Road Kill Can Be Deadly
• THE PROBLEM OF ROAD KILL
You might think that with dirt bikes being pretty loud, most animals will simply hear you coming and just get out of the way, right?
That's called wishful thinking, and does not factor in that most Australian marsupials can be as thick as two planks and dimmer than a torch without batteries.
I have personally witnessed a kamikaze wallaby make a last second dash from the far (and safe) side of the road, not across the road, but straight at an oncoming vehicle. Sadly for the wallaby, this was a mistake that it would not get to repeat.
Road kill is a problem throughout Australia and many parts of the continent are prone to regularly having various forms of wildlife cross highways, roads and tracks. Though this can happen at any time of day, it is particularly likely between dusk and dawn. This happens to be when the critters are also the most difficult to see. Encounters are most likely to occur where roads cut through bushland or where the road shoulder and edges offer grazing opportunities.
The majority of animals that are likely to get caught out near roads will be fairly small (rabbits, possums, Paddy Melons and even cats). For the average car driving motorist, these will amount to no more than a short dull thud and maybe a slight bump.
Once you get to a medium sized wallaby however, expect some panel damage.
A large kangaroo can take out the front end of a car and potentially cause thousands of dollars worth of damage. Running into a fully grown wombat is not unlike hitting a tree stump or small boulder. You would be fortunate if the vehicle can still be driven after such an impact.
While most road kill incidents are just an unfortunate inconvenience for the average motorist behind the wheel of a car or 4WD, for a motorcyclist ... any of the above encounters could prove lethal.
In Tasmania, road kill is a huge problem throughout the entire island. Even the numerous carcasses on and near the road can be a constant and very serious hazard for motorcyclists.
• WATCH OUT FOR DANGER SIGNS
In Australia we seem to have a "Wildlife Crossing" sign for just about any indigenous wild life (and then some). These signs are so common that it's all to easy to switch off and just ignore them. Don't! The folks who put those signs up know something. Wanna guess what it is? ;-)
Of course, if you're in the bush or outback, there probably won't be any roadside signs. You'll be lucky if the trail you're on is actually on a map.
So you need to keep a lookout for fresh animal droppings on the track, along with grass and shrubs that have been eaten down at the edge of the track. There may be animal trails that cross the track, particularly leading to creeks, water holes and other feeding areas.
If there is any evidence of recent wildlife
activity and especially if it's "that" time of day ... FFS SLOW DOWN!
And of course it's worth mentioning that in some parts of northern, central and western Australia, you might also encounter animals as large as sheep, cows, brumbies (wild horses) and camels! Surprise arguments between a dirt bike and one of these larger mammals are rarely won by the rider.
• AVOIDING ROAD KILL
Though there are some people who will boldly claim that dirt bikes are noisy enough to wake the dead ... this is in fact not true (I've watched enough zombie movies to know ;-)
Road kill is simply not going to get up and get out of your way no matter how loud your bike's exhaust is. So the dead critter you don't see in time, will most probably be the one that gives you a free flying lesson.
Pay Attention to what's in front of you, and get some decent head lights on your bike!
If you are traveling on a main road at around dusk, unless you are overtaking, avoid following too closely behind trucks or large vehicles that you can't see past. They may hit some unfortunate critter which will then suddenly appear in front of you, leaving you with no time or chance to avoid hitting it as well.
The primary way to avoid encounters with our 'not so bright' and still living marsupial friends is to give them some space between dusk and dawn ... and just stay out of their way ... because they are just way too dumb to stay out of yours.
And if you must travel between dusk and dawn (particularly in Tasmania), back it off. Give yourself and the hapless wildlife a chance of avoiding an unhappy and painful meeting.
• Responsible Riding
I firmly believe that we share this planet as a part of the natural world. Without the benefits and beauty of nature, this world would be an unhealthy, ugly and most probably a very boring place.
Even though I get pissed off when possums eat my ripe tomatoes and wallabies munch the lettuce. I still don't want to see them dead on the side of the road. And I certainly don't want to hear about a hospitalised rider that ran into a roo which had been flattened by a truck only minutes earlier.
