Regular visitors to my much rambling blog will know that apart from trying to climb mountains, and run around the bush with a back-pack, that we frequently get “Out and About” in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
A Landrover Defender that co-incidentally goes by the name of “The Landy”. A vehicle that you’ve got to love, even if it is too slow to keep worms in a tin.
Janet is suggesting you go and grab yourself a cocktail to sip on, after all it is approaching the cocktail hour, and she knows too well I can be Harry-have-a-chat, you know, the sort of bloke that can talk under wet cement with a mouthful of marbles.
Um, I see you made yourself two, good, it is nice to have company.
Strewth, you’re going to drink them both?
Anyway, where were we?
Oh, yes, and don’t we love “The Landy” as it gets Janet, TomO, and me “Out and About” in the Australian Outback, soaking up the big blue sky country.
Recently, around the camp fire with “Bluey and the Boys”, the conversation got around to the money we spend on our toys.
A self-confessed newbie to off-road travelling and touring posed the question…
“What should I buy and how should I equip my vehicle”…
Crikey, these types of questions are welcomed around the camp-fire as it means at least another couple of beers while answers are given and debated, and besides there is no such thing as a silly question.
Janet is hovering a bit and has just suggested silly questions are highly probable if it involves, four-wheel drive vehicles, beer and boy’s around a camp-fire.
But this question got me thinking that perhaps it is asked the wrong way around.
I thought, how much better our bank balance would be money one could save if the question was turned around to read…
“What equipment shouldn’t I buy?”
An often held view is that today’s modern four-wheel drive vehicle needs to be optioned up and fitted with all kinds of after-market gadgetry.
In reality, late model examples of the most the popular brands, including Toyota Land Cruisers, Nissan Patrols, and heaven forbid, Landrovers , yes I have two Defenders, are quite adequate straight out of the box, right off the showroom floor.
The vehicle after-market parts industry would have us believe that a five-inch lift, winch, diff-locks, a bull bar big enough to push over a small building, and an over-haul of the suspension system is required…
And that is just to get you down the front-driveway to the gate of your house!
But strewth, the reality is quite different, and a slightly different approach could have you banking cash to spend whilst on a trip, or something to put away for the next.
Whoops, Janet is still looking over my shoulder…
Yes I’m hearing you sweetie… or that new dress!
Mind you, after that big event you went in whilst in London recently, you remember shop till you drop, will mean “The Landy” won’t be getting any new gadgets for at least another week a long, long time.
Crikey, when it comes to vehicle modifications I reckon you’d be best to just go out and enjoy the country and “suck it and see” on any short-falls you might find.
So I tossed this little list of “things you can do without” into the discussion around the fire…
Bull bars, nice to have, but adds a lot of weight to the front-end almost guaranteeing you’ll need a suspension upgrade.
And yes, I know your uncle lives out at whoop, whoop and he hits a “kangaroo-a-week” and no doubting he needs one.
But I have never hit one in years of travelling the outback.
A Winch… no Bluey, I said winch, so watch your tongue and go and grab yourself another beer…
Well if you get a bull bar, a winch is a great accessory to adorn it.
But really, unless you actually “intend” to go into areas where it is almost guaranteed to be required, than save your money.
Many want to add it for insurance, just in case, and it usually dies from under-use.
A suspension upgrade – crikey, this can be a tricky one, if you have wasted spent money on the first two then you’ll probably need to chuck some money at this as well. Besides, your Toyota Prado will look great in traffic driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, head and shoulders above everything else.
But if you can drive with caution and approach obstacles carefully, and not like you’re in the Paris to Dakar rally, you might get away with the stock standard system that was fitted to the vehicle when you drove it out of the show room.
Communication radios – okay, if you like colourful language and you’re as lonely as a country dunny, it might be a useful addition to an already cluttered dashboard.
Otherwise, if your wife blushes at the thought of a four-letter word, or you have got three kids strapped in the back, then save your money, you can do without it.
If you keep a look out the front windscreen you’ll probably avoid most vehicles coming the other way, after all seeing is believing, or so they say!
