Australias hottest town

Preparation tips

by Rudi Schwartz

There is a world waiting out there. And once you’ve experienced it, you would want more—and more.

Driving into the outback of Australia is not something one should do on the spur of the moment. 

If it is true that 80% of the Australian population lives in the metropolitan areas on the eastern seaboard, with another million or so in Perth, we must deduce that only 3,000,000 million people live in the rest of a country almost as big as the United States of America.

One look at the map of Australia will show that cities and towns in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are mainly close to the Pacific Ocean.

This means that distances between outback towns are vast.  Services are not always what is expected in the cities, and of cause, the road network is still mainly under-developed in the remote areas.

The average Australian considers everything east of the Dividing Range as “beyond” - as if it doesn’t exist.  Surely, governments think the same!

Consequently, if you are not used to traversing the countryside more than 100kms outside of the Big Smoke, outback travelling can be daunting.

But, please don’t despair!  There is a world waiting out there.  And once you’ve experienced it, you would want more—and more.

Vehicle

It happens that some folks buy a new 4X4 and think that everything is now hunky dory. Wrong!  Make sure you know your vehicle:  what goes where and where what will be found. For instance:

  1. Can you work the jack and retrieve the spare from where it is stowed?

  2. Do you know how to fill up the auxiliary tank (if your vehicle is fitted with one)?

  3. Does the tank gauge tell the truth about what’s left in the tank?

  4. How do low range and 4X4 gear engage?  What about lock-up hubs?

Go for a run with your vehicle.  Take it out for a weekend and see that you know it.

If you plan a long trip through arid and lonely country, it might be best to visit a 4X4 drivers’ instruction course.  Here you will learn the tricks of the trade and meet lots of fellow uninitiated knights of the 4X4 just like yourself.

I suggest you contact one of these:

  1. Queensland:  Australian 4WDand Advanced Driver Education and Outback Tours

  2. New South Wales:  4WD Off Road Training Pty. Ltd.

  3. NSW and Victoria:  DECA Training

  4. Perth:  AHG Driving Centre

Equipment

We recently witnessed a group of people arriving at their camping spot after dark. It was a scramble to pitch a huge family tent—they had no idea where the camp lights were or how the tent worked.  It was a search for the hammer and the pegs.  In the meantime the babies were hungry and made it known in no uncertain terms.

Not a good way to start your holiday. So, here’s a short checklist:

  1.  Check one thing at a time:  Do you need gas? You will need gas, gas connections, a gas lamp (with mantles!), your stove and maybe a heater.  And do remember the lighter and the matches.

  2. Get to know your equipment before the trip away

  3. Know what you will need and for what purpose

  4. Make sure you know where you pack it, so you can find it easily.  No use packing the peg hammer in the spare wheel compartment under all your stuff! Just imagine…

  5. Be sure to take things like mattress patches and glue along—you won’t find it in the middle of nowhere. And it is the worst thing to sleep on a mattress without air.  Ask me!

Plan the trip

  1. Booking your stopovers is not a bad idea (my wife keeps telling me this!). Some camping spots can be very popular in certain times of the year.

  2. The automobile clubs (RACQNRMARACVRAA, etc.) of each State have a guide to all known campsites in Australia.  Here you will find out about pet policies, availability of electricity, laundries, water, etc.  Get yourself a copy; its worth the while.

  3. If you plan to visit National Parks, make sure you understand the what’s and what not’s.  You may need to visit the NSW National Parks or the Queensland National Parks or the South Australian National Parks and Reserves websites to find out more about passes.

  4. Make sure you know about the fuel range of your vehicle’s tank(s) and find out what the distances are you will travel.  In most of the HEMA travel maps you will find indicators of fuelling stations.  Autogas is not so readily available in remote areas. Never overestimate your fuel range.  It is better to fill up every time when see a pump.

  5. Take some obvious spare parts along.  It sometimes can be the little things like tyre repair plugs that can make your trip something you will remember for all the wrong reasons.

  6. ALWAYS, always carry more water than you need. If you have used some of your water and see a tap, fill up your containers—over and over again. (Don’t use plastic garden hoses; they can be toxic.  Use the clear plastic ones and never expose it to hot sun.)

Emergency

  1. It’s always a good thing to tell someone where you’re going.  If you are  venturing into really remote places and you don’t have good two-way radios on board, contact the local police station first and tell them your name, vehicle make, registration detail, colour and general direction of travel. As a last resort get in contact with the Royal Flying Doctors (but please don’t bother these people with nothing; they are too busy with real emergencies. For good advice from the Flying Doctors click here.  (Also see my section Communication Tips)

  2. Get a first aid kit from St John’s Ambulance or your local pharmacy.  Remember to take prescription medicine along.  You might consider a basic fist aid course too.

  3. Get information about dangerous animals and water quality in the areas your visit.  The Environment Protection Agency of Queensland has a lots of information.

  4. If you followed the rules above, then you will understand why you need to stay at your vehicle in case of a brake down.  Don’t try to look for help by walking away from you car.  Your car can be spotted from the air—you, passed out under a bush, will be hard to see.