Unpacking… It would have to be the worst part about an otherwise bloody good trip, wouldn’t it? No one likes to get home to unpack, wash the car, clean out the kitchen box, empty the rubbish bag (all those empty cans), pile up the dirty washing, and then attend to all those little maintenance jobs resulting from the trip. Well, that’s how it usually is with us anyway. Over the years we’ve managed to knock quite a few decent trips off the bucket list, and have learned a few lessons on remote touring along the way whilst doing it.
Trips like the Cape (multiple times), Maytown track (twice), Longreach and Central Queensland, and then the big loop from Cairns down to Innaminka, the Northern Flinders Ranges, Coober Pedy, the Painted desert and back across the Simpson where the trusty Patrol blew an artery on the transmission and we were forced to enjoy the desert peace for two days, while waiting for 10 litres of transmission fluid to arrive. We are always still learning, but these sorts of trips are in the blood now, and even a blown transmission line is looked at as just part of the adventure and has become a great talking point around many campfires and ribbing for our mechanic trip mate for not foreseeing the hose clamp coming loose.
Spending seven years working in Far North Queensland with some great blokes, some of whom had spent 30+ years on the Cape, has also been a blessing, and the bush experience irreplaceable. These were the experiences that embedded the desire for adventure and remote travel that continues today. Along the way, we’ve had a taste of what works well, what is a waste of time, and what is essential and what’s not. We’ve been bogged for two days, blown tyres, shock mounts, smashed windscreens and even had a wheel fall completely off due to the wheel nuts not being tightened correctly at the pre-trip service (and not checking them ourselves).
We’ve slept in swags in torrential rain, forgotten to bring a single torch for a night fishing trip, had the trebles on a lure buried to the hilt in an eyebrow, nearly run out of fuel, forgotten the coffee, and left a full kitbag behind at a campsite. All educational experiences and no doubt there are more in the archives if I thought about it a bit more. I should have watched more of those Russell Coight videos first.
Of recent times I’ve noted there has been a massive explosion in the number of people out there now wanting to enjoy the remote Australian experience and escape the smothering city rush. The numbers of caravaners and camper trailer users out there have multiplied several-fold, as has the sheer variety of models available. The rural towns must be experiencing a rise in the income from the tourist dollar and innovative local councils are surely seeing the payoff from providing free camping and facilities, all of which is a good thing. However, along with this little explosion of escapism, come the inevitable few issues surrounding the sharing of our great Aussie outback, and dead-set, some people should be made to pass a test before they are allowed out on their own.
- The proliferation of clumps of toilet paper left beside the track, beside creeks, and beside campsites is a travesty, and it is simply laziness and a lack of respect for others and the environment to leave those monuments behind. Bury it or take it with you and remind the kids to do likewise so they learn proper remote etiquette!
- The number of vehicles out there without any sort of UHF to communicate with other drivers, or if unlucky, call for assistance. The humble UHF and the knowledge of how to use it should be on everyone’s must-have list, well before that big suspension lift, or dual wheel carrier and anyone towing a van should be installing one straight away to improve situational awareness on the roads.
- My other pet whinge continues to be about those selfish people who run their generators in camping grounds well after dark with no regard for others. For those who can’t do without the hairdryer, TV, air conditioner, coffee machine or electric jug (all of which is fine), please be considerate of others and try to time the period of use, or park away from other people. It’s not ok to simply say “I was here first, so if you’ve got a problem, you move!”. Considerate travellers can easily be identified running their gensets for short periods during the day to top up the battery banks and then enjoying the peace and quiet as much as everyone else.
In amongst all these experiences we have gradually morphed our camping needs and vehicles, always looking for a better way to carry stuff, or a better way to camp simply, and pack and unpack efficiently. Over time, we’ve used vehicles ranging from a Short Wheelbase Toyota 40 series, a Pajero, Nissan Patrol Utes, Patrol Wagons, 100 series wagons, a 70 series ute, 78 series Troopies, a 79 series ute, Landrover Defender and more recently a 79 series Dual Cab with a customised canopy. We’ve towed campers, boats and quad bikes on various trips around the Cape or Western Queensland, and had a ball doing it.
So what is the best vehicle out of that lot? There isn’t one, everything’s a compromise for the many varied needs and wants. I would say though that my Patrol (with a front locker) would outdo the cruisers we’ve used, in the rough stuff, but my current Dual Cab 79 series with the custom canopy is by far the best to camp out of. Coming up: A series on the build of our 79 Series Toyota Dual Cab and some honest comments on the reality of owning and using these vehicles