People sometimes ask whether I get scared out being out on the trail. For sure I do. Every day. But less and less of the things people expect you to be scared of. Funnily enough, many of the things we have been taught to fear really don’t pose as great a threat to our safety as we would think.
Since statistics show that we are much more likely to die of disease (most of which tend to be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, toxic environment or a combination) than in an accident, I reckon our odds of survival on the trail are pretty good. Nonetheless, here are a few of the things out there that get my heart pounding.
There are just so many of the damn things about! I know they can’t do much damage while we’ve got our glasses and helmets on, but they are a disturbance and a distraction. As I am sure we are to them. I just wish that one day, magpies and I can find a mutual understanding.
We didn’t see our first real life bonafide dingo until our seventh month on the trail. We were on a fairly remote bush track, when we came upon a lanky yellow dingo drinking from a puddle in the middle of the path. It was early morning and what an insanely beautiful photo it would’ve taken. Yet when the dingo finally realised it wasn’t alone and looked up accusingly at us, the adrenaline started pumping and my first instinct was to run, or at least grab a stick.
There was a fierce wildness in its eyes, and a quickness in its step which made me think it would have no trouble at all in taking us down. It ran away of course, but still… At camp in northern Queensland, we heard dingoes howling in the distance a few times. It’s kinda cool but also gives me the heebie jeebies. After all, what’s scarier than a dingo? A pack of them….
3. Sugar Cane Trucks
While the two fears above may be more psychological than an actual tangible threat to our safety, this is one nasty creature that can and would flatten us in an instant. They are commonly found in central/ North Queensland in the dry season. Thanks to my impeccable planning (eherm), our bike tour happened to coincide with sugar cane harvest, aggressive magpie season , and the trade winds , which attempted to blow us all the way back to Cooktown.
So we met many a sugarcane truck, and boy , they don’t slow down for nothin. Always a worry on the bike, especially when there’s zero to no shoulder on the road and they are coming from both directions. On the stretch from Mt Molloy to Mareeba, we pushed the bike the last 6km into town along the grass verge, as it was just too risky.
4. Dry Creeks or dams
There really is nothing scarier than not having water. Luckily, we have yet to run think any real serious trouble here, probably because I am so terrified that it will actually happen one day and take ridiculous measures to ensure it won’t. Luckily, chances are that even if the water source at camp is dry, there will be a dam or trough along the way.
5. No Feed (grass)
While not as dire as not finding water, arriving at camp at the end of the day to no grass can be pretty worriesome in itself. It’s impossible to sit around a campfire and enjoy a good meal while your animals are hungry. It also means that they will be fidgety and restless all night, and more likely to wander off or get themselves into some sort of trouble. I have learnt that it’s best just to keep going to another spot, however tired everyone is.
5. Locked Gates
Argghh! The bane of my existence during BNT guide book 9. While it is often possible to unwire the fence to the side of a gate when necessary, at other times you may be forced to backtrack 20km or so to your last camp until you can figure out how to pass through- enough to drive you mad when you’ve already just covered that distance.
6. Pea gravel
Slippery, slippery, slippery. If there is a trick to walking downhill on this stuff, I have yet to master it. So far the only bruise I have acquired on the trail is from slipping over on pea gravel, of course.
Z hates these with a vengeance. Which is fair enough, considering she’s had her own traumas with them. At a camp in south east Queensland, I had strung up our food bag from the rafters of a shed we were staying in.
They were obviously rotten, because the bag came crashing down a few hours later, along with a few wasps from up there who had obviously been disturbed. Poor Z got bitten a few times and has been super wary of them ever since.
Things I should probably be scared of, but aren’t:
Despite numerous warnings, as long as these guys can see you, they are some of the safest, most respectful drivers on the road. At least in my experience. Often when they see riders out on forestry tracks, they will alert the other drivers by UHF
We spent a lot of time desensitising the bubs to these before we let, and we have certainly seen an awful lot out on the trail. On weekends, there have been groups of up to 40 bikes out for a ride together. But they always slow down when they see us, let us know how many more are behind, etc. Maybe the WA trail bikers could learn a thing or two from them!
So much more a perceived threat than a real one, thanks to the media. Obviously they are out there, and obviously you need to take caution. But as long as you don’t swim in the rivers or camp near the banks, you probably won’t be eaten.
You see a lot out there, and the first few times we stumbled across them had me scanning the surrounds for a nearby tree to scale. BUt they (even the bigger ones ) inadvertently seem to get out of our way- perhaps because we have the donks and horse?
Again, they are out there, but never seen to come near camp or bother us. If I can hear them in the distance, I just make sure we keep a fire going.
Same as above. They get out of your way. As long as the tent door ALWAYS stays zipped up!
Seen a few, haven’t been bitten- they usually get out of your way.
An interesting one, and a valid concern. A huge worry for me at first, and probably the only thing that would’ve stopped me from heading out on the trail in the first place. But believe it or not, most people are good. Really good in fact, despite what the media would have us believe. Yep, there’s also a few fruit cakes and nasty pasties out there, but that’s where common sense, trusting your instincts and taking a few personal safety measures comes in.
So what have you come across when trekking that you find scary?