Show Notes for Podcast #2
Overlanding Australia :: With Rob Boegheim
With special guest Rob Boegheim of HEMA Maps, we discuss the wonder of overland travel in Australia, including favorite destinations, and tips and tricks for exploring AU.
20 Things You’ll Learn Driving Across Australia
Why 4x4s Are Better In Australia
Driving Australia’s Most Challenging Off-Road Trail (By Matt Scott)
Transcript of Podcast
Scott: Hello and welcome to The Overland Journal Podcast. I’m Scott Brady, your host and I’m here with my co host, Matt Scott. What’s going on Matt?
Matt: You know what? We’re just wrapping up with Overland Expo, I think it was a really great show. So yeah, things are really good.
Scott: Awesome, and we have our guest today. We’ve got Rob Boeheim from Australia, and that’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to talk about Australia. We’re going to talk about traveling in Australia and we’re going to discuss what it takes a vehicle into the country, what it takes to buy a vehicle in country, top places to visit, some resources that you need, some things to be mindful of when you’re traveling through the country. But I’ve known Rob for a long time, over a decade now. I met him at the Outdoor Retailer show, totally by accident. He’s become a long time friend, and someone that I trust completely with anything around Australia. And the reason for that is Rob and his family are the founders of the Hema Maps company in Australia, which is the preeminent mapping tool for Australians. It’s available in print and as digital assets on GPS units, apps, etc. And because of that, Rob has an enormous amount of experience traveling around the country. In fact, they started this very cool project decades ago. How long ago was the first map patrol?
Scott: And what kind of vehicle did you use for the first map patrol?
Rob: A Nissan Patrol 4.2 liter turbo diesel, pretty much unbreakable. We were out there making maps, I had been researching maps for the GPS since 1996. One of the first people to get out there with a GPS and a laptop and just go drive the road. There was no better way to get the information.
Scott: And how many kilometers do you think you have driven and mapped on patrols around Australia? Have you ever figured that out?
Rob: Yeah, a few times Scott. And thanks so much for having me here today. It’s just such a pleasure to be a part of the overland community globally. I think it’s probably a couple hundred thousand kilometers at least. What’s that, a hundred something thousand miles? And that’s an actual map recording. So, that’s the hardcore mapping part of it. That’s not just the transit part.
Scott: That’s incredible.
Rob: I’ve been to pretty much all over Australia, all the different corners. And to probably some of the most remote and unique places that anyone would ever go, and probably hardly anyone has hardly gone. And that was always something that drove me to go down trails that no one had ever been down before and put them on a map. So that other people could come and discover them for themselves.
Scott: And you’re here in America with us at the Overland Expo East. And before we get into the fun stuff on Australia, what do you think of the show so far? What’s the one thing you’d want to buy personally? Or what vehicle you’d like to steal the title to?
Rob: Oh that’s a hard one. I’ve been eyeing up these Sportsmobiles for a little while.
Matt: They are pretty cool.
Rob: I guess the concept of just traveling independently, without a trailer, with everything there. But not yet for me. I’ve got to get my four kids through highschool first. Then we won’t have to take them with us anymore, I’ll just travel with my wife.
Scott: And that would be great. And in Australia, you’ve built out 200 Series Land Cruisers and 70 Series Land Cruisers, and Nissan Patrols. When someone is thinking about renting a vehicle in Australia, what would you typically recommend that they hire?
Rob: I would start with looking at what the Australians generally use on outback trips, and make sure you can rent one of those. But that’s already in place with companies like Britz In Australia (www.britz.com/au), as long as I can remember they’ve been renting out Toyota Troop Carriers. So, definitely something with a Toyota badge. You see so many Toyotas in Australia, typically the Land Cruisers and the like, that you’d think they were made there. And Toyota’s got a fantastic reputation. Just about every ranch or station owner’s got a Toyota of some sort. If you’re going to get into trouble out there, then nine times out of ten you’re going to be able to find the parts really easily, the local country town garage, they’ll have something in their store, or somebody driving by, or an old wrecked car in the back. So definitely a Toyota. Probably beyond that, anything Japanese made. They just seem to handle all of the rugged terrain, the dust and have just really great touring setups.
Scott: Yeah, it’s interesting to see, because it is definitely Toyota country.
Matt: Yeah, 100%.
Scott: In Australia, and Matt, you lived in Australia. Tell us a little bit about your time in Australia. How long were you there? What were some of the places that you traveled?
