Australian Outback Dangers
7 Things That Can Kill You (Not!)
The Australian Outback is dangerous, right?
So what makes it so dangerous? Below is a list of things that can - supposedly - kill you, seven dangers of the Outback.
Some of them you can probably guess, others I bet you didn't. And my opinion on some may not be what you expected at all...
At the end of the day it all comes down to one single thing. Read on to find out what that is.
1. Poisonous Snakes
Snakes are the number one fear of most Outback travellers. Australian snakes are the most dangerous in the world. Or so they say...
Well, fact is, the "most dangerous snake in the world", the Australian Inland Taipan, never killed anyone. To date not a single person died from the bite of the Inland Taipan.
Precious few people have died of any snake bites in Australia. The people who get bitten are usually herpetologists (people whose job involves playing with snakes), people who act as if they were herpetologists (a surprisingly large number of drunk males get bitten by snakes...) or idiots trying to kill snakes. A bit of common sense wouldn't go astray here...
Yes, there are poisonous snakes in Australia. No, they are not dangerous, as long as you leave them alone.
2. Poisonous Spiders
The warnings about the deadly spiders in the Australian Outback are ridiculous.The only spider that could theoretically be called deadly is the Sydney Funnel-web Spider.
It occurs in the Sydney region, and Sydney is not the Outback. Nit-picking aside, nobody has died from a spider bite in Australia since am antivenom was introduced in the early eighties.
Few people develop any symptoms following a bite from the supposedly dangerous Redback Spider. 90% of people don't develop serious symptoms following a Funnel-web Spider bite. The people who do show a reaction have several days to get medical help, and, if required, antivenom.
Nobody likes the creepy-crawlies, but our spiders are not deadly!
We have two kinds in the Australian Outback. Freshwater crocodiles and saltwater crocodiles. Freshies are small and shy fish eaters and will not bother you if you don't bother them.
Saltwater crocodiles eat people. They are huge, mean, smart, cunning, and unpredictable.
Salties live only across the far north of Australia. If you plan to visit the north learn about saltwater crocodiles.
Don't let it worry you, though, and don't believe everything you read in the newspapers. With a bit of common sense you can easily avoid getting eaten. Plenty of people live up here and manage to do so every day.
4. Mad Outback Killers
Even if Wolf Creek was based on a true story (it's not for goodness sake, it was a marketing ploy!), does that mean Australia must be full of mad killers?
It seems a lot of people draw exactly that conclusion. "Is this not a reasonable connection to make?", one of my US readers wrote.
(In a condescending email, telling me that I must be stupid for not acknowledging the reality that for years "Australians" have been targeting and killing backpackers.)
Well, lucky that drugs and derailed, sick minds have never caused problems or killed anyone in the US... Please excuse the sarcasm.
The Australian Outback has its hazards, but people are not one of them. The chances to come across a disturbed mind, the chances of someone losing it and harming people in the way, are much bigger in and near the cities and populated regions.
I've lived in the Outback for fifteen years, (I live close to Wolfe Creek, by the way,) and I've hitchhiked up and down and around this country many times. I never much liked hitchhiking anywhere near our cities or along the east coast. I actually suspect it might be dangerous.
But no matter how many sick movies are made, I would not hesitate for a second to stick out my thumb along any Outback road. The people here are different. It's the world as it should be, where people take an interest in each other, trust each other, are open, friendly and help each other. That's why I live here.
Someone who thinks that taking the actions of one mentally sick drug addict, and from that drawing conclusions about the population of a whole nation, "is a reasonable connection to make", needs a reality check. Badly.
A movie is a movie, and mentally disturbed people can live anywhere.
5. The Deadly Outback Desert
"The Australian Outback desert is more deadly than anything you can imagine."
I saw that posted on some online discussion board, by an Aussie. My guess is he never left the city and beaches of the east coast...
Well, if you get lost in any Australian desert, and all you have in the glove box is a Mars bar and a can of Coke, then you are indeed not looking good. You may even die.
(Most Aussies will take at least three cartons of beer and a mountain of ice to keep them cold, so they'll last a bit longer. Still, they'd run out eventually...)
If you step out onto a busy road from between parked cars you also have a good chance of dying. Which is to say, carelessness and stupidity can kill. What else is new?
Travelling into very remote regions in the Australian Outback does require planning and some common sense. But as long as you observe a few simple rules there is nothing dangerous about a visit to any of our deserts.
6. Uluru - Ayers Rock
Yep, it's a common way for Australia tourists to die.
They die of heart attacks when climbing it, they fall of it, and they die in car crashes in their mad rush to get to Uluru and then back to Alice Springs in the same day.
Ok, maybe common is a bit harsh, but if you compare the risk of dying at Uluru to the risk of dying from a snake bite or the hands of a mad killer, then Uluru looks very dangerous indeed.
But I have yet to come across online forum postings warning of a visit to Uluru...
If you plan to visit Uluru I suggest you familiarise with the distances (no, it's not just outside Alice Springs), and I would also encourage you to inform yourself about the issues surrounding the Uluru climb in general.
(Of course I don't think that a visit to Uluru as such is dangerous. I wrote this to point out how ridiculous the hype about the dangerous snakes and spiders is.)
7. The Sun
You can always spot the tourists in the Outback, with their bare heads, spaghetti strap tops, pink skin and bright red faces. They worry about snakes and spiders, but that too much sun could be dangerous never crossed their mind.
The sun here is fierce, so cover up! It will not only protect you from skin cancer, it will also keep you cooler, believe it or not.
Australian Outback sun has enormous energy. If it hits your skin then the skin and the underlying tissue absorb all of it. Which means you get hot!
Let it hit some loose clothing and you will stay nice and cool underneath. I spent many years working outdoors. When I step outside I roll my sleeves down, not up. Not because I think of skin cancer, but instinctively, because it is cooler.
The sun is dangerous. Wear a big hat, sunscreen, cover up and take a water bottle with you wherever you go. People have died or nearly died because they ignored that advice.
Don't worry about snakes, spiders and killers. Treat the crocodiles with adequate respect. The things that are likely to get you into trouble are not what you think. It's the sun, the distances, and the fact that the continent is so empty.
It's not the Australian Outback that is dangerous, but people who do dangerous or plain stupid things. The problem with common sense is that it's not that common. Let me add this as a bonus point:
8. Lack Of Common Sense
Lack of common sense is dangerous. It can kill you dead.