Ron Moon on His Love for Australia, and Traveling the Globe
Show notes for podcast #111
Ron Moon on His Love for Australia, and Traveling the Globe
Intrepid explorer Ron Moon share his decades of overland travel to every corner of Australia, and the Globe.
RON & VIV MOON have spent much of their lives exploring and writing about Australia’s wild and remote areas. In their travels they combine many interests such as 4wd touring, camping, overlanding, bird watching, diving, hunting, canoeing and fishing, as well as photography, and this is reflected in the many articles that they have written for a wide range of magazines in Australia and overseas.
While both Ron and Viv are recognised travel writers specializing in out of the way places, Ron was the long time editor of the 4WD magazine, 4x4 Australia, and now has more of a roving and exciting role as 4x4’s Editor-at-Large. In all Ron & Viv have contributed to or written 13 guide books on Outback Australia, including books for Lonely Planet, Hema Maps and Global Publications.
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
We've been writing guidebooks on remote areas of Australia since 1985 and many people consider our Moon Adventure Publication guides the best available for 4WD travellers. More recently we also have a number of guidebooks we've researched and written for Hema Maps.
Ron & Viv Moon
Moon Adventure Publications
PO Box 1112
Pearcedale, Vic 3912
Ph: +61 (0)3 5978 7066
Mobile: 0418 254 306 or 0428 786 258
Dirt Road Diaries: http://www.dirtroaddiaries.com.au/
Scott Brady: Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal Podcast. I'm your host Scott Brady and I am here with an Australian legend, Ron Moon, and Ron has an incredible history. Not only did he have a full career in the Australian Army, but then he retired and he started writing guidebooks and he started working for the Australian four wheel drive magazine industry. He's been an editor of several magazines in Australia, he's also produced countless books and guidebooks, had his own publishing company, works closely with Hema maps. Not only that, but his travel exploits are also very notable, so Ron and his wife Biv have traveled around the world- they've circumnavigated the planet. They've been to multiple continents in their vehicles and we're going to talk about Ron's experience, his decades of traveling around the world, the things that he's learned, and Ron, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Ron Moon: Yeah, well, thanks. It's great to be here, mate! It's really good.
Scott Brady: Yeah? Oh, it's such a pleasure, and you've written for Overland Journal for well over a decade as well, on and off, which we're so grateful for. So for those that are listening, you can find some of Ron's adventure stories in the magazine as well, but I'd love to start by asking you a few questions- kind of how the beginning of your life started. Where did you grow up in Australia? What did you- What first inspired you about the Outback?
Ron Moon: Okay, well, I was born in the outback. I was born in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, and we moved down to Quorn and the Flinders Ranges, early, early on and that's where I grew up as a young kid. Y'know, going out rabbit traping, and then with a single shot 22 and all that sort of stuff with my brothers and then, yeah, that's where the love of that is it country. And I think that still puts my soul- yeah.
Scott Brady: I would say that the I have not been to the Kimberley yet, but the Flinders is one of my most favorite parts of Australia, there's just something about that range, where it's not been weathered quite as much as the rest of the continent where it's endured, you know, the the hardness of those rocks. And just some of those canyons are absolutely stunning. Yeah. So that was a neat place to grow up.
Ron Moon: Yeah, it was. And yeah, you won't get any argument with me about those debates. And you probably won't get an unbiased point of view from about the Flinders Ranges. But
Scott Brady: It's amazing how those places can just kind of stick with you.
Ron Moon: Yeah, sure. Yeah. And then a couple of weeks time, I'll be back and I'll just first place we'll be camping is in the Flinders Ranges as we had to do a trip through the desert country.
Scott Brady: As I remember, there is an outpost there. Is that the parent chilla hotel is
Ron Moon: Power tuna hotel, feral food. Yeah.
Scott Brady: So yeah, I went through there with my dad years ago. And we and I had been there before. And I remembered that you could get you know, crocodile and yeah, and eat it eat an emu and everything. So it was just, I remember taking my dad out to dinner there and the plate comes out. And it's got a bunch of little flags stuck in the meat, you know, this is crocodile and this is gamble. And this is emu. And this is you know, kangaroo and everything. So yeah,
Ron Moon: the people who own that property on one of the number of the shape stations around the place, okay? And she says, Sure, sure. I've made a real success out of that our children a hotel
Scott Brady: they have, and it's a great little spot to stay. And you know, you've been on the dusty track for days or weeks, sometimes at a time. It's a neat, neat spot to stay. But I can see why you enjoyed the Flinders so much, because it really is amazing. And then what did you What would you say were some of the things as a kid that really inspired you to not only want to travel by vehicle, but to travel at all?
Ron Moon: Yeah, well, I think my dad was a bit of a traveler, he's sort of a dark side, which we only found out a few years ago. In fact, in 2000- 2001, and then we had two brothers in America. So yeah, so a lot of the truth came out then my dad died many years ago, but he was a traveler and just wandered. He settle down for a couple of years and then he picked mom up and then off we go somewhere else. And that's all I got, I got that love of traveling and I can always remember going out with him on the Willochra Plains more than anything, just on the east side of the Flinders Ranges and traveling with him through there and shooting bunny rabbits and stuff like that, and one of the things that stuck with me, joined the army when I was 15, nearly 16.
Scott Brady: That's very, that's very young, is that something that they allow? Is it like a part of your education at that point? Or how does that work?
Ron Moon: Yeah, it was, it was in those days as an Army apprentice and, went in as an army apprentice and became an electrician working on gun control systems and stuff like that later on in my Army career, but so yeah, so you know, I started driving Land Rovers in about '67 and got posted to the guided weapons area and there's a lot of Americans up there at the time, just finishing off launching some of their cell systems and because we ran around in Land Rovers all the time, and took every opportunity to go out, find some crashed aircraft, or whatever it was. Yeah, and you end up doing cross country and that's where I really fell in love with four wheel driving and doing cross country on a compass bearing and all that sort of stuff. No tracks in-
Scott Brady: And Australia is just prime for that, it's so incredible. I'm not going to get too far from that last comment that you made about having two brothers in America because it's fascinating. Have you met them? Have you spent time with them?
