Monday, November 10

The Dangers of the Outback

There are many things that folk from overseas do not understand about Australia and especially the outback.  Two things are (a) the vast distances between towns or civilisation in many regions of Australia and (b) the heat and what it can do to the human body that is not treated with care in these environments.

I have just read of a Belgian woman who was rescued from the Jim Jim Falls area of Kakadu in the Northern Territory.  Luckily her husband had the sense to call for help when she was distressed perhaps due to dehydration, but what the ABC says in its article is that they were in an area CLOSED because of safety issues.  Somehow these tourists have decided that they would be safe ignoring the signs that said it was closed.  I read that the radiant heat from the rocks in the area would have produced temperatures of more than 10 degrees hotter than areas not surrounded by such rocks.  In any case I get annoyed when folk deliberately ignore warning signs (or common sense) - and someone else has to risk their lives, and emergency groups have to use limited funds, to rescue them.

The woman is lucky - there have been deaths before..

I went to Kakadu on my trip around Australia - however, I missed out on seeing some of the most exotic places - some of which I would have loved to see because of the risks.  The biggest one for me was that I was a solo traveller and unlike the woman mentioned above, I did not have anyone to help me if I landed in danger.



It is a beautiful country - but the dangers lurk everywhere.  When I travelled I had some strict rules which I hoped would "guarantee" my safety.  There were one or two occasions, where I did not obey my rules, but luckily I was not stupid and I did the round Australia trip with no hassles.  In fact - trouble free.


One event occurred when I was at Eucla on the Nullabor Plain just past the South Australian border.  I had booked into the motel but, as I often did, set out to explore.  I knew there was a ruin of an old telegraph station, and I knew that there was a jetty not far away.  I walked off alone leaving my car at the telegraph station and headed for the sea.  It was mid to late afternoon, and I just walked through the white sand dunes, when I remembered that I needed to take my bearings in order to return safely to my car before dark.  Mmm.    It was not easy to follow footsteps in the soft white sand.  Luckily I thought to walk to the top of sand dunes and I could see a few trees.  (Nullabor means "no trees") so there were not many.  One tall tree stood out and I knew it was right beside the ruins.

I was able to walk on to the beach and the ruined jetty with confidence that I would safely return to my car.  I watched my time, took a few photos and walked back to my car.  It could have been different.  Luckily I took care of my car and had no problems though I did have a two way radio to call for help if needed.

Distances are something that boggles people from Europe and I can remember walking in an after hours medical centre when two of the UK doctors decided to drive to Cairns from Brisbane for the weekend, a distance of over 1700 kms which takes around 20 hours to drive.  They were doing it in a weekend!!!   When they reached Cairns they realised that they did not have time to look around, as they had to be on duty the next day, so they wearily drove back to Brisbane.  They were very lucky as they were not used to the Australian heat, and their rental car eventually broke down on them - as they said - at "Gumpie" which of course was Gympie and luckily not too far from Brisbane to be "rescued".  We Aussies thought it was terribly funny.

I took 5 months (though stayed with friends for long periods along the way) and was very obsessive about distances and my safety - which of course must have been right as I made it safely home.


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