Kate and I have been in Australia for approximately 2 months now. The vast majority of that time has been spent at work, because sadly for most of us work is what we do. Occasionally though we have managed to get away from the tower blocks, the madness of G20 and traffic, escaping to some of Queenslands (And for one night, NSW) local delights.
So far we have had the opportunity to enjoy Bribie island, Double Island point, Fraser Island, Mount Mee, the Condamine river gorge and a 4wd camping ground in NSW called Lavuka. In Australia, Landcruisers rule the roads and you can’t really get hold of much else – so it is what we have been driving. But at the end of the day we are still having to pack, live out of and drive an old rugged 4×4 across tough terrain and fix any issues that come up.
Sand driving has been the biggest learning experience of our time out here. It is an art as well as a science. Momentum (which is not the same as speed) and tyre pressure are key, and I have been shown several times that tyre type is pretty much irrelevant (VW Tourag’s with slick road tyres at a low pressure work just fine, as do massive mud tyres) We even did a test of driving quickly with full tyre pressure onto soft sand – needless to say we stopped within metres. So far a PSI of 18 all round works a treat whenever we have been on sand, but I have heard that on Moreton Island the extra soft stuff may need lower again.
The other thing we are learning about is packing for 4×4 trips and camping. We still pack like backpackers. As light and as mobile as possible. However that isn’t necessarily the right thing. There are simple, cheap and fairly compact extras that make life so much better. Australia has the money to have Ice readily available, and a cool box transforms what you can eat and allows for a cool drink when it’s 40 degrees – this won’t really be possible in Africa as Ice will be less available and the melted ice is waste water which seems terrible. In the evening, sitting on a camp chair is bliss. Battered old Aluminium camping billies are useless for magically culinary delights, and you don’t need to eat out of the sauce pan when you have a car – plates, cutlery and a proper knife and chopping board are a must. Obviously there has to be a compromise. At the moment there is two of us, and we have much more space. In Africa there will be four, with space being much much tighter. However we also aren’t “just putting up with it” for a weekend. We will be living with it for months. It is going to be a difficult job to get the balance of necessity, comfort and luxury right. Good sturdy tents will make a difference, because although I love my hiking tent, it is small and using camping mats longer term isn’t exactly ideal. Roof tents tend to have basic matresses.
One thing I would consider if any of us could afford it, would be a trailer. The Aussies prove that camper trailers are not those poxy cardboard like fold out things people rock up with in the UK. These things can go wherever the vehicle pulling it can go. Plus you get loads of storage. The Youtube videos of the Kimberley’s and Cape York that I have seen look harder than anything we will actively go looking for in Africa, and yet you see families of 4 cruising through with their decked out camper trailer than when erected provides beds for all, a full kitchen, fridge freezer, hot water, power, lighting and storage/extra fuel. It is definitely the way to go. We will of course consider a second vehicle. But again that is pricey. I we were to get the Land Rover Bursary then our problems would be solved – fingers crossed.
Anyhow, We will fill you in on more activity shortly.
PS – the other things Australians are great at is proving that you don’t need to be afraid to use your brand new 4×4 offroad – these guys go off just about anywhere in 80,000 dollar cars! Of course they all get them kitted up to the 9’s as soon as they buy them. They also use just about any make. Yes Toyota rules, followed by Nissan. But you also see people using just about every 4×4 ever created for what it was designed for – Ford, Vauxhall, Mercedes, PORSCHE!!! you name it, they drive it – and actually you will be impressed by what they can do.