Ron Moon: Yeah, well, in fact, both of them were fairly high profile people and one was in charge of the American Literary Board for schools in America for a long time and the other became Vice President of Northwest American Airlines and then quit very early, followed his real love of looking for American MIAs, WW2 MIAs around the world.
Scott Brady: Wow.
Ron Moon: And he was- his group was called MIA Hunters, and it was declared by the American government as the most successful MIA group. I joined him on a couple of expeditions, had a really big one in New Guinea. He had a number in New Guinea, I joined even for the last one as it turned out. And that was a month long expedition for aircraft, MIAs.
Scott Brady: Were you were you able to find any of the aircraft?
Ron Moon: Well, he had a number of scouts working for him, local scouts and they would get the rough idea of where the aircraft was. We would go in, take photographs and GPS it, and all that sort of stuff. And we would find a serial number on that aircraft, whether it was a machine gun, or an engine-
Scott Brady: Anything that helps tie it back.
Ron Moon: And then my brother had the contacts in the MIA unit in Hawaii and he would ring them up and go, Well, this- we've got this aircraft, this is a serial number off of a machine gun. And they would come back within 24 hours and say, Yes, we know about that aircraft, they were all rescued or whatever. And then the ones they didn't know about, we would do a little bit more of a search, see if we could get dog tags and we would record the site fairly thoroughly. And, and then hand that all that information over to Mia unity, Hawaii, that stage they would have names and sure if seven people were missing or there was some incredible stories that came out of it. And because of my background, my brother hired we hired a couple of Land Cruisers up there. Sure I was, I was designated the official driver. I got away with the easy thing. But the funny thing about that was the recovery. There's no recovery gear in any of these. But every way when I come across a whole pile of locals in fact, we will give them lifts all the time. Yes, sure have 20 people on board the back of the yard. Yeah, we can miss your main road or whatever got bug, they just get out normal person or whatever. It was a fabulous experience.
Scott Brady: What was the most meaningful outcome from that experience with your brother?
Ron Moon: We went into one village and the guides had been working for my brother for two years, and the chief will not let anybody into this site. So he said he wants to see the boss man, I love Brian. So Brian went in to see him and of course a couple of us went along with him. The old chief, he said when I was a boy at seven, there was a dogfight going on above our village and the American aircraft got shot down, and he said when I was 16, I wrote a letter to people who were concerned, we've lost your son, dadada, don't (inaudible) him. But he said I didn't know who to send it to, held it out and said I give it to you.
Scott Brady: Oh, wow. He had kept it that whole time! Incredible, that's incredible.
Ron Moon: And so then he got his grandson to lead us into the wrecked aircraft. Still had the American signature on the plane and all stuff. So yeah, so that was one of of a number of exploits that we found, just fabulous.
Scott Brady: And what an incredible thing to do with your brother. I mean, that you didn't even know you had. I mean, what- that's a fascinating story. That is just so cool.
Ron Moon: Yeah, it was just unbelievable and it was so good that it worked out so well, sometimes...
Scott Brady: Yeah, you never know. Yeah, you never know, absolutely. I mean, jeez, that's incredible. And then- so you were at 15. You join the army, and did they ship you off? I mean, were you gone?
Ron Moon: Well, you know, I joined the army and became an Electronics Technician and then I became- got seconded to the British army. This was during the height of the Vietnam War and nearly every one of my classmates went to Vietnam. I was one of 140 that year. Because I was seconded to this secret British unit and doing weapons testing up in Willmar. And like I said, that was when we- British Army had this thing called adventure training. So you didn't have to carry a gun or a backpack with you, but you just borrow a vehicle and go out camping! Things like this, they just wanted you to be in the bush and learning those bush skills and I thought it was a fantastic idea!
Scott Brady: Sign me up! Yeah, for sure.
Ron Moon: So I became a bit of an expert in that over the years, all the rest of my career, really. Yeah, I was really- done a lot of that sort of stuff and one of the best things was back in 1976, we led an expedition out into remote country in South Australia with a group of paleontologists and biologists from the Australian National (inaudible). And during that trip, doing across country, to the remote salt lakes, looking for dinosaur bones and all that sort of stuff. I just loved it!
Scott Brady: No question.
Ron Moon: Yeah, that was life.
Scott Brady: Yeah, and you know, it's interesting the times that I've been to Australia -as a veteran myself- interacting with the Australian vets. I was in Melbourne for Anzac Day and I walked down the street from the hotel to a small memorial, and that happened to be a World War Two Memorial but the number of veterans that were there and they approached me and asked if I was a veteran,and I said I am, I said, but I'm from America, and it really touched them that I was there. And then to go to the memorial in Melbourne, the big one, and to see- I was walking- because it's very, there's not a lot to it, the walls are filled with names on the inside and you're walking around, and you know, you get to the Bs, and then you start to go down the list and you see all the Brady's.
Ron Moon: Yeah.
Scott Brady: There was a lot of them. There was a lot of your young men that that died in those conflicts. The Commonwealth nations really did take quite the impact at that time, so
Ron Moon: Interesting you brought that up because I was over here for your big day of Memorial Day with my brother, and my brother was doing some talks and lectures on what he does and he said, Oh, I've got my brother, these two brothers in Australia had 67 years of service between them. We got a standing ovation!
Scott Brady: I bet.
Ron Moon: It was incredible! People were coming up and congratulating us.
Scott Brady: Well, we appreciate your many years of service and it sounds like in some of the same ways that the military inspired me to vehicle based travel, it did the same thing for you. So you did a 20 year career in the army, were you ever sent overseas, or?