Matt: So, I was there for a year. I was there running a magazine. I was the only American to be an editor of a major four wheel drive magazine down there. I ran Unsealed 4X4 for a bit, and kind of helped grow that, contribute to that. I guess I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I actually lived there, and I did, I think, the things that Australians do. I’ve done most of the eastern half of Australia pretty comprehensively. Americans, I think they always say, they get like Red Fever, they want to go to Uluru. They want to do the Simpson Desert, you know, that’s their image of the outback. But there’s so much to Australia, like, I’m obsessed with Cape York, personally. I mean that is, to me, I think it’s the best of Australia.
Scott: Yeah, you move from the desert, to subtropical, to full blown tropical rain forest jungle.
Scott: When you get up to the north, I remember how beautiful it was driving up there. And then, one place I’ve not been, that I’ve heard so many great things about, is the Kimberley.
Matt: Oh man, that’s on my list.
Rob: Yep. If that’s on your list, you have to go. It’s at the top of my list.
Matt: I think you and I like passed each other once while you were heading into the Kimberley.
Rob: Yep, I love the Kimberley so much. I mean, I spent many years mapping there, you know over a time. I loved it so much that several years ago I took my wife, whole family with a camper trailer in a 200 Series Land Cruiser. You know, four kids, wife, and we went up to the Kimberley for four weeks. Because I’d blown through there pretty quickly, making maps. You know, you’re in there for two weeks, you work twelve, fourteen hours a day. You didn’t have time to stop and enjoy the places. So, we went back there for a whole month. I knew all of the jewels, I knew of all of the places to spend time. So we spent five days in my favorite spot in the Bunga Bunga Purnululu, the most amazing geological formation. We did a full hike, you know a full day with the kids. It was just one of the best family experiences of my life so far.
Matt: And I guess for those of you that don’t know where the Kimberley’s are, that’s in the far northwestern corner of Australia. It’s arguably, probably the most remote portion of Australia, I mean I guess you could say.
Rob: The area is huge. I mean, there’s probably, maybe twenty thousand people at the most in an area the size of the state of Victoria, where there’s six million people in Australia. It’s still frontier country. Wouldn't want to be there in the tropics when the cyclones come in, you know the whole place shuts down. It’s really remote, gorgeous. Some of them you can only get to by boat, or helicopter. It’s just a spectacular place.
Scott: Is that were that, what do you call that?
Matt: Vertical Falls?
Scott: Yeah, Vertical Falls?
Rob: Horizontal Falls.
Scott & Matt: Horizontal Falls.
Rob: So they have about an eight meter tide, you can work out what that is in feet.
Matt: A lot.
Rob: But it runs at least once a day, can’t remember if it’s twice. The tidal flow through this, maybe no more than a 100ft wide gap is so strong, that yeah, they call it Horizontal Waterfall. You can only get there by plane or boat.
Scott: Wow. And that was what I noticed about my travels in Australia. I’ve been fortunate to cross it East-West and North-South, all the way to the tip of Tazmania, but what you do realize is that you can get extremely remote. There are tracks that are very popular. You know, you’ll see a lot of people on them. When I did the Canning Stock Route, I didn’t encounter a single individual until we got to the Kunawarritji, in the center of the track. There were no people at all. No, even, tracks on the ground. You couldn’t see imprints of tires, even from vehicles that had come before.
Rob: Well that’s the great thing about the deserts in Australia, they’ll kind of self heal over the summer because nobody drives there over that six months. So the wind blows and cleans that track up again, so it’s nice and fresh for the next season. So, yeah out mapping out that way, Great Sandy Desert is some of the most isolated. You know, we talk about self driven vehicles, or journies. I’ve been out there, single vehicle, nothing but my Nissan Patrol, and my mate riding shotgun in the passenger seat to rely on. And I’ve driven on tracks that weren't on any map for a whole week, without seeing another vehicle, not another soul. And I came into the local station and went, “Woah, civilization!”, without the realization that I’d been that much removed from seeing any other person, except for the friend next to me. And, being bogged for twenty four hours in the middle of a clay pen, in the wet, on a track that wasn’t on the map going, “Oh, how do we get out of this?” So, it’s not what you’re going to do on every trip. And the Kimberley is just one of those amazing jewels. It’s probably for me, there’s the top five being the Kimberely, Cape York you talked about, Fraser Island, world heritage, largest sand island in the world, about eighty miles long. It’s made entirely of sand and has some of the most amazing...
