‘Getting lost on bushwalk gave us fright of our lives’

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Bushwalkers get lost
Tony and Lesley’s Mount Augustus walk almost ended in disaster.

News of the recent rescue of a 74-year-old woman who got lost while on a short walk near Mount Augustus, in Western Australia’s Gascoyne region, certainly sent a shudder down the spine of grey nomads, Tony and Lesley Melville.

It comes just weeks after the bodies of a couple and another woman were found on a popular walking trail in the same area … and the Melvilles can’t help but think ‘that could easily have been us’.

Two years ago, the pair were at Mount Augustus when they got disorientated while out on a designated walk.

“An easy short walk turned into an hour of wondering where we were,” said Lesley. “We managed to miss one of the National Park’s posts on the very ‘unmarked’ dry creek bed and then, when trying to back track to the last marker, we became totally lost.”

The pair suddenly found every direction they went looked exactly the same, and they had no idea where they had started from.

“My calm-headed husband made the decision to walk south in the creek bed keeping the mount on our right and in the direction of the car park,” said Lesley. “It felt like we were walking on the spot as the landscape, including Mount Augustus, didn’t seem to change, making it very hard to pick a place to use as a landmark.”

To their great relief though, they eventually found a fire trail and were able to walk back to the road.

“With my husband being a diabetic, we always have snacks and water, and also lightweight jackets,” said Lesley. “But it was a lesson learnt not to move to far from one marker until sighting the next one, although we actually found that the next marker was often not that obvious on some of the Mount Augustus walks.”

The Melvilles retired nine years ago, and have been taking long trips to all parts of Australia in their Lotus 2011 Sprint caravan towed by a Ford Wildtrack ever since.

“While we are lucky to live on the Sunshine Coast, it’s when we turn west and get in the Outback that we really feel like we are ‘on the road’,” said Lesley. “We both love the big open skies and flat plains … places others say ‘there is nothing to see’!”

The couple have met some great people on the road, and enjoy staying at both caravan parks and free camps.

“We keep things pretty simple and don’t have many gadgets, or an annexe as we prefer a quick set-up,” Lesley said. “We dislike the cold and love the balmy nights when we can sit outside for Happy Hour without rugging up too much.”

  • Do you find markers on some bushwalks too hard to find? Have you ever got lost? Comment below.
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3 Responses to ‘Getting lost on bushwalk gave us fright of our lives’

  1. I regularly hear people say they have no idea of direction. I tell them the sun travels from the East to the West in a Northerly direction in the Southern hemisphere. Shadows fall to the West in the morning; at midday the shadows fall to the south and in the late afternoon, they fall to the East.
    My Dad used to be able to tell the time by the sun. Plenty of times when we were out in the bush cutting fence posts, he would look up at the sun and he would say we’ll have lunch in half an hour and I’d look at my watch and he’d be right midday or close to it. We always ate at 12-30pm.So what I’m trying to say is , look to see where you are before you leave your vehicle and see where your shadow falls. I know its hard when its overcast or raining, but in the Gascoyne there are more sunny days than not. Hope I don’t get lost after all that, I’m not a bushy but learnt alot from Dear old Dad.

  2. Very good comment and advice Rob. I was raised in the country and have lived/worked in bush locations all my life. I dont mind admitting Ive been “temporarily misplaced” from time to time. I do a bit of prospecting and general wandering near and far from my camp very regularly in various types of terrain. An old Army mate of mine who is still a fanatic map reader and orionteerer suggested a fair while ago to invest in a hand held GPS. Its great to use and very easy to operate. When wandering about in all directions with my nose pointed to the ground sometimes kilometres or more from my base I just press the button and I can either follow my exact path back or take a straight bee line back to my camp. I still test myself on the old methods you mentioned but the small pocke GPS is a wonderful tool as a back up and Id recommend them to anyone. Cheers.

  3. On a sunny day point the 12 on your watch to the sun then half way between the 12 and the hour is north. Just remember to factor in for day light saving. If you don’t have a watch draw one.
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