Ron Moon: I was sent to Singapore with the British unit, doing testing over there and all that sort of stuff. But when I came back on that unit, I was seen as a guided weapons expert. They weren't required in Vietnam.
Scott Brady: Gotcha.
Ron Moon: So, I never got to Vietnam, but...
Scott Brady: It was meant to be one meant to be.
Ron Moon: It was meant to be, yeah, go where the Army sends you.
Scott Brady: That's right.
Ron Moon: But yeah, I mean, we got out of the army after 20 years, and I said, I don't want to do electronics and-
Scott Brady: Sure.
Ron Moon: Okay, well, what are we going to do? By that stage, we founded a magazine called Action Outdoor Australia, which was into the backpacking, sports, canoeing. Wilderness stuff is what I love, canoeing, rafting, and I was never good rock climber.
Scott Brady: Neither am I.
Ron Moon: And then we'd gone to Cape York in the early 80s, and in 84 we thought, y'know, we got up there, and I liked motivating people to go and see the country, that sort of thing. We got up to Cape York, and we'd been up there for three or four weeks and people have gone across the Jardine back in those days, a ferry drivers cross this very impressive river and and they come back and go oh, there's nothing to see. And I'm going, I'm gonna spend three or four weeks up there! They all go: "Oh really?" So that was the motivation to write our first guidebook, that was in 1984.
Scott Brady: Doesn't that river still have crocs in it?
Ron Moon: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Scott Brady: I mean, you hear every once in a while of like a German tourist that goes missing. It's always the Germans, I think maybe they taste a little better to the crocs, I don't know.
Ron Moon: And they'll say the locals because familiarity breeds content, I think.
Scott Brady: For sure.
Ron Moon: They swim across the river to get to the ferry or something like that. Oh, man, crocodile! I remember when we done one trip, a group of friends who are right into wilderness canoeing, and we're backpacking with inflatable canoes in our backpack and then walked down the river until we could start paddling.
Scott Brady: Sure.
Ron Moon: And this is what we'd done on the Jardine: first thing (inaudible) the sense of any route, from source to the sea. And we took five days and my brother, Sam, doing vehicle backup for me and he's talking to the Aboriginal ferry man. Then he goes, has your brother got a gun? And Dave says, Oh, it's a national park. You know, you're not allowed to carry a gun. And Mike goes, an old man crocodile, he don't know that!
Scott Brady: So true. Crocs like "I like this place! They don't have guns!"
Ron Moon: So they were great trips. You know, first (inaudible) the rivers and things like that, back in the 90s. We had run ins with big crocs every trip and most people never came back. We'd go with six, four or five other people, blokes. And only me and me mate ever went back more than once, everybody else was like, those crocs are too big! Now 20-30 years further, crocs have got bigger.
Scott Brady: Yeah, sure.
Ron Moon: And even less afraid of humans, so...
Scott Brady: For sure, they've had more meals.
Ron Moon: I wouldn't be paddling those rivers, especially the inflatable.
Scott Brady: Oh, that's so true. So I mean, Cape York is a spot that fascinates a lot of people to travel, you know, things like the Canning Stock. I mean, these are all fantastic routes that are kind of spoken of in hushed tones, because they're so meaningful to the Overlander, and I haven't made it all the way to the end of Cape York. Matt, Matt Scott, my co-host, has several times but how have you seen that changed from the 80s when you first did the trip, to now? What are you seeing that's different?
Ron Moon: The big thing is, back when we first went up there- and I certainly wasn't the first four wheel drive to go up there, there was quite a few still going before me. But there's a hell of a lot more people. The big thing was that- in those days, the big thing was to get to the top and that whole expedition to get to the top and that took you a couple of weeks from outer Cairns, a lot of hard work and river crossings and things like that, of course the Jardine, that's a fairly fast flowing river. It's 145 meters at 170 yards from bank to bank, sand, and crocs. Back in those days, if a croc showed up, well, he wasn't there for very long, somebody would get rid of it. But nowadays, Cape has opened up, Aboriginal communities have opened up their lands in a lot of places so you can go out to other places. So the object isn't really to get (inaudible), it's what everybody goes to the northernmost tip. But, so many other things you can do. That's what people do, yeah? They go up there and go off that major route to the top and go fishing and (inaudible) port land roads, or whatever it may be.
Scott Brady: It was such a beautiful area, I made it maybe three or four hours north of Cairns, so along the coast. And it was just- it was gorgeous. Yeah, I mean, I was so impressed by the tropical birds. The flora had changed so much from what you experienced even in Brisbane, so.
Ron Moon: Yeah, no, it's a fascinating area and yeah, even after all this time, it's probably the most popular four wheel drive destination in Australia. Thousands would get up. You don't really want to be there and the school holidays in August, September, but I was up there last year with my son and he was running a tour up there and he'll be up there again in another few weeks. I don't think I'll be able to make, though. Not this year, but it is still a fantastic trip. How many trips have me and Viv done, then? Somewhere in excess of 40.
Scott Brady: Oh jeez. That's unbelievable.
Ron Moon: We haven't got to the top every time, probably 15 trips, something like that, to the top. But you get up there and you get lost in some area of (inaudible) over on the western side, around the Gulf Country or whatever tickles your fancy. You go looking for old gold mines or a crashed aircraft or whatever.
Scott Brady: Sure, and you've traveled across Australia many times, what is your favorite place in Australia? If you were to have to pick.