Surviving is all about awareness
Make the most of Life's opportunities and whenever possible minimise Life's dangers.
And of course, enjoy every minute of it!
Outback Dirt Bike Survival - Riding to Survive 103
|Australia is a magnificent country with awesome places to see and visit, and what's more, Australia is wonderfully suited to exploration by dirt bike. Australia can also be as hostile as hell. As a result of this innate hostility, every so often, people (often tourists) do perish in the Australian bush or "Outback" as we tend to call it. Most of the time, this comes about as the result of simple and avoidable mechanical failure and an unfortunate (perhaps even silly) lack of preparation. This page is intended to address some of the issues related to Going Bush in the hope of making your Aussie Outback Adventure an enjoyable and safe experience.
Being properly prepared and knowing a few simple things could save your life or a friend's. It can make the difference between having a great and memorable time or having one hell of a disaster.
• Five Basic Rules for Going Bush and Outback Dirt Bike and Trail Riding Survival: [ TOP ]
- Do Not Travel Alone !!
No matter how good a rider you think you are, disasters are often the result of simple failures or mistakes. Always travel with at least one other companion, preferably two or more. For longer adventures (more than a weekend), seriously consider traveling with an Australian Dirt Bike Tour Operator where the logistics (trip planning, organisation and provisioning) are handled by professionals who know the region, terrain, hazards and how to deal with them.
- Plan Your Dirt Bike Ride / Trip / Adventure Thoroughly
Research the area you want to travel through. Google Maps and Google Earth can provide excellent resources to help with route planning, but use a proper (laminated hardcopy) topographic region map if possible. Even if you have a GPS unit, bring a compass along just in case the GPS unit batteries go flat. Consider getting some advice from locals who may know of any dangers and problems you might encounter. Check out any Dirt Bike, ATV or 4WD forums that might have useful information about the area you want to ride and explore.
- ALWAYS Take More Supplies Than You "Think" You Will Need
You can survive without food for about a week. Without water, you may last as little as three days (particularly in Australia's arid inland regions). Exposure brought on by extreme weather changes can see you in serious trouble within just a few hours, so always pack some protective warm clothing.
Consider taking at least one GPS Transponder (Emergency Beacon) with your group ... it could save a life.
• Don't forget the spare drive chain, a puncture repair kit and some basic tools.
Even a day-trip or over-nighter can go pear-shaped ... so Be Prepared !!
- ALWAYS Advise Someone (responsible) of your Departure and Return Date
Never assume that people know when and where you are going. Casually mentioning your trip to mates at the pub, friends at work, or just by leaving a quick note on a forum, could see you in serious trouble long before any one thinks to start looking for you.
Traveling in some remote areas of Australia may require a permit and result in a fine if you do not file a route plan with local police and/or the relevant state park authorities. Always make sure that some one you can trust knows where you are going and most importantly, when you are expected back.
- Avoid The Temptation to Deviate from your Planned Route
Once you have mapped out a plan try to stick to it. Otherwise, if something does go badly wrong, Emergency Services may not find you in time.
• Basic Five Point Bush and Outback Dirt Bike Survival Checklist: [ BACK ] [ TOP ]
- Do You Have the Riding Skills & Bike for this Dirt Bike Adventure ?
If you and your companions are going to tackle unfamiliar or possibly hazardous terrain, you might want to get some advice, training or perhaps even revise your plans for this journey. If you are unsure of your abilities, or those of your companions ... be bloody careful !!
Just as important as your skill level is having a dirt bike that is up to the task. Make sure your bike is suitable for where you are going, that it's in good mechanical condition and recently serviced.
- Do You Have a GPS Transponder ? (Emergency Beacon)
Admittedly, these can be expensive ... but, what price would you put on your life or a friend's? Depending on where you are going and for how long, a satellite phone may also be useful. Then you should always be able to make an emergency phone call wherever you are ... and don't forget the spare batteries.
- Do You Have Enough Basic Supplies and/or Support ?
