We all make mistakes, but some of them can be deadly.
Now that restrictions are easing, and people are making plans to travel again, here are some simple tips to help you avoid what could be dangerous mistakes. Or that could save you lots of money.
Good, reliable communication is essential
As much as I hate to promote them, Telstra is the ONLY provider that has decent coverage across the country. I can’t count the number of times I have had people ask to use my phone in the outback, including in the towns, because they have no coverage. Optus, 3, Virgin, Vodaphone, or any other provider is ok in the cities, but once you get outside them … forget it.
If you are going really remote, get yourself a satphone. There is still a lot of the country that has no mobile coverage at all. You can hire them if you don’t want to splash out for one of your own. And set up a communications plan with somebody at home.
Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun
Whether you believe in climate change or not, things are getting hotter. Five of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2015, and ten since 2005.
If you have come from winter and aren’t used to the sun, even 5 minutes in the Australian summer sun can give you a sunburn. Slip, slop, slap is a mantra here. Slip on a t-shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat. Always, even in winter.
If you are out and about in the heat carry water, and drink it, even if you’re not doing anything active. If you are walking anywhere try to do it either early morning or late afternoon, and carry plenty of water. Up to a litre of water per person per hour is recommended. And wear a hat
The country is big. Very big
The whole of Europe can fit inside mainland Australia and still have room left over.
You cannot get from Sydney to the Barrier Reef and then to Uluru in just a couple of days. Not only are the distances vast, even to fly, but there’s a lot to see in each place. Leave yourself plenty of time. I spent 3 days at Uluru-Kata Tjuta and it still wasn’t enough.
And Tasmania is an island. You will need to either fly or catch a boat to get there from the mainland. The ferry takes 9 1/2 hours each way.
I once watched a show on National Geographic or Discovery channel about the top 10 most dangerous animals in the world. I think all of them were found in Australia. Crocodiles, funnel web spiders, inland taipans, brown snakes, great white sharks, irakandji, blue ringed octopus. The list goes on.
But you know what? In all my travels I have never seen one –except for crocodiles, they’re everywhere in northern Australia. Don’t swim. Really. DO NOT SWIM. Salt water crocodiles ARE found in fresh water.
That’s not to say dangerous animals aren’t there, but they don’t spend their time lying in wait for human prey – well, except for crocodiles again. That said, it’s still wise to be careful. If you corner a snake, (even accidentally, they sometimes get into sleeping bags because it’s warm), or put your feet into your shoes and squash a spider, they will bite. And those bites can make you very, very sick, or kill you.
At the other end of the scale, cute & cuddly animals can be dangerous. Watch out for Drop Bears. If you are walking under gum trees keep a look out. Drop Bears are so named because that’s what they do – they drop onto you from the trees. And they have a sharp bite. You can ward them off by spraying fresh urine on your head and neck.
And watch out for cows. Cows kill more people than sharks do.
Do you really need a 4WD?
I’ve written before about how you can get around Australia and see all the major icons in a 2WD vehicle, and for many people that’s all you’ll need. If you’re flying in to Darwin or Alice Springs and hiring a car to drive to Uluru, save your money and get a standard 2WD, it’s tar all the way.
But If you are planning on going off road be prepared. You will need a good 4WD, with recovery gear, gps, and communications. If you break down or get bogged somewhere remote it might be a while before anybody comes past to help you out.
Have a safety plan
Outback Australia can be very harsh, it’s very hot in summer, and the sun is very strong. And there are large distances between places, especially for those used to the European landscape. If you’re driving through the outback you need to have a plan in case something goes wrong, like you break down or get bogged. And that plan should be DO NOT LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE. If you do you might die.
I can’t stress this one enough. Make sure you’ve got plenty of water on board. At least 10 litres per person, plus whatever smaller bottles you have. Our Cruiser has a 40 litre tank, and I carry a 15 litre container in the Vitara. I also have a 1.25litre bottle in the fridge and 600mil bottle to drink from while driving. All are refilled regularly.
And stay with your vehicle. That way you have shelter from the elements, water to drink, and you are far more likely to be found. People have died in the outback because they’ve gone out looking for help, and the only reason they were found is because somebody followed the tracks from the car after the car was found first.
If you keep this in mind you’ll have a fabulous time. Australia is a beautiful country and I highly recommend you take as much time as you possibly can and travel around. You’ll love it.
I’ve even been out there with just a girlfriend for company, as well as on my own. We made some mistakes, sure, but we had an amazing time.
What recommendations do you have for people travelling in Australia?