Current Musing: Murray River Summit to Source to Sea (In Progress)
Sunset

Safety

Fire

Fire is a real risk in many areas of the world.

  • Stay informed and follow all advice authorities provide.
  • Avoid trips into remote areas when there are extreme fire conditions forecast.
  • If there is a risk, consider leaving the area. Additional people in fire zones make the jobs of the Firies and other support crews harder as their resources are spread thinner protecting everybody.
  • Dry lightning strikes are a common cause of fires in remote areas. If you hear thunder, stay vigilant!
  • If you are caught up in a bushfire, avoid the radiant heat by escaping into water or large clearings. A rock or earth barrier could help.
  • Normally fires will burn uphill much faster than downhill. If you are in a defendable position in say a river, consider the risks if you try to escape the fire by moving into higher ground.
  • Use natural fibre clothing. Thick woollen or leather clothes are best. Synthetic may melt and stick to your skin.
  • After the fire has past, stay vigilant. Many fatalities occur due to falling trees / infrastructure that were damaged in the main fire.

In Australia we are having our worst ever fire season due to hotter conditions on top of a prolonged drought.

Map of bushfire seasons

Source: Bushfire weather, Bureau of Meteorology.

The Corryong (Green Valley) fire started the day I had left the area when dry lightning struck and provides an excellent example about the dangers.

Just four days later, it has grown to 104,000 hectares in size and is currently affecting every area of the upper Murray River, including many places from my trip such as;

  • Cascade trailhead (intersects the only road through the area),
  • Tin Mine & Leather Barrel confluences (no communication and multiple day walk to escape),
  • Tom Groggin Campground (base camp for the trip), and
  • the fire front is currently burning through the entire 35 km length of the Murray River Gorge.
Map of hotspots

Even if I was safe, this would have completely ruined all of my plans if I was still in the area. Kosciuszko National Park was closed with mandatory evacuations yesterday, with a state of emergency mandating evacuation of nearby towns including Biggara, Khancoban and Towong today. Conditions are expected to get worse tomorrow where it could potentially merge up with other fires to both the north and south, creating a massive mega-fire.

Snakes

Stripped snake on a log

Giving an honourable mention to our little legless friends.

Firstly, remember that horses and honey bees are much more likely to kill than these little guys, and secondly, most snake bites occur when people are attacking or trying to handle the snake.

In fact, an unprovoked fatal snake bite has similar odds to being killed by lightning or having a coconut falling on you when you are in the tropics!

Prevention

  • Watch where you step and sit, including at night by using a bright touch. Many snakes are nocturnal.
  • Walk nosily and consider using long walking sticks to poke the ground in front of you. Albeit, avoid poking off to the side of a track too much, I've accidentally disturbed a snake into my path doing that before and nearly stood on the poor little fellow.
  • Avoid places where snakes might live such as fairly much anywhere off the track where they get some cover. Snakes are generally low down in the food chain and seek out places to hide to avoid being eaten by birds and other predators.
  • Wearing high boots and loose long pants. Long gaiters should be considered if hiking off trail.
  • Keep a clean camp to avoid attracting vermin that in turn could attract snakes.
  • Never attempt to catch or kill a snake. This is the most common reason why people get bitten. It is also illegal to kill or harm snakes in Australia.

First Aid

This is informational only and you should get training by professionals on proper care of snake bites.

  • Stay calm and keep the patient as still as possible.
  • Call 000 or activate any emergency beacons.
  • Use the pressure immobilisation technique to slow the spread of the venom. The bandages should be confitable enough for the patient to leave these on for several hours.
  • Do not try to capture the snake.
  • Do not cut, suck or wash the bite site. Skin tests can be used to determine what snake bite the patient.
  • Do not apply an arterial tourniquet.

Please refer to the Australian Venom Research Unit for more information and consider first-aid training courses.