• Water -
This is your most important supply or resource. Dehydration can be fatal in as little as two to three days. Allow *a minimum* of two litres per day per person (depends on activity, temperature and how much you sweat). Allow for more if you are traveling in arid inland areas of Australia, or just about anywhere in the height of the Australian summer (which by the way is NOT recommended). Do not expect to be able to get clean drinking water anywhere en-route.
• Food - Rations for at least two or three days more than your planned trip. Allow for getting stuck somewhere and/or unavoidable detours. Make sure you ration sizes are on the generous side. You will most likely be working hard and getting very hungry.
- Bore Water & Dams: Generally high in mineral salts, may taste 'metallic'. Bore water may be extremely hot if it's fresh out of the ground. Should generally be drinkable when cooled. Water in dams may contain all sorts of pathogens (bacteria, algae & parasites) - See Important note below.
- Streams & Water Holes: If outback streams are running at full capacity, your biggest problem is most likely going to be getting stuck in a flood situation. Normally, any water taken from a stream or water hole should be boiled for at least 5 to 10 minutes, to kill off (most of) the organisms and pathogens living in it.
- IMPORTANT: Boiling water will NOT reduce the toxicity of the microscopic algae (blue-green and red) that may be present in any still or slow moving water source. Just because you can't 'see' an algal bloom does not mean the water is not contaminated to toxic levels.
- The only absolutely SAFE water source is The Water You Bring With You!
• Clothing - Allow for extremes in weather conditions ANYWHERE and ALWAYS!! In inland Australia the night time temperature can fall to near or below zero even after a scorching hot day. Also bear in mind that southern parts of Australia have had snow on Christmas day (the middle of summer). It may not happen often, but it only has to occur once.
• Dunny Paper (aka: TP or Toilet Paper) - Don't Leave Home Without It !! ... If you forget this or simply run out, you will NOT be a happy camper.
• Support Vehicle - Extra water, food, fuel and spares, plus a powerful communications kit are always a great idea. Any outback adventure longer than a few days will benefit from having a support vehicle or two.
- Do You Have Enough Fuel, Spares and Tools?
• Fuel - Allow for the unexpected: Washed out or otherwise impassable tracks and trails, flooded rivers and creeks ... and the possible lengthy detours that may result. If you are planning organised fuel stops in remote areas, call ahead to make sure that the place is still open for business when you expect to get there.
• Spares - Knowing what to bring depends a lot on how far away from civilization you intend to go, and how well you know your dirt bike. Obvious items would be tyre repair equipment. For longer trips bring a spare spark plug, chain, some spare tubes and perhaps tyres as well. If things get to the point where you think you will need to bring a serious collection of spare parts ... You need either a support vehicle or to sign up with an organised dirt bike tour, and let some one else worry about it.
• Tools - At least enough to: Tighten things up before they come loose, drop off and are lost forever in the bush. Enough to change a spark plug, fix tyres and chains ... and of course don't forget the chain lube!
• Support Vehicle - I just want to quickly mention this again ... it really can greatly simplify your logistics.
- Do You Have a Basic Medical or First Aid Kit ? (and do you know how to use it?)
A basic Medical Kit is a compact and relatively cheap safety essential. In hot humid weather even simple infections from cuts and scratches can get very nasty, very quickly, if left untreated. In colder regions a simple and lightweight Thermal Blanket can prevent Hypothermia. Make sure your medical kit is complete and replace any used up items. You can pick up a basic First Aid Kit at most Pharmacies, Chemists, or order one online from an organisation like the St John Ambulance Australia . St John can also provide First Aid Training and General First Aid Information . See also Handling an Emergency .
• Some of The Hazards and Dangers Of Going Bush [ BACK ] [ TOP ]
Vast regions of Australia are prone to Bush Fire or Wildfire. Apart from taking great care not to start one with a careless campfire ... always have a planned escape route when traveling through Bushfire prone regions. Particular if riding in the summer months and/or periods of raised Fire Danger.
The saying goes "it never rains, but it pours". In many parts of Australia, including the Outback, flooding can occur with frightening rapidity and with almost no warning. Once a torrential deluge begins, flooding may occur so far down stream (days later) that you may not get any advance warning that it is coming. If your travels depend on creek and/or river crossings, pay particular attention to seasonal conditions when planning your dirt bike adventure.