Ron Moon: Well, I guess if you look at the number of times I've been there it's probably Cape York. But I think I started traveling across the Bight, as in not the (inaudible), behind at the highway, but the Bight around the coastline. We started traveling that in about 2008. Done little bits of it back in my early days when I went spearfishing and things like that. We never set out to drive around the coast. I've got to say that's probably the best host or expedition drive four wheel drive trip you do in Australia. You go from Ceduna, South Australia to Esperance in Western Australia. It's nearly 1000 miles, it's only one fuel place you can really get, and that's right on the border of (inaudible) and I can- we can do that now with only about 30 mile at each blacktop. Sure all the rest is on- either on the clifftops, beaches and amongst the sand dunes.
Scott Brady: Well, and I have you to thank for the trip that I did across there because you had done that trip with Brad and McCarthy, I think. And so he knew the way, so when I, in 2018- when I drove The Bight, it was along the track that you guys had kind of pioneered, and it was incredible how remote that was. I mean that one- there's one remote, kind of on a station where they do a lot of bird studies and things like that.
Ron Moon: Yeah, that was- had a Bird Observatory.
Scott Brady: It was fascinating. And then there- we also took the little detour north. So north of the highway, there was this abandoned gas station and town. Those old cars and stuff? Unbelievable!
Ron Moon: Yep, I know exactly where you are! And, uh-
Scott Brady: That was fascinating!
Ron Moon: Hundreds of cars broke down when the old (inaudible) was just a track, left there.
Scott Brady: It was incre- and the old station, and the old homes and stuff like that, was just... that whole area felt very remote. I mean the Canning Stock? No question. Feels extremely remote, because we didn't encounter another vehicle the whole time. But when we got close to the top -we were some of the first cars through that particular year- but when we got close to the top, we did start to see some vehicles, but the rest of it, there was just nobody there.
Ron Moon: It's a fabulous trip. Viv's done it even more than me. There's funny stories in it, but, um...
Scott Brady: Well, pick one of your favorite funny stories. Let's hear that!
Ron Moon: As editor of the magazine, I used to run trips for readers and I'd organize this trip up the Canning Stock route where we do some clean ups and all that sort of...
Scott Brady: Sure.
Ron Moon: And then a Land Rover came along and said well we want you to go to... can't remember now where it, it was something. And I said to Viv, got this trip. This freebie trip to England, and then row around and drive this new Range Rover or whatever it was. So how about you taking this trip? So, she got the job of leading this trip up the Canning Stock in a Chevy Suburban! She spent it with her dad, which was really great.
Scott Brady: That's wonderful.
Ron Moon: But that old Chevy Suburban grated the track all the way.
Scott Brady: I can imagine, dragging the belly the whole way. Yeah, and a lot of vehicles have been nearly written off along that track. Remember when Mercedes tried to do like a demonstration of durability with the G-class and you have to respect that track. And people... they get in a hurry. It's very long. It's not that technical, but it's abusive if you don't let those shocks cool down and you don't check the bolts every day, you're gonna have stuff go wrong and they- or overload the vehicle, for example. Yeah, so it's not that G-Wagons were necessarily the problem, it was that the people that were responsible for caring for them weren't doing their job.
Ron Moon: And, you know, what gen 8's are like, would be quicker than the normal drive.
Scott Brady: Exactly, yeah. You know, that's 2000 kilometers. It's a long way.
Ron Moon: Yeah, I've seen a lot of vehicles, shocks are the big thing.
Scott Brady: Yeah, they just smoke 'em!
Ron Moon: Shocks are the big thing, and then- and obviously any of those tracks out there, just pounding the chassis tanks.
Scott Brady: For sure.
Ron Moon: Things break and tow bars break and all that sort of stuff.
Scott Brady: It certainly does. As a magazine editor and with all this time that you've traveled in Australia, you've used about every single vehicle that was available in your market. What was your favorite, what was- or what was your top two or three?
Ron Moon: Well, Land Cruiser has got to be in amongst there somewhere, and we've had a good number of Land Cruisers over the years, just ordered a new one. Hopefully it'll be here by Christmas.
Scott Brady: Where did you order? What model did you order?
Ron Moon: Ah, Troopy, 70 series Troopy.
Scott Brady: Nice.
Ron Moon: I've got a 79 at home, which is out with son in the desert at the moment. But the vehicle that's done most with us is Nissan patrol, GU Patrol.
Scott Brady: Those are famous.
Ron Moon: 20 odd years old now and been around the world, done four or five trips up the Canning. I don't know how many crossings of the Simpson Desert. I've done how many on Cape York. It's got a lot of miles up on it.
Scott Brady: Does that have the 4.2 liter diesel?
Ron Moon: Yeah, 4.2.
Scott Brady: Yeah, that's a famous motor. And the differentials on that were so strong, I mean, they were stronger than the Land Cruiser.
Ron Moon: Oh, yeah. The drive- I mean, the Patrol was never as good in NVH as Cruiser, and the engines were always a little bit lacking compared to a Cruiser engine, but the drive train was-
Scott Brady: Yeah, literally. You guys have done all- you did all these trips to Australia, had you literally just done it all and then you wanted to go see the world but what inspired that transition from I'm traveling around Australia to now I want to go see the rest of the world.
Ron Moon: Well, went to Africa.
Scott Brady: Okay.
Ron Moon: That's after I got out- Well, when I got out of the army, we thought: Okay, we gotta make a name for ourselves. And at that stage Qantas was just starting to fly into Africa, into Zimbabwe, they weren't flying into South Africa because of apartheid. So we went to them and said, Here's what we'll do, we got a contract. We went- and then that sort of started this love affair with Africa.
Scott Brady: Yeah, I can see that.
Ron Moon: You never go to Africa once.
Scott Brady: I know, it's incredible.
Ron Moon: So we started going to Africa, and then I think, Oh overlanding, I'd love to go overlanding, I'd love to go out. So yeah, it just swirled from there and then of course, we got to England, 2007 or whatever it was, when we got to England, after driving up through Africa. And I said to Viv, oh, yeah, well, we've got a ship, let's drive across Russia, as you do!
