|Stormy Weather ... Sultana Point, South Australia|
Wild, rugged mountains. Ancient, arid deserts. Weird, wonderful wildlife. Magnificent beaches, lush rainforests, untamed islands. These – and other amazing wonders – are just part of everyday life in the mystical, magical land of OZ!
What could possibly go wrong??
Most of the time, nothing. But road-tripping round Australia isn't always beaches and bakeries, sunlight and surf, RED rock and rainbows … the dark side of travel in Australia is everywhere.
And the scare factor increases considerably through the eyes of a 'world's greatest coward' contender!
Yes, that's me.
|Outback Road via Copley, South Australia|
However, just because I'm easily frightened doesn't make me wrong, right? So for a cowards-eye view, I've put together MY version of the TOP 7 Aussie travel hazards!
But be warned! All you REAL adventurers out there just MIGHT find the dark side stuff that scares me rigid rather lame ...
|The shelter shed at the top of the Kalbarri Cliffs gives some idea of the drop DOWN! Western Australia|
The almost unbearable urge to give in to gravity on the edge of a precipitous cliff, narrow ridge or soaring pinnacle makes me weak at the knees.
|Pilchard at the Eyrie- a 293 metre drop to the bottom of Tully Gorge, QLD|
And watching people (like Pilchard!) stand on the edge of sheer drops without quavering gives me the cold shivers.
OR … it could be that I really AM a coward!
But avoidance isn't an option if I want to see the sights or take the pix.
So after years of blanking out steep drops, my pointless clutching at railings or even rocks has abated (although the magnetic downdraft I feel when I'm on the edge hasn't)!
|What's that on the Mt William Road in the Grampians National Park, Victoria?|
In a country where threats like deadly box jellyfish and blue-ringed octopi, voracious sharks and crocodiles, giant ants and redback spiders, stonefish and stinging leaves stalk the land, singling out snakes as objects of fear doesn't really make sense.
Although with 9 of the world's 10 deadliest snakes alive and well down here perhaps it does …
But given my extreme 'flight' reaction works just as well on non-venomous species perhaps there's something other than the threat of imminent death in play.
|It's a SNAKE, of course! Who cares what kind?? They're ALL bad ...|
I try to put it in perspective. Death from snakebite isn't all that common. But the risk of death rises exponentially when the snake is being handled. So do as I do – and run like hell!
According to the Australian Slang Dictionary on Koala Net, a Bogan is 'a person who takes little pride in his appearance, spends his days slacking and drinking beer'.
Not so scary, you say?
Well … wait 'til these benign behaviours intersect with 'disturbed camping' and 'extreme intoxication' and 'reverberating music' and 'sleep deprivation'.
|The campground BEFORE the Bogan moved in ... Timber Creek, Northern Territory|
Then you end up with a twenty-something low rent loser whacked out of his brain in the middle of a remote but crowded campground playing Aussie group Redgum's I Was Only 19 at full bore on his quadrophonic car stereo while simultaneously playing Elvis AreYou Lonesome Tonight? on his way-too-expensive-for-a-bogan supersonic caravan stereo system. Singing along with first one, then the other as if they went together.
At 3:00 am.
He was still passed out when we left the next morning which is why his tyres remained intact and the crocodiles in the creek below remained unfed!
|Crocs in the Creek, Timber Creek, Northern Territory|
But I still wonder how such a young bloke ended up with a brand-new $50,000+ caravan of a make and model that NO ONE ELSE under 60 owns. Or wants. Maybe it'd be worth checking the missing-grey-nomad register back where he came from …
#4 Extreme Sports
|What ARE those black specks in the stormy sky above Ballina, New South Wales???|
|Paragliders, of course!|
While watching para-gliders drifting lazily downwards against a backdrop of storm clouds makes for marvellously melodramatic shots, for me it's an awful amalgam of #1 and #6.
And if I'm going to break my neck, I'd rather do it the all-natural old-fashioned way than diving into a pool with an elastic rope around my ankles (see #1 above!).
Anyway, road-tripping Australia's vast distances in challenging conditions is virtually an extreme sport in itself!
Besides, I already participate in the most extreme sport on the planet.
Running through the inhospitable Aussie bushland laden with heavy equipment; crawling through swamps (sorry, 'wetlands') in eye-ball shrivelling heat or pouring rain; comparing field observations with an encyclopaedic wealth of conflicting data; negotiating 'roads' in remote wilderness; and the psychological ability to deal with the sometimes appalling social skills of its more experienced practitioners are just a few of the challenges the extreme sport of – yes – BIRDWATCHING presents.
It's nothing to do with cowardice – I just don't have the time – or energy – left for anything else!
|D'you reckon there'd be snakes at the Tyto Wetlands, Ingham, Queensland?|
And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you ...
#5 Being 'Caught Short'
Thousands of kilometres of road-tripping takes its toll in more ways than one. And despite the plethora of both male and female 'relief' products on the market, nothing beats finding a divine dunny when you need one.
|Classic Aussie Dunny, Quobba Blowholes, Western Australia|
Maybe that's why I've got such an affinity for Australia's Scenic Public Toilets!
While the scare factor is pretty low compared to, say, snakebite or death by duelling musicians, continually crossing one's legs is just plain AWKWARD!
|View of the Loo (that black speck!) from the Lighthouse against the Quobba Blowholes, Western Australia|
One day I'll introduce a unique Tour of Australia via its most AMAZING Amenities – but in the meantime? I'll just keep publishing my handy guide to the most scenic loos in OZ!
|The Silver Bullet on the Strzelecki Track, via Lyndhurst, South Australia|
|Strzelecki Track Surface!|
At least that's the reason some regions give for tyre-shredding road surfaces, mud slicks, swimming pool-sized potholes and once-temporary traffic hazard signs that seem to have become permanent.
And without rail network closure and mining activity increases in many rural and remote areas, there'd be considerably fewer hazards from the network of semi-trailers.
Although grey nomads who use experimental driving techniques with their semi-trailer-sized caravans and truck-sized tow vehicles are even more of a hazard!
Either way, leaving home without Automobile Association membership means a road emergency miles from anywhere can bring your road-trip to a grinding – and expensive – halt!
|Road Train on Kimberley Road, Western Australia|
#7 Sensory Overload
Ho hum … another day on the road, another panorama of staggering scenery … an Aussie road-trip can really leave you jaded!
I've seen a LOT of Australia's abundant – and varied – natural attractions. And photographed them for my blog. But I'm SO not done yet! Not when I keep finding places like THESE!
|Mt Warning, Northern New South Wales|
OK, so I'm biased. But not without good reason!!
|Sunset over the Richmond River, Ballina, New South Wales|
Well, that's MY list. And yes, I'm sure it leaves my inarguable coward-contender status undamaged!!
But what have I missed? What's the DARK side of Aussie travel for YOU??