SARA’s roving reporter, Bruce Greenhalgh, reflects on fame and the 15-hour roving, Witchitie, event

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” – Andy Warhol

There it was at the entrance to the Art Gallery of SA’s recent Andy Warhol exhibition, his famous quote. Indeed, Warhol is as famous for that statement as he is for his Campbell Soup can paintings and his Marilyn Monroe silk screen prints. Me being me, the (very slight) coincidence of it being fifteen minutes of fame and the next rogaine being a fifteen hour event had me pondering the question of whether Warhol had considered the possibility of rogainers (as part of ‘everybody’) achieving brief world-wide fame when he made his much celebrated utterance.

The answer, especially after the Witchitie 15/8 hour rogaine, has to be an emphatic ‘No’. Here’s why; firstly, the sport of rogaining is far from well known. If you want to be famous it’s best to engage in something that lots of people know about or are interested in – football, cricket, music etc. My experience is that to tell somebody that you rogaine is to then, invariably, have to explain the sport. You don’t even have the out, as practiced by Greens leader, Adam Bandt, of telling somebody to ‘Google it’. If they do the most likely conclusion they’ll reach is that you’re involved in something that promotes hair regrowth, as a Google search takes you to sites selling a hair replacement treatment. As I now have a bald spot I can see some advantage if this was the case but, it clearly isn’t, and there were moments on the weekend when I could have torn my hair out so… So, it’s strike one against getting famous through rogaining.

If you’re going to be famous it’s also advisable to carry out your fame generating activity at a well-known and populous spot, like New York or Paris. Carrieton is a fine little town (and the pub reopening seems to have given it more life) but it doesn’t have the recognition factor or population of, say, London or Rome, and telling somebody you’re going to Carrieton usually, again, requires some explaining. To compound things the Witchitie rogaine was 50 plus kilometres from this not-well-known small town. And to make this an unequivocal ‘strike two’, rogainers, once the event starts, are hell bent on getting more remote, even from fellow rogainers (we had a period of about 4 hours on Saturday afternoon when we didn’t see any other teams) making the acquisition of fame unlikely.

Still, after the whip crack and as we jogged away, I was hopeful of doing something notable in the 15 hours. As it turned out, by late afternoon I had attracted a crowd of eager followers and was well and truly in the spotlight. Unfortunately, the followers were flies and the spotlight was a blinding low winter sun as we headed west. As if endless loose rocks and Copper Burr prickles weren’t enough.

It was in this period that I had a close encounter with a goat and the possibility of fame. It was a large goat with huge horns and for a moment it looked like it was sizing me up before charging. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, so I missed out on 15 minutes of fame as ‘the guy skewered by a goat in the Flinders Ranges’. Fame isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.

As night fell we neared W1 and started to see other teams. At the water stop there were people everywhere and somebody suggested a party. Was this SARA’s answer to Studio 54, the famous New York nightclub frequented by celebrities (including Andy) in the 1970s? Probably not, since, as far as I’m aware, Studio 54 never ran out of drinks and W1 had run dry by the time we reached it. Mind you, Studio 54 had it easy. Unlike the rogaine organizers they didn’t have to deal with unexpected warm weather and a huge range of variables in a rugged, remote area, and all this with limited resources. There were also no bouncers at W1 refusing people access, something for which the nightclub was notorious. (Ah! Rogaining, such a democratic sport!) Anyway, we left the party and any possibility of rubbing back-packs with the glitterati, choosing instead the obscurity of the dark and the next control.

After collecting a few controls, it was a quick meal back at the Hash House before heading off to bed in fine conditions. Not so the next morning. We woke to thunder and lightning and as we readied for a 6 o’clock re-start it began raining. By the time we left it was tipping it down. If I had a parade it was rained upon big time. We plodded through puddles, minor rivers and mud, across land that would have been dog biscuit dry only an hour earlier.  That our determination (or stupidity) to set out in a storm was noted by only a few, and most of those were perplexed looking cattle, probably constitutes ‘strike three’.

Saturday had been warm and dry; Sunday was to be cool and wet, but the rain eased allowing us to bumble though the totally unremarkable activities of shortening our intended route, panicking about getting back in time (me) and missing a control we attempted. Why does it always have to be a high pointer (90 in this case)? Ah well, we made it back in time and by the presentations the sun was out and we could bask in our anonymity and the knowledge that, along with all other participants, we had done something special (albeit not fame inducing) simply by being there. And that brings me to the stars of the event and, yes, we had winners, but the true luminaries include the land owner, Brett Heaslip, who was most generous in allowing the use of his property and our volunteers who can’t be lauded enough (and deserving of 15 minutes of fame). In particular, I would like to note the endeavour, commitment and work of Peter and Sue Milnes and Rob Tucker. Extraordinary. Fame is fleeting (as I was reminded at the Warhol exhibition when overhearing a gallery guide having to explain to a group of school kids who Marilyn Monroe was) but the appreciation of the work of rogaining volunteers endures.