Scott Brady: And what was your route to make it to Vladivostok?
Ron Moon: We went up to- shipped across- caught the ferry across to Norway. Up the coast of Norway to Northgate. Beautiful, beautiful country.
Scott Brady: Yeah, incredible.
Ron Moon: And it's expensive!
Scott Brady: It is, yeah.
Ron Moon: Fuel, food, beer, all the important ingredients of life, and then dropped down to St. Petersburg, beautiful city.
Scott Brady: So you went you went through Sweden and Finland and then...
Ron Moon: Oh, yeah, we just miss- (inaudible) and then St. Petersburg, beautiful city.
Scott Brady: It is beautiful.
Ron Moon: Yeah, and I say to people, if you're going to go to Russia, and- well, if you want to go there now. Moscow and St. Petersburg, go to Moscow first, and then St. Petersburg, cause if you do it the other way around, you'll be really disappointed.
Scott Brady: Well, because- as I recall, the Czar's- they hired all these Italian architects to help them build St. Petersburg and it is really a stunning city. It's beautiful, and there's a lot of (inaudible) there, whereas Moscow was, you know, just open land, they developed a massive city of concrete on top of- and it's not to say that there aren't really charming uses of Moscow, because there are, but it is so different. St. Petersburg feels old- substantial old history and you can tell the difference.
Ron Moon: Like I said, the art there!
Scott Brady: It's really good, it is.
Ron Moon: There is so much of it in the Hermitage. If you look at World War Two, in the German sector, Europe got all the treasure, and the Russians beat the Germans and took all the treasure.
Scott Brady: That's what happens, history repeats itself. Yeah, for sure.
Ron Moon: From there, we dropped down through Russia, (inaudible). Had to go back into Russia because China wouldn't let us cut across into Mongolia.
Scott Brady: And what route did you take across Mongolia?
Ron Moon: Well, we started off in the northwest corner.
Scott Brady: Sure. I'm familiar with that border. That is- I think it's one of the longest- at the time, it was one of the longest No Man's lands on the planet.
Ron Moon: That's right?
Scott Brady: I think it's over 20 miles, you have to drive between border posts. Maybe even a little further than that. And so you're just- the whole time you're thinking, what happens if I break down? Fortunately, it was mostly downhill, I think and I was in a little Jimny, yeah, and I'm just like, I gotta make it to the border.
Ron Moon: You reminded me of that. I've forgotten about that, how wide it was! The no man's land, and of course, that Mongolia box rally was on at the same time. We were helping all these people out because, you know, they're there and-
Scott Brady: So fun.
Ron Moon: Yeah, and all these clapped out little cars, the tires are popping and all this sort of thing and we're repairing tires for them, getting them on the road again. And then down to Ulaanbaatar and then down to the Gobi, and the big circuit around that Gobi, because it rained down in the Gobi. We ended up helping some of the tour operators out there, getting outta the bogs. And then back to Ulaanbaatar, and then around the Chinese border, Lake Baikal.
Scott Brady: And that's incredible, too. Just the size of that lake, I think it has nearly the same amount of freshwater as the Great Lakes in North America.
Ron Moon: I find that hard to believe!
Scott Brady: Because it's so deep. You know, it's just... It wasn't until- I mean sometime in the last century is when they finally found the depth of it, but it was like, maybe in the 60s! I mean it took them a while to find the bottom of this lake.
Ron Moon: It is unbelievable. We camped beside it for a couple of nights; the whether! It's the weather factory of Siberia, basically.
Scott Brady: Interesting.
Ron Moon: And then, of course, we basically follow the Chinese, Russian. An unbelievable trip. The people couldn't relate. Outside of Vladivostok and St. Petersburg and Moscow, I couldn't relate to travelers, really? Like, why are you here?
Scott Brady: What do you do? Why are you doing this?
Ron Moon: You must be a Western spy. Of course you meet some nice people.
Scott Brady: No question. What I found was most challenging is the language barrier. In most of Siberia, the small villages, it's very difficult to find an English speaking person and the language is so different you know, it's not a Latin derived language, so. If you're in Italy, you can kind of make it work or whatever, but in Russia it's so different.
Ron Moon: They have the signposts and all.
Scott Brady: Yeah. You kind of hope you're going the right way. What did you think of Vladivostok?
Ron Moon: Well, we spent a week there, as you normally do when you're trying to organize ships and all that sort of stuff. We stayed in some fancy hotel overlooking the harbor. And yeah, look, you've run into customs, run into shipping agents and things like that so you get a different point of view about a city, I guess. We certainly weren't there sightseeing and things like that. But I mean, it's a magnificent harbor and all that stuff.
Scott Brady: It is very pretty, it surprised me. Because we drove into Magadan, and we shipped by container to Vladivostok. So to see the difference between Magadan and Vladivostok is obviously very stark, but I was so impressed with how beautiful Vladivostok was.
Ron Moon: It was a magnificent harbor. And they were doing some drills, and aeroplanes were coming in, just skimming the surface of the harbor, dropping that fire retardant stuff out on smoking barges, and it was very impressive, in fact, the flying, these guys. They can have water and then dropping it on these smoking barges, yeah, so we were watching that from the hotel room, but yeah. Back- everything changed with- when the twin towers came down. And once upon a time, you could go into the harbors and check your vehicle under the ship, damn near. Now you get locked at the gate, somebody takes your vehicle and you go, Oh, I hope see that in Australia again.
Scott Brady: Yeah. And then where did you ship from Vladivostok to?
Ron Moon: To Australia.
Scott Brady: Oh, so you shipped back. That's a challenge, too: shipping anything back into Australia. Cleanliness requirements are very strict.
Ron Moon: Man, oh man, a lot of people come undone doing that. We've helped a couple of people out. And every time we've gone into Australia with our vehicle, it's taken two to three weeks to get it out of customs and quarantine.