Matt: I highly recommend to not go to Fraser Island, because it will ruin all other beaches for you for the rest of eternity. Everything else is disappointing.
Scott: And you can camp, right on the beach.
Scott: You can drive, right on the beach.
Scott: The only thing you have to be careful of is they actually do set up cops with radar guns on Fraser Island, because it’s easy to do 100 Kilometers an hour on that hard pack sand.
Rob: Yeah, my friend’s one of them so… Whenever I have friends coming in, I let him know they’re coming, and he usually gives them a fake ticket. But yeah, there’s places on Fraser Island that I don’t tell anyone about because it’s just so special and nobody goes there. But, you’ve got beautiful subtropical rainforests growing on sand and crystal clear lakes.
Scott: Yeah, we were there together, I remember that, Rob. That was 2011, right?
Scott: So what are the others in your top five?
Rob: That was three, I guess the other two are really any desert area, my favorite is the Great Sandy Desert, but that takes a lot of planning. The most common one, as you guys have mentioned, is the Simpson Desert. You know, they’ve got a thousand sand dunes to cross. You can spend three days doing it, or you can spend two weeks doing it. And as soon as you get off on a side track there, a big clay panel on your own, there are a million, million stars.
MAtt: You somewhat recently were the first to actually map the Madigan Line, like put it in data, I believe, right?
Rob: Yeah, Hema was. I didn’t get to do that one personally, but our team went out there and mapped it all out. And you know that was the heart of our whole Great Desert Track series that was inspired by my father. Back in 1998 we were making maps all around the outback areas on the coast. I had him doing a field trip over on the west coast, like they’d always done before. I wanted to go down roads we’d never been down before. I thought, “How do we get from the west coast to the East Coast and do it safely on a map?” And there wasn’t a decent map, so they came back and said, “Rob, we’re going to make a map of the whole interior of Australia.” So, yeah, well then we spent the next six months driving every road and track out there and putting it on a map. So we had the compasses to go there, but that started to unlock the whole heart of Australia in terms of those remote tracks because people had confidence in the map to take them places that they had never been before. So yeah, Simpson Desert, number four. I don’t know, I probably changed my number five. Lately it probably, definitely was the Flinders Ranges. I spent a bit of time in Tasmania recently.
Scott: That’s beautiful.
Rob: It’s a very, very special place.
Matt: That’s on my list.
Rob: Lot’s of great four wheel driving down there, beautiful wilderness sites to do. Always accessible, people are really friendly. You know, the other one for the Australians is the high country, Victorian High Country, but I think for North Americans that’s about twenty five percent of the size of the mountains you get to drive on around here. And having driven…
Matt: It has phenomenal access to those mountains.
Rob: It does.
Matt: And that’s the cool thing, is there’s so many roads, so many remote villages.
Rob: And you know, you can spend months traveling down the east coast of Australia with all sorts of access roads to the local beaches and campsites. For about two thousand miles around the coast, beautiful beaches, rocky headlands, campsite all to yourself.
Scott: And just remember, when you go to a beach in Australia, do some research, because there may be half a dozen different things that could eat you, or sting you, or kill you.
Matt: Just don’t go in the water.
Scott: Kill you in some matter. I mean they have the box jellyfish, giant crocs in the North.
Matt: But on a patrolled beach in Australia with, you know, surf lifesavers, there hasn’t been a fatality in quite some time, I want to say, right? Like, where you can swim, it’s relatively safe.
Rob: Well, where you can swim is relatively safe. I’m not sure about our fatalities. We hear about them each year, sadly. But it's usually an international visitor that’s not aware of the local conditions. So yeah, but the crocodiles, box jellyfish, that’s just stuff we put on tourist brochures to keep the people out so we’ve got the country all to ourselves.
Scott: As you should.
Rob: I mean, how else do you think we got twenty something million people in a country the size of the US?
Scott: So for those that are listening and want to travel to Australia, there’s essentially three ways to do that. You can ship your own vehicle from the US, or from wherever you live, by container. I shipped into Australia one time from Vladivostok and Magadan in Russia. But, being mindful of that, we’ll talk about that in a second. The next thing you can do is rent a vehicle, which Rob spoke to, to some degree. And the third thing you can do is purchase a vehicle in country, but let’s talk about that first. Matt, when you were there, you bought a vehicle, you bought a Troopy.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, I had a Land Cruiser Troop Carrier, and I think that for a lot of Americans that’s the epitome of a really unobtainable vehicle. So, it was that or a Defender. You know, and as Rob eluded to, it really is Toyota country. You know, I think there’s a lot going for purchasing a vehicle in Australia.
