YaMate X-Strong 125ml ($18.30)

Near Tocumwal on the banks of the Murray River, a simple city dweller took to the country for Strawberry Fields, a once-yearly music festival, or “bush doof” as those accustomed to such things call it.

Though thoroughly ready for an adventure in techno music – and the specific style of dancing that such music brings (called a “rave” by the initiated) – I was woefully underprepared for the plights of the camping experience that surrounds the four-day party.

Strawberry Fields campgrounds

Part dust pit, part wetland. The campgrounds at Strawberry Fields were a breeding ground for mosquitos. Photo: Bianca Dohnt.

Yes, the predicted 34˚C weather was planned for appropriately. Heat stroke was avoided through careful wardrobe planning. Sunscreen was constantly on hand, and worked a treat against the scorching sun on strolls between stages, river trips and painfully long queues for the food trucks.

What wasn’t considered, perhaps, was the combination of weather conditions that provided the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos around camp. Heavy rain days earlier had turned areas of the dust bowl into a marshy swamp that swallowed countless campers’ thongs into its muddy bowels. The following days of intermittent dry heat, accompanied by a humidity that was nearly drinkable, created a plague-like experience of mozzies.

Following a list of ‘essentials’ provided by your more experienced party mates is the key to surviving the weekend in one piece, and with insect repellent taking the number two place – after the festival ticket itself – at least an attempt was made to keep the bugs at bay. At the top of the duffel bag and the first item unpacked was an ‘X-Strong’ bottle of YaMate insect repellent. The creamy liquid is easily applied and emits a surprisingly pleasant – yet quite pungent – odour. Perfect for fitting in among the naturist set for a weekend, YaMate claims to be ‘natural’ with ‘organic ingredients’, and completely ‘non-toxic’.

Dusk at Strawberry Fields

As the sun descends, the mozzies come out in force to sup on the blood of festival goers. Photo: Bianca Dohnt.

Non-toxic to exactly what, however, isn’t specified. Certainly, the mosquito proved to be non-toxic to mosquitos. With an active ingredient of citronella oil (25g/L) that is often burned in candles or incense aiming for a location-specific result, the cream version seemed quite ineffective.

Over 100 mozzie bites – and a single bee sting – accumulated over the four days, which continue to irritate the legs, arms and torso of this particular test subject, leaving a thoroughly itchy topographical map of the locations visited by insects over the course of the event. Liberal reapplication of YaMate every few hours seems not to have helped either, though the bottle gives no indication of how long it should last once rubbed in. (It recommends ‘frequent’ reapplication when under ‘heavy insect infestation’.)

Put to an extreme test, these results from a single weekend away are only to be taken as a guide, as the complaints from other campers post-Strawberry Fields seemed to share a similar bite count regardless of the name, brand or application frequency of any of their repellents. One can only imagine the damage that would have been caused without YaMate lathered liberally.

At least it smelled nice.