friendships 

2550km of sealed and unsealed roads traveled

Zero phone reception (even with Telstra) 

4 States visited

5 state boarders crossed 

More than 15 tiny country towns visited  (some with populations of 150 people)

This was a journey that 12 people (along with almost 250 others) from all walks of life in Australia completed just last month as part of the Mystery Box Rally 2018.  The box rallies have been running for 9 years, founded by James Freeman who lost both his parents to cancer. James decided enough was enough, his mission was to raise money for cancer research. To this day, James has raised almost $16 million through the Mystery Box Rally and Shit Box Rally in Australia.

My name is Nikki, my co-driver was Alison, and two weeks ago, we were “Team Bing Bong”, which meant driving with over 250 other people through the middle of the outback for 5 days, to raise money for Cancer Council. Starting in Mildura (well, actually we started in Melbourne to get the car to the start line) and taking a round trip with everyday’s destination a mystery.  We drove over 2500km on the red dirt tracks, something neither of us had ever seen before.  We had no idea of how many experiences, laughs and friendships would be formed, this was a trip that exceeded many expectations.  

 To be honest, I did not really know what to expect, we actually doubted our car would even make the finish line. But, it did, and somehow was the only car in the group that had absolutely no issues with it. (Other than me, managing to leave my phone on top of the car and drive off, to only realize 10 minutes too late and return to it with tire marks over the top).   


The list above is just a snippet of the things that actually happened on this trip. But I am sure of one thing, at the start felt this rally was a once in a lifetime experience I wanted to complete, in honour of my best friend that passed away earlier this year from cancer and the large amount of others I know touched by cancer. However, this has lead to Alison and I even discussing our fancy dress outfits for next years rally already, Team Bing Bong is coming back Mystery Box Rally, see you in 2019! 


This rally had endless experiences but the one thing that I have reflected on is the bonds you form with people on adventures like this.  I would never have done this rally if it was not for Mike, Mike loved cars and loved the dirt roads of Australia, he never thought anything was impossible.  Hence why Alison and I, who have no idea about cars, thought why not give it a go and apply. It is strange how your mind thinks when you lose someone, that you may want to do something to continue their legacy, sometimes something you would want to do with them, sometimes something that you actually don’t even know you could be capable of.  

I had this moment when we stopped at a lookout, and watched the sunset over the vast land of NSW with cloud formations that turned the sky all shades of orange, pink and purple. James (the founder of Box Rallies) had told us he came up there one mothers day to think about his father and mother who he lost to cancer. As I took a moment, the tears started and I ran to be by myself.  I stared out into the horizon and thought about Mike, how much he would have loved the rally, how much he would have cherished every moment and loved that beautiful sunset. It made me sad, that he was not there to share it with or he was not there to call and tell how much adrenaline I had rushing round my body, but then for some strange reason, I felt he was there sharing it with me, he was there throughout the whole rally sharing it and watching over us.  One thing I do know, and laughed to myself about, is that if I had ever done that rally with Mike, we would have been battling over who would drive as he would be having too much fun on those unsealed roads.  


So, I do set this out that if you have a loved one that you have lost or has been brushed with cancer, why not set yourself a goal, set yourself an experience, I have actually got a pretty big list of adventures I am working through as it makes you realise life can be short, so why not live it to the best you can?   


I leave you with a quote I actually wrote in my high school year book, and something I was reminded of a few weeks ago, which I still stand by “Every man dies, but not every man lives” by William Wallace.  

So go live! 

NIkki Shah