Scott Brady: That's right.
Ron Moon: I know people who've been in, and have ship vehicles into Australia, and four weeks later, they're still waiting for their vehicle. And of course, that's not the real problem. The problem is your visas ticking away, you haven't got accommodation, you're staying at a hotel, and it adds up and the people are in despair by the time, you know, three or four weeks have gone by.
Scott Brady: It's true, and I think it's the one place in the world that I think having a shipping agent is almost a requirement because some of the shipping agents, they have agreements with the Australian Government to be able to certify the vehicle as being- as meeting the requirements for cleanliness. So a person that you're hiring is now held responsible for the outcome and it allows them- because as an individual, you go and you say, Alright, I'm gonna have this custom- this, you know, AG inspection of the vehicle, it fails. Now, it's got to be quarantined for another however many days, seven days, I think at least, whereas this other company can just- they can just keep cleaning it until it passes and then you're off to the races.
Ron Moon: The cleaning bills, you know, $700 to $1,000.
Scott Brady: Every time, it's very expensive, but it works. I mean- and of course, our vehicles were filthy from having done the Road of Bones and everything like that, they were absolutely filthy. We had them cleaned three times in Russia, and they actually did a pretty good job. It's because I had some local folks that I knew well, so they like- I had a relationship with them and they took the time to do it right. Then it still had to be cleaned in Australia, again. Amazing.
Ron Moon: It is, it's a real trap for young players going into that.
Scott Brady: I can't blame Australia for it though, you guys are an island and you have these very sensitive ecosystems. If somebody was to bring in some noxious weed or whatever it could really damage your beautiful country, so.
Ron Moon: Yeah, we've got fire ants in Brisbane now, and they're really trying to spend an awful lot of money trying to get them under control. I met some quarantine people up in Cape York, and we're in a national park and 3 four-wheelers go by, guns on their back. I'm like, Wow, what are they doing? They're not just normal people. You know, there's gotta be something going on. And they were quarantine and they were up there shooting pigs and wild horses and doing blood tests and things like that. They told me then, he said: "The place- there's more quarantine people in Cape York than the rest of any other port in Australia apart from Sydney." Awkward, because we're only 100 kilometers from New Guinea.
Scott Brady: True.
Ron Moon: And he said, if (inaudible) or anything like that comes into Australia, it's going to come through Cape York.
Scott Brady: Yeah, that makes sense.
Ron Moon: And it's gonna cost billions exports.
Scott Brady: Oh, yeah and you're- I mean, the cattle industry is really important in Australia. Alright, so you shipped back into Australia. Now, as I recall, you guys had quite the experience crossing Russia and you're starting to figure out: what are we going to do next? You've been traveling in a Patrol with a roof tent. What were some things that you learned from that first trip? What were the things that you took away that hey, this worked great. And then these are some things that I'd like to change.
Ron Moon: Yeah, look rooftop tents are more and more popular every year in America as they are in Australia, yeah? And I think that came out of Africa more than anywhere else.
Scott Brady: For sure.
Ron Moon: And people don't like sleeping on the ground in Africa.
Scott Brady: Understandably.
Ron Moon: We had a rooftop tent, fairly Australian made one. And it was really good. And it was great for Africa. But you know, you start to find the limitations of that when you're in Siberia. When we got to ship back to Australia, and we thought, well, we'll be inspired to continue our journeys around the world. So I did we take a small camper trailer. And I think one of the other things that is happening, especially in Australia -I don't know whether it's happening in America so much, but certainly in Australia- there is a real thing about GVM. And how much weight you're allowed to carry, and insurance problems. You know, you have an accident and all that stuff. So there's this move across to trailers, camper vans.
Scott Brady: Yeah, because then you have the gross combined vehicle weight rating between the truck and the trailer.
Ron Moon: So there's that movement. And that's one of the big things we were talking about Cape York and one of the big changes. A lot of times- yeah, when we went to Cape York in the 80s, I had an old trailer that I (inaudible) self, you know, got it from out of office, a (inaudible) trailer and a refined it. Land Cruiser wheels and springs and all that sort of stuff. But I was about one of the very few people towing a trailer, now 95% of the vehicles are towing trailers. And it's all because of this thing about weight and all that sort of gear and also people want a whole system.
Scott Brady: Yeah, imagine just going into the bush with just a backpack. I mean, it's like, it works fine, too. You know, you can actually travel very light. But it has definitely been a trend that we have seen as well. So the trucks are getting bigger, full size vehicles are now much more common than they ever have been. And trailers are more common than they ever have been, big trailers even. And so you do gain a whole bunch of comfort, but there are- it's important for people to know, like those that are listening, that there is a huge compromise on the other side.
Ron Moon: Yes, there is!
Scott Brady: You have a lot more expense, you're restricted on where you can go, the vehicle gets very, very heavy, your fuel costs go up, so...
Ron Moon: And the other thing, we had a- my son, who specializes in taking groups with trailers and there's been this, since COVID, especially, a lot of people coming into the market who've never gone four wheel driving, never gone camping. And we've done a trip last year across the desert. Fairly remote country, Gary highway, Gun Barrel, Connie Sue, (inaudible) and roads that are iconic in Australia. Roads, tracks.
Scott Brady: Sure.
Ron Moon: And get these people there, and brand new rigs. Brand new Cruiser, 200 series Cruiser. Brand new camper trailer, probably $300,000 combined expense. I'm talking to him and, How much water you carry? Oh, about 450 liters, 200 gallons. That's almost half a ton!
Scott Brady: That's right. Yeah, 8.33 pounds per gallon. That's heavy.
Ron Moon: So Vehicles, and yeah oh, yeah, that's got about 1600 kilos axel on it. If you hit a bump, 400 kilos of water on board, things bend. We ended up- there was- three vehicles ended up with trailers with bent stub axles and purely because they were carrying too much water.