Rob: I’d agree.
Matt: My usual rule is, you got to be there for a few months, right? Because there are costs associated with it. You know, my best recommendation to people is, go over there, travel, buy something, just make sure you buy something that’s twenty five years old, because then you can bring it back as a souvenir. And if you’re smart, you can probably pay for your trip. The cool thing is with Australia, some Americans say it’s stupid, but there are very comprehensive vehicle inspections in Australia. I mean Queensland is crazy. I sold my vehicle in Queensland, and I had to provide a ‘blue slip’, I want to say?
Rob: Yeah, well, a Roadworthy Certificate.
Matt: A Roadworthy Certificate. You actually can’t sell a vehicle in some states…
Rob: Without that one hundred point safety check, yeah.
Matt: Yeah, I mean imagine a tail light lense in an old car, and you over tighten that little phillips socket, and you get the tiniest bit of spider cracking on that tail light lense, and they defected me for that.
Matt: Yeah, so I mean, I always advocate buying in Queensland for that reason. Because, even though I lived in New South Wales in the Blue Mountains, the Roadworthy checks and everything in Queensland are crazy, but what that means for you, in buying a sight unseen vehicle, that has a Roadworthy certificate, in my opinion, there’s a certain level of comfort there. Because it’s provided by a third party, independent, impartial mechanic that just really has to tick off these boxes, and I think it’s a good indicator of that vehicle’s health. You know, you definitely don’t want to buy four wheel drives from Hervey Bay, which is…
Rob: Just near Fraser Island, yeah.
Matt: So they are all, you know, they’ve been run up the beach with salt water and stuff a lot. So if you can get vehicles from the interior of the country, I think that’s always a really good option.
Scott: And how much did that 70 Series cost?
Matt: I want to say at the time it was around $12,000 AUS, and it was a 1997. I was there with the intention that I was going to stay there quite a while, but we decided to come back. It was relatively well sorted like we had the motor kind of, gone through, diesel naturally aspirated, we had the injectors rebuilt and had it tuned down at Berrima Diesel. It was flawless, like, that thing when we sold it, then went across Australia another half a dozen times. So, it’s actually funny, but it lives currently next to your sister’s house.
Rob: Oh really?
Matt: Literally, the house next door, they ended up buying it. Troy sends me a photo, and there’s Snoopy. Snoopy was my Troopy’s name. It’s kind of cool how these vehicles go around.
Scott: That’s so cool.
Rob: They keep their story.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. So there’s a lot of great Facebook pages where you can buy vehicles. If you want to buy a Troopy, there is a page, ‘Troopcarriers of Australia’. They have a separate place where you can actually buy and sell stuff. I think that’s where you get a lot of the good stuff these days. Then there’s ‘Gumtree’, which is basically the equivalent of our Cragslist. It’s a little bit more formal, I would like to say.
Rob: Yep, and then www.carsales.com.au.
Matt: Yeah, Car Sales. I mean, I highly recommend it. For us actually owning a vehicle I think really added to the experience. I think, as we’ll talk about with shipping a vehicle in. I’ve had friends who have shipped vehicles in. I mean Scott’s vehicle that they shipped in for Expedition 7. I mean, that was a New Zealand spec vehicle, it was very appropriate for Australia. I would, I guess, just caution sending certain vehicles down there. I mean, depending on where you’re going to go, like, make sure they sell that vehicle in Australia. I think that that’s pretty key. You may actually run into scenarios where they may not have, like Mount Dare sometimes doesn’t have petrol, or gasoline. So, you’re going to have to carry a lot of weight with you if you want to do some desert.
Rob: Yeah, definitely take something down that’s diesel.
Matt: Yeah. And it’s an opportunity to…
Scott: To try something new.
Matt: To try something new. It will cost you, in my assumption, with my day job, I'm constantly shipping containers from Australia. I know what it costs, I know what the port fees are in Australia. Scott, you’ve alluded to the fact that the quarantine scenario is crazy. I have friends that have spent an excess of $20,000 USD getting a vehicle from a port in the US to a port in Australia and back.
Matt: Yeah, and that’s a sunk cost. That’s gone. You’re not getting it back. Where, even take half of that, you don’t even have to get the vehicle back home, you can buy something.
Rob: And the other challenge you’ve got with that is the quarantine restrictions in Australia. You know, if it’s got any kind of bugs, or seeds, or grass, or dirt on it.
