Doc and I are planning our next trip away. Now when I say “planning”, I mean we’re at the stage of deciding where we want to go.
The only thing we know for sure is that it will be a 4WD trip somewhere in Australia.
I’m happy to go anywhere. But before we become grey nomads and want to tow a van with a comfortable bed, we want to go to some more places that are real 4WD experiences. Somewhere like the Canning Stock Route, the Simpson Desert, or the Bulman Track.
To help us make up our minds, we’ve looked at 4WD and travel magazines, and talked to people we know who travel a lot. And one thing that really strikes me is that there is a disconnect between 4WD magazines and websites which are overwhelmingly aimed at young males, and the people who actually go 4WDing.
When we were on the Old Telegraph Track we did meet a few young blokes, but overwhelmingly the people travelling were families with young kids; empty nesters who, now that the kids have left home, have decided to sell up or rent the house out to fund their travel; and grey nomads. And a few people in between who’d taken their annual holidays to do the Old Tele Track and Cape York. And, also overwhelmingly, these were people who will continue to do these trips.
Obviously all they have 4WD vehicles, but most are fairly standard, without all the additions and whizz bang gadgetry that feature in many of the magazines. Some people were even towing campervans. And they not only managed to get through, they had a lot of fun doing it.
Unfortunately, we also met people who had been put off because after reading 4WD magazines they thought the track would be too hard for them. People who are now pissed off because after talking with others they realise they probably would have made it and now they may have missed their chance.
I know there’s a market out there for blokey 4WD, boys own adventure stuff. But there’s an even bigger market for “ordinary” people.
Tourism within Australia is apparently down. So why aren’t we encouraging more people to get out and explore their own country.
I’m not suggesting anybody goes overboard and says it’s easy. 4WDing and camping in remote areas requires a lot of preparation – both mental and physical. It’s not for everybody. But done properly it is a lot of fun. And successfully negotiating the challenging environment gives you a great sense of achievement.
One thing all other groups we’ve met while travelling have in common (apart from the young blokes) is that every car has at least one woman in it. In fact, a couple were all women. We even met one group which was a “woman of a certain age” travelling with her mother. Yet, none (or very little) of the literature or information is aimed at them.
You don’t need to be a bloke to enjoy 4WDing and camping. Nor do you need to get into that whole pissing up the wall competition of who’s got the best comp spec suspension, and Mickey Thompsons –v- Coopers (they’ll both do the job). Not everybody in the group you’re travelling with needs to know everything about everything. You do need a mix of people with different areas of expertise. Just because you aren’t the one that knows one diff lock from another doesn’t mean you can’t be an active member of the team. Believe me – many blokes don’t know what a diff lock is, let alone the difference between types.
You do need to prepare, and listen to people who have done it before. And if you know what it is you want from the trip, and you do your preparation, then camping can be extremely romantic, sexy, and above all, fun.