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Friday, April 15, 2005

Know The Rules

Two days ago our TV screens described the awful deaths of two people in the West Australian out back. They died of thirst while travelling the remote Canning Stock Route in a beat up old bomb. Of course, the car broke down and they quickly ran out of water so they walked south to find some – in plus 40 degree heat. (I did not hear whether or not they were Poms. On a recent group trip to The Centre, my wife and I went on an organised 4WD day in the bush. Turned out most if not all of the people running the show were Poms and they did some pretty stupid things on the day. Actually lost a vehicle for two hours in some pretty desolate country.) I’m told death under these conditions is extremely unpleasant, culminating in delirious stripping off of clothing while walking desperately in ever decreasing circles.

It nearly happened to me. I had been there only a few months and was calling on farmers in the Eastern Wheat Belt – that’s about 250 miles east north east of Perth. It was getting towards the end of the day and I was yacking to a cocky on the last call. He uttered that never to be forgotten phrase “You might as well come home and meet The Cook.” This was an invitation to share an evening meal with his wife and family. He was keen to chat with a fresh young Lincoln graduate who knew everything there is to know about farming and more.

It was a very pleasant evening with not too many beers and I left the homestead at about 10.30 and drove the four or five miles to the road. There, I spread my map on the car seat (bench seats, see?) and turned left to head for the motel about 80 miles away in the nearest small town. After about an hour I realised something was not quite right. The road seemed to be getting very narrow, there were no longer any fences or wheat stubble, there were a hell of a lot of kangaroos and emus and slowly it dawned on me that indeed something was wrong. I stopped and got out. My father was a WWII RNZAF navigator and he had taught me to read the stars. I looked up and discovered north was where south should be. That can’t be right! I went back to the car and double checked the map. I had the bloody thing upside down on the car seat. Turned around, drove all the way back to the little town, arriving at about 1.30 with the fuel gauge on empty.

The next day when I sat down and by dent of calculating average speed and duration I realised where I had been. That’s when I started to shake a little because when I saw where I had been I realised I had broken three of the basic rules without realising it. Just one silly mistake. Nobody knew I was out there so no one would have come looking for at least a week. I had not one spare drop of water in the car. The gas tank was only a quarter full. Day temperatures were high.

The two men who died last week broke the other two rules as well. First, they had an unreliable vehicle and second they walked away from it. The most important rule is NEVER NEVER leave the vehicle. Stay under it during the day to conserve body moisture. A vehicle is easier than a man to spot from a fixed wing aircraft. In those temperatures, if you walk you die. If you stay you might live – if someone comes looking for you, that is. It’s percentage golf.

Every year it seems some shirt sleeved fool (often Australian) gallops up Mt Egmont in the morning only to be ‘gone by lunchtime,’ frozen stiff. Only yesterday RLWNews tells of someone going on pretty robust three day hike out of Wanaka, armed with light summer clothing, one loaf of bread and a bloody umbrella.

Oh well, tonight I’m taking The Cook to the best hotel in town. Posh restaurant, flash suite, nice breakfast and then back home. All for about $250 thanks to my prepaid Sheraton card with it’s accommodation discount, one feed for the price of two and a free bottle of wine. The other day I found a receipt from the Captain Fremantle Hotel, dated April 16th 1972. Bed and breakfast one night for two was $17.50.

Posted by Adolf Fiinkensein | 4/15/2005 08:59:00 am


Blogger Lucyna said...

Yikes, Adolf!

4/15/2005 11:24:00 am  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

That's Aussie dollars $17.50, back in 1972. In today's money, that may well be way up towards $40.

Mind you, filling a tank of gas today would be approaching a night in the Sheraton.

4/15/2005 11:28:00 am  
Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Zen, by my calcs, compounding at 6% which I would guess to be the average inflation rate, it comes to $126. However, the Sheraton (now renamed Leghorne or something) was a hell of a lot flasher than the Captain Fremantle.

4/15/2005 11:53:00 am  
Blogger David said...

It is easy to get in to trouble with Australia's climate. I went mountain biking in one of the national parks near to home (Darwin) at the weekend. It was cloudy, so I had a good drink at the trail head but only took a litre of water with me on the bike. The sun came out. By the time I finished I had drunk all the water and wished I had taken more. No problem... but if I had a puncture and had to walk back to the car, then things would have been unpleasant.

Most of the early Australian explorers ended up going mad and drinking their own urine. Not necessarily in that order. It is something I'd like to avoid, but you only have to slip up once.

4/15/2005 03:08:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

I always found it hard just trying to get home from Sydney Central.

Ever try travelling in 40 degree heat, in a crowded commuter train, still in the suit and tie that seemed good to wear to the important meeting?

You can be mugged for showing a water bottle in those situations.

4/15/2005 03:28:00 pm  
Blogger David said...

In Darwin the only people wearing ties are salesfolk up from "down south". They don't make that mistake on their second day in town, partly because they don't like feeling hot, partly because it isn't cool to turn up for sales calls all sweaty, but mostly because they look like twats next to all the happy relaxed locals.

4/15/2005 04:15:00 pm  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

Agreed. I felt like a total twat getting from appointment to appointment walking around the city, only to walk into a chilly building bathed in sweat.

Eventually, I decided to be sensible and wear attire appropriate to the day. Of course, it meant countering the "where's your suit" look with a disdainful "you'd make a good butler or chauffeur in that outfit" steely return gaze (was it blue steel in zoolander?)

4/15/2005 05:11:00 pm  
Blogger David said...

Over at the state parliament (confession: I'm a real Sir Humphrey, altho in mitigation I'd like to point out I'm an IT Bureaucrat) there is a dress code: shorts, top, thongs. Note how it is "top" rather than "shirt". Firstly, I love it because they wouldn't let you around Canberra or Wellington dressed in a singlet and jandals. And secondly, someone must have tried to enter wearing less than that in order for them to introduce the code.

The tradition in our work group is that Friday is loud shirt day. The accounts folk on the same floor think we're odd. But then they tolerate rather than understand us anyway. It is always fun to flaunt it around town tho... a couple of us went to a meeting with a large group of lawyers on a Friday. They were all rather grey and subdued (but not wearing ties), and we looked like a couple of tourists just walked in off an Hawaiian beach. I think one of us even had a floral patterned shirt. None of the lawyers said anything. I suspect they were worried we'd sue them for causing us stress or something.

4/16/2005 11:41:00 am  

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