Matt: They’ll send it back.
Rob: Then they’ll send it back. Or they’ll impound it and charge you lots of fees to clean it.
Matt: And anyone can buy a vehicle in Australia. You just have to have an address, which I think for most overland travelers would be a relatively easy thing to do. People you meet, a hostel address, somewhere you can receive mail. You just have to be in Australia legally. Which means, essentially, if you haven’t overstayed your visa.
Matt: And your driving license is valid.
Rob: And if you buy a good quality vehicle, like a Toyota, and do 10,000km on a round trip of Australia, at worse you might sell it for $5,000 less than you bought it for. And it’s probably not even that.
Matt: And you can find stuff.
Rob: If you buy well, you may even sell it for the same price, because those Land Cruisers, and Toyotas in general just hold their value so, so well.
Matt: You can find stuff that’s completely outfitted very, very easily. So, you can essentially fly in, maybe spend a few days making those personal modifications you want. There’s a lot of four wheel drive shops that will do precheck, pre trip maintenance for you, inspections, I mean it’s really well set up for doing that there. There is actually a culture of backpacker cars there, which you should avoid.
Rob: One of the other things to watch is just the simple things like fuses. The local gas station in the outback of Australia probably won't have the fuse that you need for your truck. And maybe the suspension is not really set up for that level of endurance on washboard corrugations on off road.
Scott: Yeah, I found people ask, “How are the roads in Australia, and how do they compare to the roads in the US?” And I typically relate it to, we have the opportunity to, in the US, to do recreational overlanding. Which means that we can go seek out very difficult routes, that maybe only last a day or two of very technical terrain, like you’d find in Moab. And it’s not to say Australia doesn’t have technical terrain, because it does, but what you experience in Australia is abusive roads. So the corrugations that you’ll experience are extremely abusive to the vehicle. So, what would work well here, like let’s say a four-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, would work really well for those remote, technical routes that we would do in the US. If you try to take a Wrangler across the Udinana Track or anything that is heavily corrugated, I don’t know how it would survive. They’re just not designed for that kind of condition. And because of that, Jeep Wranglers, don’t sell well to those traveling in the center of Australia. They do sell in Australia, but they don’t use them for that purpose.
Matt: I mean, I do in Jeep’s defense, I think the new ones are in a different category, but they don’t really sell well. And again, Toyota country.
Scott: Yep, absolutely.
Rob: A long wheelbase helps some of the vehicles, like the Gladiator, looks a lot more suitable. Nice wide stance, nice long wheelbase. And, assuming it’s made as strong as the Toyota, then you’ll go fine.
Matt: I think it’s all about durability in Australia.
Scott: It really is.
Matt: The way you would build a vehicle here, you’d be crazy to take a heim joint, long arm suspension setup down to australia, in my opinion. You’re going to blow through heim joints in a trip. You want, I keep saying that this this weekend, you want factory bushings, you want stuff that has real durability to it. You know, all of the failures we experienced in our trip, they weren’t major failures, but they were all related to corrugation. You know, a shock mount coming off, a bushing, or a sway bar or something, literally just rattling loose.
Matt: I mean, I have a photo somewhere of putting a beer can in between the corrugations, and I took a photo and you can, like, just see the top of it. I mean, they are massive. Because they get these road trains that come through here and some of the areas are just a lot of recreational four wheel drive touring traffic.
Rob: And the rocks on the road, I mean they’ve just been waiting there for eons to puncture somebody’s unsuspecting tire.
Scott: And we have to remember too, that most people that will be traveling to Australia do not drive a right hand drive vehicle. So when you’re traveling in the backcountry, you will tend to start to favor the center, or the crown of the road, because it’s easier to drive on. But remember, when you come to those blind crests, that you need to get over to the left side of the road so that you don’t do a head-on with the other person that is going to the right side of the road, from the other way. So you have to be really careful with that, because our natural instinct is, those of us who drive left hand drives, is to swerve one way. Because that’s what our muscle memory tells us to do. So we have to be very mindful when we travel in a country that drives on a different side of the road. And then after you’ve been on the dirt for days, you’re going to get on the highway and half of the people I’ve traveled with, they just pull out on the wrong side of the road.
Matt: I get screwed up in parking lots. Like, there’s really no rules in the parking lot, and that’s what always gets me. You make the mistake in the parking lot, and then you continue it out on the road.