Although, come to think of it, if you have got three kids in the back, it might make a change from the “are we there yet” whine.
Power and Engine upgrades – strewth, isn’t that the beauty of modern motor vehicle engines that use computer technology.
You can just plug a few leads in and spend lots of your hard earned cash tweaking something the vehicle manufacturer and its engineers’ spent tens of millions of dollars on ensuring was the best combination when they made it.
Sure, if you want to tow a caravan half-the-size of a Hollywood Mansion behind you, or you have a need to cover the breadth of Australia in record time, then I can see you might need it…
But hey, don’t get me wrong, there are people out there doing chip-upgrades and they need a retirement fund, so live in the knowledge you’ll be making it a more comfortable retirement for them.
A Fridge – hell, this is heading into dangerous territory, after all how do you keep Janet’s wineTomO’s milk refrigerated without it?
Back in a ‘sec, Janet has just suggested that it would be best if I went to the fridge and get her a top up from that lovely bottle of Hunter Valley Chardonnay she has almost knocked off bought the other day.
Dual Battery System – well, if you need a fridge to keep things refrigerated then you’ll need a second battery to run it, and perhaps a couple of beers to get you over the bill when it comes in from the auto-electrician.
Roof Rack – have you ever lifted one of those things, they’re usually pretty heavy if you want a good one and another reason you’ll probably need a chip-upgrade and better suspension.
But if you can leave a few items at home, like three-quarters of the things that Janet tries to stuff in “The Landy” you think you’ll need, then you may be able to say no thanks to your local four-wheel drive warehouse, I’ll not be needing one.
Spot Lights – the bigger the better, after all if you’re going to spend money on those shiny things that go up front, you might as well get a pair that would spot a Spinifex Hoping Mouseat three miles.
But many of the people I see with them on the front of the vehicle are tucked up in bed at one-minute-past-sunset, which sort of makes them a bit redundant…
Um, the spotlights that is.
But hey, what better way to let someone into your wallet again.
Anyway, I hope you’re still around and not rolling around on the floor somewhere as I can see you finished off those two cocktails…
See, reading a long rambling post does have its merits.
So what makes me an expert anyway?
Yes, I heard you whispering!
A four-wheel drive named “The Landy” that is full of gadgets, and an empty bank account to go with it…
Hey, and good luck out there, wherever there is!
Come on, you can relate to this can’t you?
After all you don’t need a four-wheel drive to whip out that “Fantastic Plastic” and do some damage with that “Weapon of Mass Destruction”…
This week marked the passing of another year in the history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it turned 81 years old.
It was officially opened on 19 March, 1932.
An icon around the world, in more recent times it has become a focal point for New Year celebrations as Sydney-siders herald in another year with the bridge festooned in colourful fireworks.
Of course it is more than that, it is a life-line to those travelling from the north of Sydney to the south and whilst many years ago the Sydney Harbour tunnel was built, taking vehicular traffic under the harbour, it still doesn’t match a trip over the Coat-Hangar.
And New Yorkers’ might be just left wondering where you had seen our bridge before. The design of the bridge was heavily influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge in New York.
I drive over the bridge each day on my way to work in Sydney’s central business district and I always take in the view it gives of the harbour and marvel at the engineering feat.
Of course, for those who are inclined, make sure you take the bridge climb if you ever visit Sydney – the views of Sydney Harbour are spectacular…
And yes my parents do like me and in fact my mother, Fay, was only saying the other day…
“Be careful out there Baz, you know I worry”.
Mind you she said that as I was heading to work!
Heaven forbid, if she knew what I got up to when I’m not at work…
But what’s in a name I hear you ask…
Go and grab a cuppa and make yourself comfy on the sofa…
…Crikey, that was quick, you still drinking that instant stuff?
Anyway, you see Australia is a diverse country, the driest continent on the planet in fact, but despite this the colour of the outback is spectacular. An endless blue sky kissing the dry, cracked, red earth of the outback in the far off distance…
From the Channel Country, a vast expanse of the Queensland Outback, an area that has spawned more yarns and tall stories than a Friday night at the pub.
