Monthly Archives: April 2014

Your chariot awaits…

When you are planning a long trip into the outback, your vehicle takes on a new and heightened significance. It needs to be tough enough to cope with all kinds of terrain, from smooth freeway driving to scaling 35 metre high sand dunes.  It needs to be comfortable enough for you and your beloved to happily spend many an hour on the road, and most important of all, it becomes your home. It carries your food, water, cooking equipment, bed, clothes, first aid and rescue equipment.


We bought our ISUZU ute last year as our runaround vehicle – chosen for its comfort, fuel economy and large tray (for dog transport and shifting garden supplies).  A secondary consideration was its 4WD capability.  As long as it could safely be taken on to the farm and out on to the unsealed tracks around the Otways, it would do fine.  But for the desert?

It is interesting how many different views are held on what is needed for a trip like this. We’ve heard all sorts of different opinions expressed with equal vigour and certainty.

There are those who adopt the famous Aussie “She’ll be right” approach and believe a basic 4×4 road car will be fine in the desert.  Then there are the brand worshippers.  We recently watched a 4WD TV show where the local guide, a Landcruiser man through and through, stated there is no point in undertaking any serious outback trip unless a Toyota is involved. Fortunately we will have three of these tried and trusted vehicles in convoy with us.  We hope our Isuzu D-Max will hold her head high in such esteemed company.


Taking all these views on board, in the end we have done what we think is right. Only time will tell if we have made the right calls.  With the most remote and challenging part of the trip in mind, we have invested in some new features for our ute.

1) A long distance fuel tank – there are sections of our route where there are no opportunities to buy fuel

2) A dual battery system – this means we can run auxiliary power from a separate battery for our “home” needs, such as the fridge, keeping the main battery charged up for its primary purpose

3) Enhanced suspension – to give us greater clearance and robustness to cope with sandy terrain


4) A bull bar – there be camels and roos out there…

5) A UHF radio and antenna – to keep in touch with our convoy and find out what those road trains are planning.


6) Extra spare wheels and tough looking tyres, called Mickey Thompsons – to provide more grip and resilience for the outback conditions and spares in case of trouble


As a result, the ute has grown, both in height and length and now looks a little imposing in the local shopping centre car park!  We think it is ready..



“Tracks” is now a movie

The book Tracks has been made into a movie.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I will try to before we go.

Here’s a link to an interview in The Guardian with Mia Wasikowska who plays the lead role as Robyn Davidson.   Robyn comes across as a formidable young woman in the book, so it must have been daunting for Mia to meet her when making the film.  It sounds as if Robyn has mellowed a little with age as she admits Mia does a reasonable job at acting as her twenty four year old self – despite having her doubts when they first met.

The photography in the movie is said to be stunning, so if you’re interested in what the big red bit looks like, it could be for you.  I suspect the desert is the real star in this one.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?

Home is where the heart is…

I’m lucky. I truly love the small piece of this planet we call home. I’m one of those people who wakes up in the morning, opens my bleary eyes and sighs in pleasure when I realise I am at home, here in the place I love best – our farm in the Otways. When I am not here, I take this place with me, tucked away in the back of my mind as a touchstone when I need to be reassured. I can close my eyes any time and hear the song of our birds, the warbling magpie, chuckling Kookaburra and excitable peeping fairy wren. I can conjure up the scent of the forest, the minty gum leaves, the musky layers of the forest floor and the misty Otways air.

And yet… I hear the call of distant climes. I am drawn to the travel pages in the Weekend Age. I love reading about people who have ventured out into the four corners of our beautiful planet. Ten Years in Tibet cuddles up to Under The Tuscan Sun on my bookshelf. My DVD collection is heavily weighted towards travel, from Michael Palin to David Adams, Rick Stein to Jamie Oliver, Ewan MacGregor to .. well, Charley Boorman. I like to tag along with them all when they are out there exploring the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the great unknown.

In three weeks time we will drive out of our farm gate, in our newly equipped vehicle, carrying our home on our backs, or at least our tent on the rooftop of the 4WD, and will be on our way across this massive continent. I will feel such mixed emotions as we drive down our unsealed road and meet the highway. How hard it is to say goodbye to this place, it tears at my heart. But how exciting, what a thrill to be on our way to the red centre. How I’ve longed to see for myself the great expanses in the interior of this sunburnt country. I imagine a landscape like I’ve never seen before, can it really be that colour? Can this country really be so huge that we can drive for 2 weeks without reaching the North coast? I have to see for myself.

Am I the only traveller who feels torn? Home is where the heart is, but out there lies excitement and adventure, the unknown, and we are drawn inevitably to explore.

My bedside table

My bedside table

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”
  Martin Buber

On my bedside table I have three books.  The three book covers hint at a common theme.  Colour? Red, red and red.

I am preparing myself mentally for a journey into the “Big Red Bit” in the centre of Australia.  I will not be alone, unlike the intrepid Robyn Davidson in “Tracks”, the book on the top of the pile.   Robyn travelled across 1700 miles of Australian outback with only three camels and a dog for company.   I admire her.  Being somewhat less intrepid myself, I will have my husband Richard with me, and for most of the trip we will be with a group of friends and neighbours from in and around Deans Marsh in the West of Victoria.   Robyn’s book has helped me with a few tips on how to break in a camel (could come in handy) and has conjured up something of what it is like to be in the red centre of Australia.  It’s not possible to sum up this landscape in a few easy words, says Robyn. “It is difficult to describe Australian desert ranges as their beauty is not just visual.  They have an awesome grandeur that can fill you with exaltation or dread, and usually a combination of both.” Wow! Awesome in the truest sense of that much maligned word.

The second book is Vic Widman’s “Travelling the Outback – the complete guide to planning and preparing for your outback adventure”.   It’s a very practical source of information on anything and everything you need to do to prepare for a trip.   The chapters on Camping Gear, Food & Water and Personal Needs have been particularly enlightening for me.   “There is really no need to do without anything on your camping holiday”, says Vic before covering showering and toilet facilities when travelling.   Important stuff indeed!  Richard has spent somewhat more time leafing through the Preparing The Vehicle section.  More about that in future posts.

The Simpson Desert is the most remote area we plan to visit and warrants a book to itself. Mark Shephard’s “The Simpson Desert – Natural History and Human Endeavour” is a real gem.   This is THE book on the Simpson desert. It is full of gorgeous, evocative photography and a wealth of detail on the history and nature of this unique part of Australia.   The dedication at the front of the book took me aback, it reads “To my son Matthew, who was fortunate to be able to experience the desert before he was one year old”.   That must have been quite a family holiday!

I can’t compete (and don’t intend to) with the illustrious writers of these books, but in a small way this blog will add to the literature describing travels into the Big Red Bit in the centre of Australia.   I hope it informs and entertains anyone who stumbles across it and is interested enough to spend some time reading here.

I liked the quote by Martin Buber that I’ve used as the title for this post.  I hope you do too.  It reminds me that no matter how well we plan for the journey, it will take on a life of its own and who knows what its secret destination may be.