Rob: But to those points, if you’re looking to buy a vehicle down there, then be looking for something with decent suspension, good quality tires, because your tires can quickly destroy your trip. Make sure you’ve got a decent tire gauge, with the best insurance for your tires. But protection equipment, roll bars, side bars, particularly bull bars on the front, rear bars, absolutely critical. Especially if you are planning on doing any night time travel, or in the dawn or dusk. It can be anywhere in Australia and anything from a kangaroo, or a mob of kangaroos, or an emu, or an eight hundred pound black cow at night that walks out on the road, maybe even a camel. These animals, we have lots and lots of them, and they are beautiful, but they can destroy your trip pretty quickly.
Scott: You and I were driving along the Great Australian Bight, Rob was driving. I can’t remember, I was maybe listening to a book, or podcast, or something. And then it sounded like the truck exploded. We got hit by a kangaroo in the driver’s side door. It’s amazing to me that this animal, it actually ran into us! It was fine! It would have been okay if it just stopped, but it literally ran right into the side of the vehicle.
Matt: That’s crazy.
Scott: And of course the poor thing perished because of it. Which is really hard to experience. I remember the first time I went to Australia, I was driving from Bisbane down toward Sydney, you know, I was so excited to see a kangaroo. And I saw lots of kangaroos, but none of them were alive, they were all dead on the road. And finally after five days, I finally saw my first live kangaroo, and they are absolutely adorable creatures, they are incredible. They are incredible to watch hop and run.
Matt: They are really cool.
Scott: They are extremely, extremely cool.
Rob: Don’t feel bad about killing one or two, save yourself first. Just drive your car and brake straight, because we’ve got plenty more. They’ll regrow.
Matt: And this shouldn’t intimidate you from going to Australia, I know we’ve talked about the box jellyfish, and the great whites, and the super spiders, and snakes, and everything. I don’t know, if you’re a traveler in the American Southwest, there's probably as many things that can kill you here. Whenever I have this conversation with Australians, they’re like, “You guys have mountain lions, you guys have grizzly bears, you have black bears, you have great whites too, you have the jellies too. You have the snakes and the spiders.” I mean, honestly I have spent a pretty good amount of time camping in the middle of nowhere Australia, and the amount of times I’ve seen snakes or spiders, is pretty rare. I mean, I think here those animals kind of do encroach on you, because we’ve encroached on so much of their habitat. You know, in Australia, I guess I would say why would a snake really want to be by the road when they have a million acres of undisturbed habitat.
Rob: Just watch out for the drop bears.
Matt: Yeah, the drop bears.
Rob: Especially on Fraser Island.
Scott: Those are really dangerous. Yeah, do your research folks. Be safe out there. You know, we talk about planning a trip to Australia, Rob, what would you recommend? What are some good resources to get information on traveling in Australia? What are some great websites to look at? Obviously there are several mapping choices. Hema is, in my opinion, is one of the best out there, and the one that I use. It does require a little bit more planning because it’s so easy to either get lost, or to get stranded. It’s really a good idea to have a plan for how much fuel you’re going to need, where there’s going to be service. So, how would you recommend people start to plan for their trip?
Rob: Yeah, I’d spend some time on websites, like you’re talking about, www.hemamaps.com is great. But that’s probably more of maybe a secondary thing, when you’ve figured out where you want to go and you want the map products. There’s a wonderful website in Australia called www.exploras.com. It’s really a community built site, community content from hundreds of thousands of explorers that have driven the trail and posted up the trial, got information and photographs and the like. You can even purchase vehicles or do online trading through there. Heaps of information about how to prepare for your trip, even some of the major media organizations like Camper Trailers Australia, Unsealed 4X4 that Matt used to work with. But probably be aware that in a lot of those cases, the travel articles, really are about attracting the eyeballs. You know, to get people to click through. And it’s probably some of the community driven sites like exploras.com.
Matt: Yeah, 100%.
Rob: Which are much better, because you’re getting authentic information from travelers that have got no agenda to promote a pretty clear area.
Matt: I’m always a bit sceptical of Australian media, there’s a lot of pay-to-play stuff out there
Rob: And a lot of forums, like Prado.com
Matt: Yeah, pradopoint, and 4X4Earth.
Rob: Yeah, 4X4Earth is a great one. And then you’ll connect through to real users, the real vehicles. Ask them about issues they’ve had with your vehicles.
Matt: And the Facebook groups too, once you do buy a vehicle, can be a huge, huge resource.
