In 1971, my wife and I headed off on our honeymoon from Sydney into the great unknown. Our vehicle was an Austin 1800, an innovative little sedan descended from the Morris Mini Minor, with a transverse engine driving the front wheels, and fluid suspension.
We had no definite plans, but just kept going until we finally got to Uluru. We camped right next to the mighty monolith. In due course we put the car on the train – the Old Ghan — to travel from Alice Springs down to Port Augusta, and finally drove back to Sydney. The car was virtually a write off after so much travel on rough roads, and we sold it for a song. But by that time I was hopelessly in love with the Outback.
In the early 1980s, we bought a Holden Jackaroo, a rebadged version of the Isuzu Trooper 4WD. It was a two-door model with a diesel engine, and in those days a 4WD was an unusual choice for a city family. However, equipped with a bull bar and a tow bar, it gave us the chance to load up the three kids and a camper-trailer, and have some wonderful camping holidays in out-of-the-way places.
Tales of our adventures in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney, crossing the Kowmung River and camping in Dingo Dell, still bring back very happy memories. My parents worried about what we would do if one of us got sick or injured in such a “remote” spot. However, we all managed to survive.
We even did another trip to Uluru, with the kids this time. However, camping anywhere near Uluru was no longer permitted, so we drove around the back of a sand hill a few kilometres east of Yulara, and bush-camped there. The kids loved it.
These days I drive a Toyota Prado diesel 4WD, one of the legendary Land Cruiser series. It’s a rock-solid vehicle with a fuel range of about 1800 kilometres. And of course there are 4WDs everywhere, even here in the city, sometimes used mostly to drive the kids to school, or perhaps chosen just because they tend to be safer in an accident than a smaller non-4WD vehicle.
There has in recent times been some call for outlawing bull bars on 4WDs when used in the city, mainly (I gather) because they can cause more damage to other vehicles and to pedestrians if involved in an accident. Some even argue that people should have to do a special driving test before being allowed to drive a 4WD. One has to admit that 4WDs are often promoted as go-anywhere, do-anything vehicles, encouraging some people – particularly if they don’t have much experience – to take ill-advised risks.
For example, I just hope this chap hasn’t left the handbrake on, or he’ll probably have trouble towing his 4WD out of there: