Day 165 | back to Nitmuluk campground: a 22km wander

walking back

I s’pose I’d better confess that I had a discussion with the Chief Park Ranger about the camping permit issue process the other day.

Why should I bother? No one else seems to care.

The issue was this: I needed a permit to camp in the park.

No worries, just fill out a form, it’s a mere formality. (There were certain problems here with all of the blanks to fill out except my name: I didn’t have a car registration, I haven’t used my mobile (cell) phone for 5 months and effectively have stopped using it. I haven’t even listened to any of the messages people may have left since I left Melbourne. When I got to home address I tried to explain I had moved my stuff to storage. With next of kin I was in serious trouble: my ancient father? I made something up.)

I read the permit conditions: there were 8 of them. Actually they were curiously called ‘Notes to remember.’ Sign the form where it says you accept the conditions. Hand over the cash (camping was $3.30 a night) and receive change. Permit issued.

Then there was a pause: you have to radio in each day to say you are all right. Hasn’t the permit been issued: it had but she tried to argue it hadn’t. In any case I had to do it.

I had 2 objections to this radio contact.

You mean that despite having just signed an agreement to say that I wasn’t going to use the radio except in cases of emergency I’m supposed to radio in to say I didn’t have an emergency.

Secondly, it’s just plain silly.

What’s happened to the old Australian idea of self-reliance particularly in the great outdoors? Why is it that the government refuses to take any responsibility for you when you travel on the verifiably dangerous roads leading into the park but as soon as you get to the park it’s the Nanny state in action. Immediately the duty ranger told me I could go out but if I didn’t ring in each day they would send out a search party and not only would I lose my $50 deposit but I would have to pay for the costs associated with the search. (Ha, try getting that out of me.) That’s pretty heavy handed but I guess it’s the way all parks are heading, I’ll have to talk about that some other time. (Well maybe not the Gregory NP, they couldn’t care less about my travels through ridiculously remote country.)

The ranger suggested that I could give my feedback to the Chief Park Ranger.

Why not?

He was pleasant enough but said this was the first time he had heard of any objection to the radioing business. I guess many people like to use a new piece of technology and enjoy the feeling that they might be in some sort of peril in the wilds. Somehow being 19km down a 4WD track in a national park with 500,000 visitors a year didn’t seem overly remote to me. I got a few stories of the idiotic things people had done. I replied with the nanny state argument, well just to give some sort of feedback. The whacky thing is that while I stayed at the right campsite for the 2 nights I wandered all over the park tracks in the course of my camping experience. They would never have known where to look if something had gone wrong with me. In any case there were at least some people all over the park.

In the end it was only a stupid piece of paper that I signed saying completely contradictory things and a couple of truncated radio calls so I ended up getting my deposit back.

I guess I’m sensitive to this mindless bureaucracy after having to deal with local government planning authorities with their similar diligence towards enforcing arbitrary and conflicting policies without the ability to comprehend there is a bigger picture.