International Visitors - Travel - Wildlife and other hazards
Travelling in rural Western Australia including the Margaret River area around Four Elements Farm Stay involves slightly different conditions than those you might encounter in a large urban area. In our opinion our country roads are safer and a lot less hectic than those of a major urban area, but there are a few things worth knowing to stay safe ...
- The first hazard to be aware of on country roads are kangaroos. Around Four Elements they are fairly predictable as to when they will be around and crossing the roads - generally in the evening they will cross from bush areas to open grassed areas to graze, and in the early morning they cross back again into the bush where they hide during the day. This means if you are travelling in country areas in the South West around dusk or dawn you need to be extra cautious. This period of high activity lasts for about two hours around sunset or sunrise. We usually restrict our speeds to about 80km/hr on the smaller country roads and keep an eye out for kangaroos on the side of the road. We have found that you can usually pull up before you hit the animal if travelling at these speeds.
- If you are unlucky enough to get into a collision with a kangaroo remember -
- Brake hard, steer straight and stay on the road - you will slow down much quicker if you stay on the sealed road surface. Swerving usually induces a skid and if you leave the road a collision with a tree will do far more damage than hitting a kangaroo
- Often the kangaroos will get up and jump away. If you have killed the animal you should drag it off the road (by its tail). This may sound cruel but the alternative of being struck again by the next vehicle would be an horrific experience for all involved. Also getting the animal off the road reduces incidental kill of other animals that may feed on the carcass.
- If the animal is only injured, but is unable to hop away, you can contact us, there are wildlife carer volunteers around the district that will take the kangaroo in and rehabilitate it before releasing it back to the wild.
- Generally unless the kangaroo is very large and the collision speed very high you will be able to carefully drive your vehicle to assistance. You should remove or secure any loose components and make sure your radiator is not leaking before proceeding carefully.
- To put the hazard in perspective, in ten years of operation Four Elements have only had three guests have minor collisions with kangaroos involving a dented panel or damaged light.
- Another minor hazard is single lane roads - ie only one vehicle width is sealed meaning you have to pull onto the gravel shoulder to pass oncoming traffic safely. It is possible (indeed fairly easy) to get to Four Elements without using any of these minor roads. However in touring around the district you will likely run into at least a short stretch of this sort of road. A few tips to remember -
- When travelling around a bend you need to keep well over to the left so that if you encounter an oncoming vehicle you only need to move a few feet onto the shoulder to pass safely. Many of the single lane roads have dual lane corners - ie they are surfaced wider on the bends.
- Locals will travel at speeds varying between 70 and 90km/h on these roads slowing for the bends. When they encounter oncoming traffic they often pull over to make room without slowing down a lot.
- Braking hard to slow down as you pull over onto the shoulder makes the experience much more risky and difficult to control - with one set of wheels on the gravel and one on pavment the wheels will get radically different traction on the different surfaces. If you want to slow down a bit as you pull over do so gradually it will be less traumatic.
- At certain times of the year heavy traffic uses these roads - for example from January to April there will be large low loader trucks with grape harvesters on moving through these areas. These vehicles will pull over as others do and you can pass safely if you pull over too, but they will not be able to squeeze past you if you remain with four wheels firmly planted on the sealed surface as a smaller vehicle might.
- Having said all of that, traffic on these roads is generally light, and so long as you move across about a meter you can pass happily and without incident. Novice drivers who are unwilling to move over, or brake hard and stop make the situation more challenging.