A place where the country unfolds to the horizon, featureless apart from the Mitchell Grass that stretches as far as the eye can see, swaying in a light afternoon breeze, mesmerising the senses as you squint to see through the heat haze.
To the deserts of the central region, theSimpson Desert, where the sand dunes cut their way across the salt pans, never ending until you reach a famous oasis on the desert’s fringe, Birdsville and the Birdsville Pub.
And what about up north, strewth, it has got to be some of the best country in the world, a place we call the Gulf Savannah, a place that is thick with red bull dust until the summer monsoon floods the land, quenching the parched earth, breathing life into the flora and fauna that inhabits the region.
Did I ever tell you about Lawn Hill Gorge?
If you never visit anywhere else in our neck of the woods then be sure you make your way up there. We visit as often as we can, there is something refreshing about being up in The Gulf, a place thatrejuvenates your soul.
Take a refreshing swim in the spring-fed gorge and don’t worry about the freshies. You know, the fresh water crocodiles, they’re mostly harmless, not like their saltwater cousins, you’ll be right if you leave ‘em alone.
And its worth knowing that just to the south of the gorge is the World Heritage listed Fossil Mammal site, Riversleigh. It is one of the most significant fossil mammal deposits in the world and the richest known in Australia.
I must say, there were a few old fossils running around the gorge last time I was up there, and TomO, the cheeky little fella, reckons one of them was his Dad…
Anyway, I was telling you about how I got the name “Baz, The Landy”.
Well you see, travelling around this great country of ours is all good and well, but to get into some of these remote areas you need a vehicle that can take the pounding that the corrugations on the outback roads can dish out.
If you can call them roads, sometimes there isn’t one.
A vehicle capable of taking all the gear and toys you need to play in the outback.
Our choice of vehicle is the trusty Landrover Defender. They get called many things, a ‘Fender, the truck, some will even say a box of trouble on wheels.
In fact we’ve got two of them and they go by the names of “The Landy” and “Red Rover”...
We designed “The Landy” with long-range remote area travel in mind when we rebuilt it in 2006. It was a stock standard Landrover Defender 130 until we set to work on it.
Equipped with long-range fuel tanks it can travel up to 1,800 kilometres without being refuelled. That’s a long way I hear you say, but mate, let me tell you, the outback is a long way from nowhere.
It carries an inflatable boat and outboard motor for travelling on our inland waterways, and it even has a long-range radio that could put you in contact with someone on the other side of Australia, if you wanted to…
Hey, check out the roof, its got a roof top tent that we can take, if we don’t want to tow our T-Van camper trailer.
I always promised Janet a penthouse to live in…
And it’s even got a fridge to keep Janet’s wine cool store perishables.
I could rave on about it for ages, but I think you’ve got the picture by now and it has served us extremely well and will continue to do so whenever we venture west of the Black Stump.
“Red Rover” is my stock standard Defender 110 that I rebuilt a few years back and serves as my commute vehicle. It looks splendid in fire engine red and I proudly park it at work, down amongst all the Mercs and Beamers in the car park.
Wasn’t I telling you about how the name “Baz, The Landy” came about?
Well, every four-wheel drive vehicle I’ve ever owned has been a Landrover Defender, so it seems inevitable that someone was going to end up calling me Baz, The Landy.
Besides, how would it be if I was called “Baz – The Red Rover” – strewth, you might go thinking I was out of some kids fairy tale book, or worse…
But getting back to our island continent, Australia, it isn’t hard to ramble on a bit about how fantastic this country is, you know, the one hidden in the summer for a million years, so why don’t I just leave you with this video that our tourism gurus’ put together to the music of one of our greatest musicians, Iva Davies and Icehouse…
And hey, if you’re ever out here visiting make sure you give “The Landy” a wave if you see it go past, we’re a friendly bunch and I’ll even stop and have a yarn with ya!