Around Australia - The Expert Tips
Story and Photography by Patrick Hayes
Pat Hayes asked Outback travel experts for advice for Australians who want to enjoy the freedom of touring their remarkable country.
In his years as publican of the Birdsville Hotel, Brett Fort has welcomed
many travellers who have just completed a crossing of the Simpson Desert
that starts just out of town.
He has also heard every possible good luck, bad luck and
hair-raising tale about the desert crossing.
A well-balanced outfit with a normal engine, he says, can often outperform a heavier, more powerful vehicle. And don’t forget, he says, that letting some air out of the tyres is the first and best tactic when floundering through soft sand.
Their tip is to be sure to carry enough water, about 20 litres per day for
That water should be carried in at least two containers like robust plastic
jerry cans. If one container leaks, there still the water in the second
one. If your water containers have taps make sure the taps won’t break
if knocked or turn themselves on when jolting over rough roads.
Caravans and motorhomes should have two, separate, water tanks with
separate pipefittings. Then, if one tank leaks or is filled with
unpalatable water the other one is still available.
When Tom Harding is not helping people fit out their rigs for comfortable
and safe touring, or giving advice at seminars at caravan and camping
shows, he and his equally knowledgeable wife Doreen are out there
We thought Tom’s tip would be a piece of advice based on his technical
background. It wasn’t. He had just returned from an Outback trip, and
his advice to everybody contemplating a big trip is: Do it now.
Tom says the recent rains have turned the Outback into a wonderland of
He says: “If you’ve got the opportunity, take it. You will be seeing
Australia at its best.”
He says the effect of the rains will be there to enchant us for some months
to come. Even better, Tom
said there has ben extensive extra grading of Outback roads to repair the
damage caused by the rains and floods. The result is that the tracks are
smoother and many are suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles.
(But remember to always check with the authorities before setting out.)
Ron and Thora Schafer have just finished writing a book called Caravanning
In The 21st Century. It is a really interesting collection of tales,
advice and information for people who want to do some serious caravan
Ron and Thora have lectured on round-Australia travel at caravan shows all
over the country.
Their tip for On The Road readers is to beware the vibration that can occur
inside a travelling van, especially if it is on gravel roads.
One result of this is black marks on the sides of saucepans and other
cooking utensils. That can be avoided by packing cooking gear separately
in plastic shopping bags or pillowcases.
A worse result is when cans of drink (yes, the precious beer supply) are
stacked side by side. In a remarkably short time the vibration will wear a
neat slit in the side of each can and when you delve for a drink they will
all be empty.
Check also that heavy items like the refrigerator have not become loose in
its mountings. A wobbly fridge has been known to wear its way right down
through the floor of a van!
Caravanning In The 21st Century is available for $13.95 plus $4 packing and
postage from Thora Schafer, 530 Pineridge Road, Coombabah, 4216.
Rob and Judith Heaslip are the manufacturers of the innovative and
tough-as-old-boots Heaslip camper trailers. They make sure their gear
works by making frequent trips into the Outback.
Their advice to travellers is to take only what they need on the trip.
Carrying extra items “just in case” can cause more trouble than those
items would solve if they are ever needed.
Extra weight on a vehicle will affect its braking and handling and
cause breakdowns that might not have occurred with a lighter,
Rob suggests taking along some basic spare parts but not a mobile workshop.
“Other travellers will always help out if you get into trouble,” Rob
Donna advises fellow travellers that while a plan is essential it should
not be set in concrete.
“Don’t travel flat out or you’ll miss out on a lot. Stop along the
way to enjoy the scenery. Don’t
push yourself. Just because you decided at breakfast where you’d like to
finish up for dinner doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to get
Donna also has advice about travelling with children: “We should remember
to do things for the kids as well as for ourselves.”
Donna’s two children have their own walkmans and their own music so they
can listen to music that suits their own tastes without disturbing others.
“Whatever you do, record your trip in some way so that you can go around
Australia again and again, deep in your armchair. You can have endless enjoyment afterwards when you look back
at all the exotic places you visited and the wonderful people you met
along the way.”
Outback artist, explorer and writer, Jack Absalom, ends his book, Safe
Outback Travel, with this yarn:
“I was sitting by a campfire one time with an old drover. We were yarning
about this and that and he asked me what I considered to be the most
important thing to carry in the bush. I thought for a while, and then
answered that it would be water.”
“Well,” he replied, “when your vehicle breaks down in the bush, just
get out the cards and start playing patience. Within 10 minutes someone
will put his head over your shoulder and say: That black 10 goes on the
red jack. Then you can ask
him for a drink of water’.”