Driving in the outback of Australia is a lot different from driving on the east coast or any of the main highways. The key difference is you may go days without seeing another vehicle and longer if its not tourist season or you aren’t on a main road .
There are some universal rules which have developed which will keep you a whole lot safer:
- If you break down do not leave the vehicle. There are numerous cases when someone decided to walk for help and by the time the vehicle was found their body was as well. A vehicle will provide shelter from the sun and is lot easier to see than a person. It has things you can burn (like tyres) if someone flies overhead.
How to plan a big trip may be daunting – but essentially can be broken down to a few simple steps.
Working out where approximately you want to go is one of the first things to do. If your list only extends to a quick trip down the coast from Cairns to Sydney, then you don’t need a 4WD. Its probably best to understand this before you buy one! Although urban 4WDs are common in Australian cities as elsewhere, its absolutely beyond me as to why you want to own something which is expensive to run, hard to get around a parking building in and is much easier to roll-over in an accident than a conventional car.
Well I hope not! Having just traveled over 30,000km in Australia including many of the iconic four wheel drive (4WD) tracks I thought we had picked up some useful tips on how to do the trip without spending a fortune. We spent about A$10,000 setting ourselves up with 1985 Landcruiser plus A$1,000 of camping gear, but most people seem to spend a lot, lot more. We’ve parked our next to rigs which would give you no change from A$250,000 Some of the more sophisticated setups even claimed to be able to go off-road as well – just like we could with a tent!
Why this blog
When I was planning this trip I found a real lack of information for the beginner who wanted to 4WD in Australia. There are several print publications and forums which will help you decide between the current model Land cruiser or Explorer, but little info on how to buy a decent second hand vehicle and how to choose what to put in it. No one told me that the $2 plastic striped bags would last 3 months even when overloaded, but that a top of the line camp bed would fail within 2 months. In some way it reminded me of the situation nearly 30 years ago when I started backpacking – then only one guide book catered for those who didn’t want to stay in hotels and take taxis every other book assumed that you had money to burn. The 4WD industry seems to be in the same place today. Even the Internet doesn’t provide much information for those who aren’t yet looking for a impermanent lifestyle i.e. the grey nomads but who aren’t hardcore off-road driving enthusiasts. So I’m hoping that this blog will fit a bit of niche for those who would like to get away into the great Australian outback but who don’t really know where to begin.