Sunday, March 20, 2011

Preparing for the great trek north

Setting up a standard 4WD for some offroad adventures is a costly and mind boggling business. Yesterday we went to the Perth Caravan and Camping show with a view to finding what we need to do to prepare our Landcruiser for a trip up north along some of the less prepared roads that Australia has to offer. The show is packed with stall after stall full of sales and marketing type folk who are very willing to sell you whatever they can. When you know next to nothing about the subject, it's pretty hard to separate the useful information and recommendations from the sales pitch. Do we really need super duper shock absorbers (I think so), an extra spare wheel and tyre in case we get two punctures, which in turn means a dual wheel carrier, which requires a replacement rear bumper, which requires the super duper shock absorbers and lifts initially mentioned? Then we could also fit a 150 litre long range auxilary fuel tank under the car which would mean we can make it the 750km between fuel stops in some remote locations. Should I get roof racks with new accessories we could also buy such as high lift jack, recovery gear, an awning and spot lights all over the place. Do we need a winch in case we get bogged somewhere or can we just use the new maxtrax recovery planks I bought yesterday. They seem like they'd do the job in most cases of mud and sand but what about being stuck during a river crossing? Potentially in waters where saltwater crocodiles are known to visit and attempt to eat passers by? Probably not an ideal spot to breakdown and have no way of getting out, but given that you should always walk across any water crossing before attempting to drive it in the first place, do we really want to do these type of river crossings in remote areas? Especially with either a pregnant wife and small children, or maybe with a new born baby. The answer may seem obvious, as in "just don't go there", but some of the most beautiful areas in Australia can only be accessed via unsealed corrugated dirt tracks masquerading as roads. The part of Oz that I'd been looking forward to most is the Kimberley and this is particularly true of up there. The Gibb River Road is meant to be one of the most amazing drives you can do. Rugged terrain dotted with waterfalls, gorges, rock pools and a load of wildlife. The aforementioned crocodiles included. The other issue is whether it is something we can tackle while pulling a large caravan. Opinions differ. Just yesterday within ten metres of each other at the show, I met one guy who said forget about taking any type of caravan down Gibb River Road, and another guy who said we'll have no problem whatsoever with our offroad type heavy duty van. So who do you believe? I do feel a bit nervous about driving this 660km track, mostly due to folklore and people's horror stories of punctured tyres, broken axles and caravans that have been vibrated to bits by the road corrugations. But I also feel compelled. To kit up the car with any combination of the above will cost us loads of money. I'd be surprised if there was any change out of ten grand. More than that if we are to go the whole hog. If we spend all that cash and then for whatever reason we end up sticking to the major sealed highways, it will have been a complete waste of money. It's going to be a punt either way. Will Tori and the baby be healthy enough to travel into remote outback Australia? Will we feel that living in a van is not something we can do with a baby anyway, let alone driving anywhere at all in it? Or will we just think "bugger it, let's go". I'm hoping for the latter so I guess my decision should be based around that. The Kimberley is as far from Melbourne that you can get within Australia. When will we ever be up that way again? I think I can hear my credit card groaning.

1 comment:

doug_non said...

You have worked hard getting yourselves in the position to have these delicious dilemmas. Continuing the research sounds sensible; 40 years ago I travelled in the rough Channel Country with a couple in their old kombi with sand gutters, jacks and a tow rope. I guess you could over equip but I would hate to worry about fuel reserves.

And if you ain't ready you won't have the option.

b/w Doug