Occupational Hazards


There’s a few hazards (quite a few, actually) involved in doing remote fieldwork in Central Australia. Some of these are obvious: driving long distances (800km in one day), breakdowns, vehicle rollovers, flat tyres, getting bogged and occasionally, getting lost. Others are not so obvious: drunk Traditional Owners (Aboriginal people), groups of fighting Traditional Owners, humbugging (that’s when Aboriginal people ask you for things like cash, cigarettes or a lift – no, I don’t smoke, BTW), the challenges of sleeping in noisy Aboriginal communities, other organisations that try to act as gatekeepers to communities, and … dogs.

Not just any dogs. No. Let’s be clear here: cheeky dogs.

The term ‘cheeky’ is Aboriginal English for any living creature that’s harmful, misbehaving or downright dangerous. Thus, some snakes are called cheeky snakes (a Western Brown Snake, for example, whose bite can kill) as opposed to ‘quiet’ snakes (Central Australian Carpet Python, whose bite is just a bite – no venom).  Some dogs are called ‘cheeky’ dogs because they’re snappy, vicious or aggressive.

Thursday, I was out at Hermannsburg (about 120 km west of Alice Springs) visiting people who I know very well. I’ve been to this house dozens of times, and the three dogs are always very quiet. However, after I’d been there for a half hour or so, chatting away, I got up to leave and walked past the place where the dog’s puppies were hiding.

There was no growling, no aggressiveness, no warning whatsoever.


The dog bit me just above the ankle. I had two shallow puncture wounds on one side, and on the medial side a 6 cm gash that was pouing out blood. Needless to say, I jumped straight in the troopy and went to the clinic. I was patched up, finished my consultations, and drove back to town. The next day, I had to see my own doctor for a second opinion (no stitches for dog bites unless they’re really needed, just lots of antibiotics and a tetanus shot).

To summarise, I can’t run, can’t walk, can’t really do much at all for the next couple of weeks. I hate not being able to exercise!!!

Moral of the story:  complacency is not a good thing around any dog!


Clearing My Clutter


On the river and in the long distances between, there has been space for reflection. For clearing out the mental clutter, letting go of what’s not needed and connecting with the things that matter.

Seven days of my journey was spent on a houseboat with both sets of parents. We do this almost annually, and it’s always a test of patience, as silence, contemplation and reflection are concepts that children of the Great Depression (our parents) don’t seem to be able to grasp. There was endless observations of the bleeding obvious (the weather forecast said it’s going to be 33 degrees today … announced three times within three minutes by three different people sitting in the same room at the same time who have surely heard each other and the radio announcer say it), discussions of the ingredients of prescription medicines, endless repetitions of ailments (how can they have so many and still be spinning the mortal coil?) and let’s not forget those conversations about half-cousin’s butcher’s pets whom you don’t know, never will know and probably don’t want to know.

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It’s that time of the year where I sign off … and head down south to the Murray River for our peri-annual houseboat holiday. (This year also involves the purchase of a certain piece of land for a certain purpose)

So… take care, blessings and namaste for the next few weeks.