Rob: Yeah, so do your homework online. And, in terms of guidebooks and maps, you can buy them when you get there. Most of the local gas stations have something. Or check out something like MapWorld.com.au and ship it overseas. But a number of the Australian products, the best Australian products are available, even on Amazon.com now and through a European website called Crownen? *** 31.11. But I’d say to leave most of that until you actually get there. In terms of paper product, hard books. Definitely worth having some kind of digital navigation, but make sure it’s completely offline. All the Hema maps are offline, but there’s a number of others available. Because, it’s a misnomer that you actually need a cellphone signal to get a GPS in your phone, it’s actually in the hardware. Your mobile phone, or your ipad, the GPS will run from that for weeks and weeks in the outback without ever getting a mobile phone connection.
Scott: That’s right. It works great.
Rob: You just have got to get your maps offline, or get a dedicated a GPS.
Matt: I still have my Hema maps app that I, you know, when I’m writing a story or something, I have all of the tracking on and I can see exactly where I went. It actually makes it kind of a cool story.
Rob: Yeah, for about $60 USD, use it on five devices, all offline. So that’s a great way to go. You can look at a dedicated GPS like the Hema Navigator, or the new Garmin Overlander. One of the special arrangements I was able to make in the last couple of years is getting Hema Maps fully onto Garmin units. So, all of the Garmin GPS devices, which are fantastic devices, they’re now available with Hema Maps offline.
Matt: That’s cool.
Scott: That’s a big deal.
Matt: I didn’t know that.
Scott: Because then you have the reliability of the Garmin units.
Scott: They are designed to reliably record tracks.
Rob: And with the reliability with the Hema Maps. Another great resource, there’s so much free camping, there’s an app called Camps Australia Wide, which is an incredible reference guide.
Matt: It’s a massive book too, right?
Rob: Yeah, and it’s available in an app. There’s also a cheaper one called WikiCamps, not quite as accurate, but it’s a user community. There’s thousands of thousands of free campsites in Australia in some beautiful locations.
Matt: We used WikiCamps quite a bit, but we did find a few that were a little bit sketchy. You know, places that people were saying were fine to camp, but actually the local council said no camping.
Scott: Cool, and if you were to recommend, like, if someone had two weeks to go to Australia, which is the typical American vacation, if you had two weeks, where should they fly into? Where would you recommend that they go? Give someone, like, an oversight of what they would experience along the way.
Rob: Well maybe I’ll give you three options. One, you would fly into Brisbane, in Queensland, hire a (hireimbick?) *** 33:50 in Brisbane, get a Land Cruiser and take it up to Fraser Island for two weeks and have a most spectacular time out on your own on the beach, enjoying that. You could fly into Cains, hire a Toyota Land Cruiser again, and some of them you can get set up with rooftop campers and the like. Two weeks easy out of Cains to the tip of Cape York, top of Australia and back. Normally if you get a rental, then some of the most extreme tracks that you see on YouTube, on the old Telegraph Track, they won’t let you. So there are some companies that’ll say if it’s on a Hema Map, you can go there, and if it’s not, then you can’t. So, that gives you a lot of place to go. Yeah, I think beyond that, I guess the other places like fly into Alice Springs if you want to do the Red Centre. Unfortunately for people that want to climb Uluru, that finishes at the end of this month, that’s done.
Scott: Yeah, that’s right. That’s done out of respect to the Aboriginal People.
Rob: It’s always been their preference.
Scott: That was their wish, yeah.
Rob: They got their wish, but it’s a fabulous place to visit.
Scott: Still, so worth it.
Matt: It’s really well set up.
Scott: So worth it.
Rob: And Kings Canyon, you can walk around, you know, the Simpson Desert, it’s only a days drive east of there. You can drive across.
Matt: The MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon, it’s actually one of our favorite areas in Australia.
Rob: Pretty special, the whole red center.
Scott: Yeah, really great. Well Rob, what other advice would you give as we start to wrap up here? If you had to, kind of shotgun some things for people to think about before they travel to Australia? How they should be prepared. Obviously look, do some research on the CDC, make sure you have the inoculations that you need, that’s really important before you go into any country. Make sure you do some research on what you need for healthcare. What you need for evacuation insurance, if you need to get out of an area in the middle of the country. Do some research before you leave. But what are some other things that you’d like to just add in closing?