- Extreme Heat
Australia is primarily known for its hot dry weather. In inland Australia, summer daytime temperatures can soar up to a very uncomfortable 45°Celsius or even a potentially life threatening 50°C. Only an idiot would plan to travel in Central Australia through these kinds of conditions, and some have died in the attempt. Dehydration is a very real and potentially life threatening hazard. Times to avoid traveling there would generally run from October to March, however local conditions will vary, so do some research.
- Sudden and Severe Weather Change (hypothermia )
Many regions of Australia have historically been subject to dramatic weather changes. With global warming the likelihood of extreme weather changes (particularly violent storms and freezing "cold snaps") are only likely to get worse.
Australian Alpine and High Country regions can drop to freezing or below in as little as an hour. The Summer of 2007 is a classic example, when parts of South-eastern Australia had snow on Christmas Day ... essentially in the middle of the Australian Summer.
Though much of inland Australia is considered to be desert or very close to it, overnight temperatures can still fall to near or below zero even after a scorcher or a day. Don't be caught out. Even if you are out for just a one day ride, always carry a light-weight thermal jacket and/or blanket ... just in case!
- Australian Wildlife Hazards
A part of the wonder of Australia is our amazing wildlife. Fortunately, we don't (yet) have Rabies in Australia, nor do we have the larger carnivores (bears and big cats) of other continents. However, that doesn't mean we don't have our share of wildlife hazards. If your trip involves camping out, you should get familiar with the critters you are likely to be camping out with (and I don't just mean your mates or girlfriends).
Mosquitoes & Leeches - Mossies can be found pretty much everywhere, requiring only a puddle or other still water to breed. In certain regions of Australia Mosquitoes are known to carry and transmit some rather nasty diseases including Encephalitis, Denge Fever (QLD) and Ross River Fever (VIC, NSW & TAS). Some viral illnesses (like Ross River Virus) have no actual cure, so the only option is to manage the symptoms. And of course, Malaria is another immigrant from the tropical regions of the north that appears to be making its way ever further south.
It is all too easy to dismiss or overlook the impact of Mosquito born diseases, since in Australia these rarely prove to be fatal. However, they can be fatal if left untreated and they can also have a life-long debilitating impact. Keep it simple and do your best to avoid getting Mossie bites.
Leeches are another unpleasant little problem that you may encounter when camping anywhere it's damp.
Once again, it's the parasites and bacteria that leaches may carry that are the potential issue. There doesn't seem to be universal agreement on the best way to get rid of a leech once it has attached itself. From experience however, I can tell you that sprinkling salt on a leech will make it let go, as will the heat from a match or lighter.
Snakes and Spiders - Australia has some of the most venomous snakes and spiders on Earth. However only a few species of Australian spiders and snakes are known for their aggressive behaviour, and even then most notably during their mating season or when protecting their eggs (in the case of spiders). Though scorpions are quite common around much of Australia, there are no Australian species of scorpion known to cause severe illness (however their sting can be painful).
Some general simple advice for encounters with snakes and spiders: The best thing you can do is to be watchful, and if possible just stay the hell out of their way. Knowing the appropriate first-aid treatment for poisonous bites is a must if you're going to spend time in the Aussie bush.
Other things that bite and sting - Ants, Wasps.
Ants and wasps will generally be more of an annoyance than a threat, unless you are allergic to their venom. Some simple first-aid, and over the counter anti-histamines from your local chemist will generally be adequate to deal with most insect stings. There are products that are supposed to make the sting and itch go away, but they don't seem to work for me ;-)
Coastal Region Threats - Jellyfish, Stone Fish, and Blue-ringed Octopus.
Jellyfish (Australia wide) on the other hand can inflict excruciating pain, and some species can be lethal without appropriate medical intervention and possibly CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation).
Stone Fish (QLD) are found mostly above the tropic of Capricorn around coral reefs. They can be very hard to see, having excellent camouflage and are a very good reason for not exploring the reef in bare feet.
The bite of the small (golf ball sized) Blue-ringed Octopus (VIC) induces paralysis and can easily prove fatal unless the patient receives Artificial Respiration (CPR) until the effects of the neurotoxin wear off.
