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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

29 April 2011

Danger of freezing

26th April 2011

Australians seem very concerned about risk. Perhaps this is due to living in a place where everything is poisonous. Which seems to be a bit of a myth, by the by, as we’ve seen lots of wildlife and none of it dangerous.

All the walks we go on here have scary black and amber danger signs at the outset to tell you what horrible fate might befall you on this walk. On some walks tree branches may crash down on your head, on others you may plunge off a cliff or be blown away to who knows where. On our walk today we risked all three! But we made it to the very pretty Little Aire Falls without mishap. In case you’re picturing a tough scramble through the bush, this walk had steps and boardwalk most of the way.

There are warning signs all along the roads as well. My favourite says “WEARY? POWERNAP NOW!” Given how careful they are over everything, I’m surprised they didn’t try and avoid any misunderstandings by wording it “WEARY? PULL OVER FIRST, THEN POWERNAP” instead.

And today I was thrown into confusion by a new sign along the Great Ocean Road which read “YAWNING? MICROSLEEPS CAN KILL!” This is very worrying. I now need to work out the difference between a powernap and a microsleep, because it seems that one is beneficial and the other potentially deadly.

The cautious approach seems to extend to rules and regulations as well. Which has benefits, as all our accommodation has adhered pretty closely to some fairly high standards. But there’s daft as well. Until very recently unpasteurised cheese was illegal here. One of the winemakers in Tasmania we visited had friends with a secret unpasteurised cheese lab hidden behind their ordinary cheese-making facility in case the inspectors called.

A more irksome example of daft risk aversion has been about pulling over at roadsides. We typically do this to stop and look at an animal or a view. I’m not stupid; I never pull over on a blind corner and I always make sure the car is effectively off the carriageway. Nevertheless, twice we’ve been subjected to horn blasts and scolding stares by passing cars. And if there was any doubt, on another occasion a car stopped – in the middle of the road of course – and a guy leaned out the window to yell “you can’t park there!” in his best Aussie squawk. We’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s a car past every five minutes at most. Don’t be a knob.

Anyway, our B&B tonight needs a black and amber hazard sign reading “Danger of Freezing”. Because it’s completely unheated, and with days of clear blue sky the nights are getting bloody freezing. Even the crummiest motel in Western Australia had a heater in the room. We slept in our clothes and thought we were back in the Himalayas. There was a wood-burning stove in the living room which might have spread some heat about, but it remained unlit. In the morning as we went to leave our hostess said “hope you were warm enough – I thought if you wanted the fire on you’d have asked.” How’s that for hospitality?


3 Responses to “Danger of freezing”

  1. Jane says:

    Uh… I am something of a pedant as you surely know by now…

    The last word in the first sentence would more properly be “venomous”. Poisonous implies that eating them would be toxic, like improperly prepared fugu (pufferfish). Venomous is the term for animals that use toxins for predation or defense.

    Sorry. I can’t help myself. ;)

    • shortclaws says:

      Yeah, I thought of that but I wanted to cover plants as well as animals. But in that case I really ought to have used the word “toxic” so I was just plain wrong. I’m a pedant too! Just a regularly failing one. ; )

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