Scott Brady: That's right, too much weight.
Ron Moon: You got to get that down.
Scott Brady: You really do, and I think that the trip actually improves. The more simple that we keep things, the more the trip improves. Because then you're not spending so much energy on all this stuff you brought along.
Ron Moon: And especially with electronics and-
Scott Brady: So true.
Ron Moon: Man, you guys don't have enough USB ports anymore!
Scott Brady: I know, I know, It's so true, it's so true. So you guys decide that you're going to try a different tactic. South America is next. So what did you guys decide to use in South America? What was your setup?
Ron Moon: Well, we took a GU Patrol and we towed a small camper trailer. And that allowed us to get- friends come in, and they will relegated to the rooftop tent and we stayed in the camper trailer, but it allowed us that and so it sort of made the trip a lot more enjoyable because I really enjoy being out there with friends and sharing the experience and that's- especially when I'm in Australia, where I know the country so well and all, from the history. Yeah, South Africa was just fabulous and the people were fantastic. In fact, we were stopping in one little National Park in Argentina and we hid from people because they were bringing gifts to us, wanting to talk to us.
Scott Brady: They're very friendly.
Ron Moon: Oh, yeah.
Scott Brady: And have you found- I mean, and this is just kind of a fun question to ask but- it seems that Australians are kind of universally loved around the world, there's just something so dang charming about you guys. Have you found that to be true?
Ron Moon: Well, yeah, look, we haven't had any huge problems at all. We get accepted everywhere and I think here in America, we really get accepted, once they know you're an Australian. Yeah, I've had people come up to me and just say things. Thanks for your support, and that sort of thing. So, that's been really real. We just love being in (inaudible), I spent nine months traveling through South America, ended up in North America, came in to Mexico and then into San Diego and LA. At the end of 2011, left our vehicle here, went home for a few months, came back and drove up to Alaska, it was 2012. Well, we've been coming back ever since. Yeah, we couldn't leave our vehicle here, you're not allowed to do that, so after 12 months, we shipped our vehicle back home and we bought a Ram 2500 with a four wheel camper on it, come back for three months every year or so.
Scott Brady: Perfect.
Ron Moon: Yeah, it's just fabulous.
Scott Brady: What do you think of the Ram and the four wheel camper?
Ron Moon: Look, I'm really impressed. I think they're underestimated here as an overland vehicle in Australia. Whether it's my mate who we traveled around the world with, he's got a 250 camper on the back and he's done everything! Across the Sahara. An awful lot in Australia, he's done more in Australia than I ever have, desert trips and things like that. So I reckon they've been underestimated and think we've- Grant Bellow added a little bit to his article on big rigs.
Scott Brady: That's right.
Ron Moon: And my thoughts on that, yeah, they can carry the weight easily and the good thing about having a vehicle like that in the Americans is spare parts and knowledge on how to fix them, things like that.
Scott Brady: Absolutely. And then you do get to add a little bit more of that comfort, you get that kind of quiet place to sleep at the end of the night, you know, you don't have dust in your bed and it does make a big difference. So after having traveled around the world, and I mean, decades now of experience for Viv and you, what do you think are the things that you've learned most, maybe about yourself? First, what kind of things have changed about you after having spent so many years seeing the world?
Ron Moon: I've spent most of it with Viv, so I've become to depend on her in lots of ways. And it's all a compromise.
Scott Brady: It is.
Ron Moon: In equipment and how you relate to other people and stuff like that. And people are always surprised that we live in that for three months at a time sort of thing. And we've had people go God, I'd be divorced if I tried to live with my wife in that for three months.
Scott Brady: How have you guys made that work, then? What have you guys learned together, because you've seen the world together? What have you learned?
Ron Moon: Well, I've mellowed. Believe it or not. My wife is killing herself laughing there. But yeah, I guess the ex military, you sort of grow up, especially when you join the army at 15-16. You get older, the military way.
Scott Brady: That's right.
Ron Moon: And I had to break that a bit, I guess. I ended up a Warrant Officer, class one and researcher telling people what to do. Doesn't work.
Scott Brady: Yeah, when you start telling your family what to do, yeah, it doesn't work.
Ron Moon: So I think the other thing with vehicles, vehicles have become more reliable, problem is when they do break down. They're so complicated. And I remember, we broke down, the old Nissan Patrol had only had one electronic box in it. And that's a security box, 2 key start, and I was really remote country, northwest of Alice Springs, in some Aboriginal land. And drove in to photograph Iswata Hole, jumped out, got the photographs, jumped back in the car, hit the start. I thought the motor turned over! That sounds fuel. We go looking it up on the satphone to my mate at a server, saying (inaudible), there's an electronic box in there that sends some codes to the (inaudible), so then I rang Viv and said, Okay, this is where we are. And that's the first time in 40 odd years that I've ever been recovered by somebody.
Scott Brady: That's amazing!
Ron Moon: So that electronic box, when I got back to back to civilization, ripped that box out, just put 12 bolts into that fuel pump!
Scott Brady: There you go! Exactly, yeah, you want to turn the key and hear things happen.
Ron Moon: That's it. That's it.
Scott Brady: That's interesting. You know, one of the things that we always like to ask, and you've written many books yourself, but one of the questions that we always like to ask are what are the books that you've read in your life that you think have been the most impactful for you as a person and for you as a traveler?
Ron Moon: In Australia, I think the books by Len Beadell on those roads that he built out the Western business, which I'm going out to again, in a couple of weeks time, it's been (inaudible) out there taking people around. I mean, those books, just bring that sort of stuff to life, and it was a different time back then, it was. And Aboriginal people now have ownership over much of that land, (inaudible). But still the tracks are there, and the history is there, and all that sort of stuff. So that was really good. Really cool. And then look, I read an awful lot. I've read a lot of Australian history, and I come to America, American history. Kickass.
