Getting away from the city is one of my great passions; As often as I can I'm out in the country, as far as I can get before having to turn back for work or whatever. I just feel better out there. There's something about the hum of my wheels on the blacktop heading out of town and that familiar feeling of righteousness as I hit the dirt and leave civilisation behind in a cloud of dust and shower of rocks flicking back from my tyres.
I was talking to a chap the other day who is planning (hoping) to make his own getaway; A trip around the country for 12 months or so and whilst he has some great ideas he also admitted that it was difficult to know where to start his planning. It's not the first time I've had that conversation and won't be the last as more and more people discover the allure of the open road, the solitude of far away places and the beauty this country has to offer once away from populated areas.
We've been to some amazing places and had some truly incredible experiences in the outback and remote places of Australia. Travelling around this vast country takes effort though, planning and knowledge. One simply can't take off in a typical road car and expect to get it done. Chances are you won't come back.
Having the right vehicle, knowing how to use it over various terrains, how to maintain it and load it is a critical factor in safe outback driving and there's a lot of vehicle choices out there. Add to that the accessories and equipment required and then accommodation choices like caravan, camper trailer, tent, swag, motor home and the many other options available and one is left more than confused, like our friend above. There's medical emergencies to consider, communications, and navigation as well as food and water considerations also. It's complicated.
My off-road vehicle for instance carries $25,000 worth of accessories and equipment over and above the purchase price and that's without any of the personal equipment I need. Then there's my camper trailer, a full-off-road version with onboard water, power, kitchen, fridge/freezer, hi-lift jack, axe, shovel, solar panels and so on. Another $32,000 worth of kit. You get the idea? It's not cheap, but the outback is harsh, unforgiving and deadly to the unprepared.
My advice to the guy was to research and then research some more. When it comes to the vehicle, accommodation and equipment decisions it's best to make them based on fact and research rather than someone else's opinion or on what's popular; What's right for them may not be right for you. There are industry shows and events offering a chance to get up close and personal with stuff and of course loads of online resources. It's a great place to start. Also in speaking with people who have done it for a while, I've been doing this sort of thing for 28 years for instance, will also help as learning from other people's errors is a cheaper way of learning. Trust me. Understanding one's limitations is also advisable and with so many resources, training video's and courses there's really no excuse not to have at least a basic understanding.
Travelling around this huge country doesn't always mean off-roading, low-range gears, winch recoveries and getting bogged however to see the best of it some off-road work is required. Getting to that spot where all the caravaners are might be nice, but I can assure you that a little further down that dodgy looking rutted dirt track, across that creek crossing or up the beach a ways is something amazing. It's Australia after all.
Images in this post are:
Spear Creek - Southern Flinders Ranges, SA (Heading to the summit to see what's there)
Northern Rivers - New South Wales (Pristine beaches as far as one can see)
Willow Springs - Central Flinders Ranges, SA(My off-road vehicle and camper trailer and wife)
Katherine Gorge - Northern Territory (If you don't see this you are stark raving mad!) :)
Mindl Beach - Darwin, NT (Sunsets take on a new meaning here. Silhouette of my wife between the trees)