Rob: Yeah, I think, you’ve known me long enough Scott, that I’m very much about this, but the most important thing is to just go. You want to be well prepared, but don’t think you’ve got to have this, or to know how to tackle a crocodile. The important thing is to be committed to going, and to have the courage to go, because there is so much of it you can figure out on the ground. Vehicle choice is important, like any overlanding trip or four wheel driving trip, it’s the basics of how you’re planning that. Simple things like having a tire gauge to manage your tire pressures, decent tires, decent simple camping equipment, you know, keep it simple. You don’t need all the gear, generally the climatic conditions are just fabulous, especially in the outback in the summer.
Scott: Yeah, they really are.
Rob: Yeah, I don’t even take a raincoat. You’ve got to be prepared for freezing at night sometimes, but you know you can plan for three or four months of the year when it’s dry weather. You know, keep it simple. You might not even need anything more than just a cooler box full, you know, keeping things cool. Do your research, make some friends online. They’ll get to know you, welcome you, and they’re going to say, “Hey! When you come over, come by and I’ll show you around the vehicle and tell you what places to go.” That’s so easy to do now.
Scott: Yeah, for sure.
Rob: Take a good camera, or a good phone and be ready for, you know, the other thing I say to people traveling in Australia is, just expect the unexpected. And that’s one of the, some of the most amazing experiences are the ones you’re not planning to have. It’s the ones that surprise you on that five o’clock track in the afternoon, or the sunset you get, or the person you meet in the introduction to a local guy at the bar that you get, and the stories that might come out of that. Even if something goes wrong, then great. Well, someone else will come along and help you out and just enjoy the fact that somebody’s bothered to come all the way around the world to see their beautiful backyard, you know, we’re a welcoming nation.
Scott: What would you say is your best experience in Australia? What was the one thing that you were so surprised by?
Rob: So surprised by? Well, there’s been so many Scott. Just going through the memory banks. I think, like I talked about before, one of my very best experiences was traveling across the desert with a mate and getting stuck. That’s the most common story I tell. You know, we got bogged for a whole day in this clay pen, but it was the best memories of my life. We drove through about a mile long of deep water and after that, I thought, “Well, would I do that again?” That and the experience I talked about before with my family, showing them places that I spent my life mapping, with the real jewels, and then showing them to the next generation.
Scott: How about you Matt? What was the top? What was the coolest thing that happened?
Matt: There’s this little campground called Eddie’s Beach Camp, north of Cooktown, and sunset there. I’m lucky enough to have been there twice, and both sunsets were amazing. And I know it sounds weird, but there’s a silica mine, and there’s these little capes that jut out. I want to say that particular one is Cape Bedford and the sun sets over the ocean then over this cape and it just lights up. I have these photos from there that, I don’t know, I think are the closest thing I’ve ever come to a National Geographic photo straight out of the camera. I mean, Cape York is just this wonderful place. I mean, I do not think Australians, or Americans think of Australia with Cape York. They always think of the desert, as I’ve said. Yeah, that’s it for me. I love it.
Scott: I did a trip with my dad from Alice Springs, down to Melbourne that was awesome, so neat to travel. It was his first time out of the country with me, and that was really neat. But Tazmania I think is one of my most, most favorite places in Australia, it was really special. Right guys? So let's talk a little bit about what is next. So Matt, you’re about to leave Overland Expo? What are you doing?
Matt: I don’t know, I honestly have no idea.
Scott: You have a Gladiator, and no plans.
Matt: I have a Gladiator and a camper, and a credit card, and maybe a week until I’m due back in the office. So, maybe Key West? Maybe New Orleans?
Scott: Key West would be super cool.
Matt: Maybe Bar Harbor Maine? You know, we’re kind of trying, while we’re out on the East Coast, to take advantage of it. But, Overland Expo East has been great, met a lot of fantastic people. You know I think it’s cool to see the community growing over here. I mean, we all kind of admit it’s a West Coast centric industry, at least when it started, and it’s cool to see people adopting the same kind of stuff over here. It’s just wonderful.
Scott: What’s next for you Rob? What are you doing tomorrow? The next? What do you have going on?
Rob: I get tomorrow, fortunately, one of these Bruder Expedition Trailers and go with Chris from Expedition Portal and try out a new GMC truck. And yeah, we’ll go knock ourselves out for a few days around here exploring some trails, and places I’ve never been before. So, looking forward to that.
Scott: Yeah, sounds great! I’m looking forward to going home and writing up some of my experiences, and maybe going camping.
Rob: Oh, camping, yeah.
Scott: Looking forward to that. Well thank you all for listening. We appreciate your time, we’re having a lot of fun with this, and we will see you in the next episode.