Scott Brady: Yeah, sure. Fascinating.
Ron Moon: Yeah, we grew up with that in Australia, as you know, as young kids of cowboys and indians and things like Lewis and Clark, we sure enjoy the Lewis and Clark stories. And that prompts us to travel in America. And yeah, it's a similar thing is in Australia, Burke Wilson said, going back to my great, great grandfather, he went with Sturt in the 1844-45 expedition to Central Australia. So I sort of relate to that. And my grandfather, he rode Pony Express on the central Australian route telegraph line before the ends were connected, so, you know, I've got a bit of history going back into that. Sort of provides me with the impetus to go and see that, travel in those footsteps, I guess. I like following in the footsteps of explorers, it's this tangible sense of history. And you would know, too, from going to the Canning Stock route, you can touch history.
Scott Brady: You can, those wells and everything else is fascinating. Absolutely incredible, really beautiful. And then one of the other things that we like to ask, if you were to sit down to have lunch with someone that was getting ready to go off and go into the world like you and Viv have and go cross Russia or to go up Africa or whatever, what would be the top pieces of advice you would give them? What would be the things that you would want to make sure that they understood?
Ron Moon: Well, I think I think one of the things, and I'm sure you would have said the same, too, is you don't have to get carried away with the equipment. Just step back a bit. People say oh, what vehicle should I have? And I say well, what vehicle you got? They'll go, oh a jeep, i go, why not? Just jump in that and go. I remember we met two young- couple in Argentina, little Toyota Corolla, roof rack on top, loaded to the gunnels. And they were setting off for Alaska! 20 year old vehicle, if it broke down it didn't really matter, cause they couldn't repair it. And I think you've got to have that love of that and it's not money or that it's motivation to get you started out, get you out there. And then I say to people, don't keep saying I'm going to do that one day, set a date. If it's a weekend trip, set it for two weeks time or three weeks time. If it's a month long trip set up for six months. If it's a trip around the world go, I'm gonna, shill on the 15th of June, 2023 and then work towards that. Get the cat sorted out, get the garden sorted out, whatever it takes. Sure, but don't keep saying I'm gonna do that one day, 'cause you won't do it. Set a date.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it's amazing how we'll continue to give up on our dreams to satisfy whatever is interesting today, maybe on social media or whatever. Which if we- you can think about the amount of time people spend on, let's call it Facebook. If you could get back all of that time, you'd have the vehicle built, you'd have your route planned, you've probably made some more money because you've had more time at work. And next thing you know, you're off to go actually see the world instead of seeing other people do it.
Ron Moon: Very true. Yeah, that's, yeah, get out there and do it, pick up a map. And I mean, facebook and all that sort of stuff is great for keeping in touch with people, don't get too carried away with it. I mean, I'd hate to be starting off as a prospective journalist, or almost just a writer. And today, the forces of- you've got to have a multimedia presence and on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram and all that sort of stuff. And we do a bit on Facebook, and we do a bit on Instagram to make a living out of it.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it's, it's a tall order, isn't it?
Ron Moon: Lots of people out there trying it, and a lot sell their soul to lowest bidder. Just to get a set of tires or whatever.
Scott Brady: Just buy the tires, yeah, absolutely. Ron, thank you so much for being here in Prescott, for taking some time out of your busy schedule. Thanks to your wife Viv, as well for allowing this to all happen and for putting up with you going around the world. I got a nod from her just now. A big nod. You've inspired generations. And you should be very proud of the things that you guys have done, the quality of work that you've done. We're so grateful that your content has been in Overland Journal and on Expedition Portal and we've been able to share that with our audience as well. How do people find out more about you and Viv and what you're doing? How do they find you in the social world?
Ron Moon: Our major website is guidebooks.com.au, au for Australia. And then we have dirtroaddiaries.com.au And then there's Facebook, Ron Moon. And then there's Remote Australia, Ron and Viv Moon's remote Australia Facebook page, and that's really Australian stuff.
Scott Brady: Okay, how about on Instagram, how do they find you on Instagram?
Ron Moon: I don't even know my Instagram.
Scott Brady: I want to be like Ron when I grow up!
Ron Moon: Yeah, can't remember.
Scott Brady: It's okay, they can probably search Ron Moon on there.
Ron Moon: It's on there, I mean, if you search Ron and Viv Moon Austrailia, you'll get a few hits and stuff. Like I said, going back on the station. Yeah, like motivating people go out have a luxury and there's no better way of doing that on a motorbike or four wheel drive going out and camping or whatever.
Scott Brady: Inflatable Kayak. For sure. No, and you've done that, you've motivated so many people to see Australia and to see the world, Ron. So thank you so much for spending the time with me today. We're grateful to have you on the podcast and I look forward to hearing what you're up to next. In fact, that is the question. Where are you guys going next?
Ron Moon: We're back to Australia next Monday. I'll be heading out of the desert country, running a trip from the sun across some of the bomb roads of (inaudible) and coast to coast, we call it. We go from the southern coast to the northwest coast of Australia. And that's three weeks of remote country.
Scott Brady: Fantastic.
Ron Moon: Yeah, it's fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. About 800-900 miles between Aboriginal communities. You know what it's like.
Scott Brady: Fantastic.
Ron Moon: Fantastic. Yeah, that'll be the first trip. I'll come back. Viv will be spending some time with her parents while I'm out and then we'll head bush and go up to northwestern New South Wales. It's has had a lot of rain through there, 10 year droughts broken. All the lakes are full, birds have moved in.
Scott Brady: Fantastic.
Ron Moon: It should be fantastic.
Scott Brady: Well, that's great. Well, Ron, thank you so much, again, for being on the podcast.
Ron Moon: Thanks for having us!
Scott Brady: You bet. And we thank you all for listening, and we'll talk to you next time!