So if your dirt bike adventures include coastal areas and stopping to dip your toes in a rock pool or to go for a splash in the surf, take care.
Critters that WILL Eat You - Sharks and Salt Water Crocodiles
Warning! There are places in Australia where humans are NOT at the top of the food chain.
Sharks - There is no part of the Australian coastline (that I'm aware of) that does not have sharks present at some time of the year.
Though shark attacks in Australia are historically infrequent, attack frequency appears to be increasing. Some possible reasons for such an increase are: Restrictions on fishing due to coastal environmental protection policies leading to increased shark populations; and coastal environment pollution and degradation leading to a decline in the shark's normal food sources.
The message here however is a simple one ... keep an eye out for sharks. Find out whether shark populations may be an issue when visiting a particular region of Australian coastline. Don't swim alone, make sure there is some one on the beach or headland that can warn you of shark presence and/or assist you in the event of a shark attack. Humans are not generally on the menu for sharks, so often injuries from shark attack are non-fatal if effective medical aid (mostly to prevent massive blood loss) can be provided quickly.
Salt Water or Estuarine Crocodiles - Perhaps fortunately, the range of the rather large Australian Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is restricted to the northern coastal and generally tropical regions of the Australian continent. However their range does extend from Broome in Western Australia through the entire Northern Territory coast and all the way down to Rockhampton in Queensland.
Since a large mature male Salty can grow up to 6 metres (20 ft) in length and weigh in at around1000 kilograms (2,200 lbs), these crocodilians are to be taken very seriously. Salties prefer to hunt at night and will take down just about anything in their territory from small prey through to large mammals (includes humans, horses & cattle). Estuarine Crocodiles are capable of explosive bursts of speed, both in the water and on land. Attacks are generally quick and extremely violent, with the prey being first dragged under water and drowned.
Do NOT camp near rivers, creeks or estuaries where these guys are likely to hang out. Avoid fishing in these locations and in particular avoid cleaning any caught fish near the water's edge. And absolutely DO NOT go swimming in these areas.
To quote Monty Python: "Today's athlete is tomorrow's crocodile shit".
It would be nice to simply say, don't camp or swim near the croc warning signs ... except that crocks can't read and so there aren't always warning signs where the crocs are. Also, Salties have been known to travel considerable distances inland if there is adequate water.
Since the Salt Water Crocodile has been a protected species for some time in Australia, their numbers are steadily increasing, along with the likelihood of an unexpected encounter.
• Leave It As You Found It - Show Some Respect for The Environment [ BACK ] [ TOP ]
Going into the Aussie Bush or Outback is an adventure and an opportunity to explore regions that are both beautiful and challenging. However, as the world gets ever more crowded and land gets fenced off and locked up, finding unique, interesting and/or pristine locations to ride will just keep getting harder.
And then ... There are few things more annoying than arriving at some remote bush or outback location only to discover that Dick Head and his drunken mates got their before you ... and left their garbage and broken empties lying around what would otherwise be the perfect campsite. It's getting more and more difficult to find places that haven't been despoiled by weekend cowboys and rednecks.
Please ... Do your bit to Keep Australia Beautiful ... keep it a place where any one with the spirit of adventure can go and have a great time exploring our wonderful landscapes. And the final message is, don't bring anything along with you that you are not prepared to take out with you when you leave. Remember ... Your kids might go there one day.
See our related articles on:
Eco-Friendly Dirt Bike Riding - Sustainably Sharing Trails and Global Warming Impacts For Dirt Bike Riders.
• Your Safety is Your Concern [ BACK ] [ TOP ]
All the warnings in the world won't be of any use to you when some lizard makes a home amongst your bleaching bones somewhere in the Aussie Outback ... next to a dirt bike with a flat tire, no fuel and a cell phone with a flat battery. Common sense preparations combined with a small but healthy dose of paranoia could save your life ... or the lives of your friends.
Safety issues are easy to overlook, but can be potentially fatal ... so ... Enjoy the Outback, and Stay Safe!
Incept: 2007 - Updated: 31/10/2010