‘I got lost in the Outback … it will never happen again!’

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Keeping safe in the Outback
Klaus and Christine travel in an Isuzu M-UX and 22' Leader caravan.

Over the years, veteran grey nomad Klaus Stange has done enough and seen enough to ensure he never takes shortcuts when it comes to Outback safety.

Klaus, who has clocked up thousands of kilometres with his wife Christine in their 22’ Leader caravan towed by a 2018 Isuzu M-UX, has been a volunteer firefighter since 1986, and was a member of the SES for eight years.

In that time, he has been involved in a number of searches for people who have got lost in the bush, and in countless other emergency scenarios. The South Australian says all of these experiences have left a mark on him … and have helped him to develop a clear idea of the most important things that people should bear in mind if they get lost.

Despite all the searches he has been involved in though, it was probably a lesson that Klaus learned as a teenager that has stuck with him most … and serves as a reminder of the potential perils of being unprepared in the Outback.

“I was 16 and two friends and I were hiking over a mountain range in the Flinders Ranges when the cloud cover and rain came down and wiped out visibility of any reference points,” Klaus remembered. “We stopped and camped a very uncomfortable night on the side of the mountain, and, the next day, the cloud lifted long enough for us to get a compass reading on a known landmark.”

The trio then made their way down the mountain where they found a fire trail which led them on a long walk back towards the ranger station.

“Now as a kid I watched ‘Skippy’ and the ranger on that show was always nice and friendly,” said Klaus. “But the one out looking for us was a very grumpy one … nothing like the TV version!”

Sour-faced or not, Klaus admits he and his friends were very glad to see the ranger.

“Almost 50 years later that ranger’s grumpiness still brings a smile to my face,” said Klaus. “And I do remember his wife at the ranger station was far more understanding and kind.”

Given that early scare, it is perhaps no surprise that Klaus was eager to give something back and became a volunteer firefighter, and joined the SES.

As for future travels, both Klaus – a semi-retired electrician – and craft-loving former aged care worker, Christine, are just about ready to roll.

“There are plans for a trip to Darwin and another up the east coast to north Queensland when the Covid situation settles down a bit,” said Klaus.

Klaus’s safety tips:
• Before you head off, tell someone and, if there is a registration book, fill it in.
• Carry a whistle, and a box of matches or lighter.
• Carry clothing to suit the climate, even in summer take at least a jumper
• Take note of the recognisable landmarks as you walk along.
• Don’t panic, stay calm.
• S.T.O.P. (stop, think, observe and plan)
• Once you have thought about which direction you came from, try to identify any landmarks you saw.
• Try to make your way back, but not too far especially if the country around you is not recognisable. • If still lost, stay put. It will be much easier for rescuers to find you.
• If you are in a vehicle stay with it, it is much easier to spot a vehicle from the air than a person.
• Blow your whistle to signal that you are in trouble and you need assistance, and it will help searchers to locate you easier if they are in the vicinity.
• Build a fire to keep warm and to help with your rescue, smoke can be seen for many kilometres.
• Seek some sort of shelter for protection and comfort.

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One Response to ‘I got lost in the Outback … it will never happen again!’

  1. One very important point missing here. Carry A PLB, not expensive, very portable and guaranteed effectiveness. Not only do they save the life of those carrying them, it saves huge amounts of time and resources required.

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