Honest, most of the time when I read Outback survival tips that are given to normal travellers, and read some of the recommendations, I shake my head.
Please note that I talk about normal travellers here. Bush survival is a great skill, and I nothing but admire people who go on week long hikes with little or no equipment. I have an interest in bush foods and know a lot of them, I wish I knew how to light a fire without matches, and I certainly wouldn’t be above eating grasshoppers if I had to.
If that’s the kind of thing you are looking for, good on you. If you have a chance to do a course on that, go for it. I would.
But none of those skills are in any way important to your survival if you, the average traveller, get lost in the Outback. And to make out that you need to be an expert in all that to survive in the Australian Outback is ridiculous. Unless of course you want to cross it on foot…
Read some travelogues and blogs of people who have been on tours through the Australian Outback, often titled “How I survived the rugged Outback” and similar, and you can be forgiven for thinking that this is one of the most lethal places in the world, with venomous creatures lurking at every step of the way, and where only the very toughest and fittest will make it to the other side. Yawn.
After living here for many years I happen to know what their tour was really like. The toughest part was that they had to put up their tent themselves and that there was no chocolate on the pillow…
Death in the Australian Outback
The opposite of Australian Outback survival is obviously death, and sadly the Outback does claim an average of 40 lives a year. Sounds lethal, doesn’t it? Until you look at the details.
The deaths that receive widespread publicity are the deaths of people who got lost and perished because they made one or two crucial mistakes. Usually these mistakes are not taking enough water in the first place, and not staying with their vehicle when they became stuck or lost. (More about that later.)
But most deaths are due to rather unspectacular mistakes: drinking, speeding, and swerving for wildlife. It’s as simple as that. Remote Australian Outback tracks are obviously not policed in any way. The great distances tempt people to put the pedal to the metal, and drinking and driving is sadly a very common habit out here as well, due to the scant chance of being caught.
Even the much policed roads kill people. The Lasseter Highway from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock is an excellent bitumen road, and one of the deadliest in Australia. Why? It’s busy, most tourists underestimate the distance, and they are in a mad rush to fit the rock into their hectic schedule. And then these numbers are used to underline how hard it is to survive in the Outback.
You don’t have to go to the Australian Outback to get yourself killed drinking and speeding…