Living in regional Australia is a unique experience. We non-aussies forget just how vast Australia is. There are thousands of tiny towns strewn across the country. I live in one right now.
My nearest city currently is Perth and it is 800km away. That takes 9 hours of constant driving. That’s a bloody long way.
Living so remotely is challenging in several ways. Nightlife, activities, shopping and meeting people can all prove tricky. These are issues that most people can overcome eventually.
I have noticed one significant concern in regional Australia though and it is something that is rarely spoken about. It is kangaroos. They are not dangerous in themselves, but when you are driving and they hop out in front of you they suddenly become extremely dangerous. I have noticed that the locals in this part of Australia virtually have a self-imposed curfew. As soon as it gets dark there is nobody on the roads. In the centre of town there may be a few people, but often not many. This is because unfortunately for both the local drivers and the local kangaroos, the kangaroos cannot be persuaded to wear high-vis jackets and thus are virtually invisible while you are driving at night. A friend and I suddenly found ourselves almost on top of one that was happily bounding along the road in the same direction that we were driving. They are fast moving creatures and can just suddenly be in front of you, which is scary.
The damage that hitting a kangaroo can do to your vehicle and ultimately to you and other road users is scary too. This is partly because kangaroos are big, solid creatures. Partly it is due to driver reaction though. Instinctively people swerve to avoid hitting the kangaroo(s) or slam on the breaks. Depending on the speed you are doing and who is also on the road around you, this unpredictable behaviour can have fatal consequences, for both the drivers and the kangaroos.
|Sharing a laugh with a friendly kangaroo, Australia|
I drove to another ‘nearby’ town for a doctor’s appointment last week. It was a two-hour drive in each direction, covering about 350km in total. My appointment was at 4pm and knowing that it would take me two hours to drive home, I was keen to get back on the road as soon as possible afterwards. Of course, as is typical when you are keeping an eye on the time, the doctor was not running to schedule and I had to wait over 40 minutes before I could be seen. After my two-hour trip though, I wasn’t about to go anywhere. I sat and I waited. I left the doctor’s at 5pm and hit the road knowing that the sun goes down at about 6.30pm. I might just make it without meeting any sneaky kangaroos.
It was still bright enough that I could see well ahead of me for most of the journey but about an hour into the trip I put my headlights on. Not long after that I noticed that I could make out clearly, less and less of the bush along the road. This is where they hop out from and unfortunately are best camouflaged.
Suddenly the truck a little ahead of me stopped dead and I could just make out a bunch of kangaroos bounding from left to right across our path. Thankfully I was enough of a distance behind that I could halt too. Nobody got hurt and we proceeded on our way, both the drivers and the kangaroos. It reminded me what a clear and present danger they can be though. I am sure that the locals now, perhaps subconsciously even, impose a driving curfew upon themselves.
|Kangaroos are common on open roads with plenty of bush along the sides|
Kangaroos are not the only culprits, although they are the most common around here. Australia's wild open spaces host many naughty critters that can dart out in front of driver. I think I appreciate this ‘quiet nightlife in country towns’ situation more now that I understand the menaces that lurk out there.