My wife and I have been four wheel drivers for over 30 years and have explored most of Western Australia including many remote deserts and other little known corners of the State.
Since I was a child I have had a long interest in WA history and with a particular interest in exploration history and journals written by explorers. With my wife we have travelled extensively in the Western Deserts of WA and have organised trips following the routes of explorers and bush men such as Frank Hann, Charles C. Hunt, John Forrest, Alfred W. Canning, David Carnegie and Len Beadell.
There is something magical about following in the footsteps of an early explorers and locate one of his blazes on a tree or inscriptions on a rock. Our 4Wdrive allows us to relive the explorers journey, albeit it in air-conditioned comfort, with refrigerated food and comfortable beds and tents. The early explorers ate dried beef, slept on the ground and if they were lucky rode a horse otherwise they walked. They were certainly a hardy breed and did much for the progress and development of our great state.
It is advisable that inexperienced 4WDrivers join a 4WD club. through a club they will learn from experienced club members and get to travel remote areas of Australia in company and safety with others.
I have been a member of Getaway 4WD Club for 20 years and have been a committee member including Club President and Vice President since the club commenced in 2002.
On remote 4Wdrive trips you will pass through fragile environments, which take many years, if ever, to recover from human interaction. Do the right thing:
minimise impact of campfires (you don’t need a bonfire)
don’t chop down trees
don’t create new tracks or drive on salt lakes or claypans
don’t swim in springs or waterholes; these are fragile ecosystems and may be significant Aboriginal areas
shower and wash well away from wells and springs
dispose of waste properly
don’t remove artefacts
respect and don’t interfere with the environment or wildlife
be considerate of other travellers
I won’t go into basic preparation for four-wheel driving because this information is readily available on the internet. Intending four-wheel drivers would be well served going to a reputable site such as https://www.exploroz.com/ reading through the various articles provided.
I will concentrate on remote travel planning and preparation.
I strongly suggest you travel in company with others so you have support in event of problems.
Plan your itinerary carefully and thoroughly, and ensure you have paper maps to back up any electronic mapping and devices you may be using.
Ensure you have a significant quantity of cash; it’s not uncommon to arrive at a remote roadhouse to find the credit card system down and its cash only. With prices of fuel over $3.00 a litre at some locations plan carefully.
Emergency communications. Don't expect your mobile phone or UHF radio to be all you need. There are three main types of devices that I feel are appropriate:
Satellite phone (they can be hired)
EPIRB (Personal Locator Beacon).
I recommend you have at least two of these devices for remote travel.
If you have an emergency or breakdown and are stranded; remain calm. Call for help and remain with your vehicle until help arrives. Whatever you do, don't leave your vehicle.
There are a number of checklists available on ExplorOz. In addition I use or have developed a number of checklists for use by anyone travelling on any remote trip organised by me. You may find these of use or may need to modify for your needs; for example you may be travelling with children or a person with disabilities.
You may feel some of the points raised by me, such as being on time, being flexible, working in with others and/or you could be asked to leave the convoy; are a bit over the top. These are based on experience and spoilt trips, where people leave home with differing understandings of trip arrangements and expectations.
Tracks in the Western Deserts tend to be corrugated and sandy, you may also have washouts, rocky areas and sand dunes to consider. In some places such as the CSR and the Gunbarrel Highway travellers have made parallel tracks because the original track has become heavily corrugated. Overweight vehicles travelling at speed with hard tyres and overloading are the main causes of corrugations.
Reduced vehicle tyre pressures will minimise corrugations and churned up sand dune approaches. Softer tyres result in a bigger tyre footprint, enabling better traction and helping to reduce the effect of corrugations.
On the tracks such as the CSR, keep your tyre pressures down to 20 to 25 psi for the whole trip and your trip will almost be worry free when cresting dunes and driving over corrugations.
Many drivers refuse to lower tyre pressures and almost wreck suspensions endeavouring to crest dunes or drive on corrugations. They seem to have a mistaken belief they’ll get punctures.
Some travellers increase speed over corrugations so as to ‘skim’ across the top of them. This is old thinking, it’s dangerous and significantly increases chances of vehicle damage and rollovers; it also puts fellow travellers at risk. Many a trip has been cut short by suspension destruction.
If you’re uncertain about dune and desert driving consider completing a 4WDriving course before you leave home.
Note the above advice given here is for tyres of light truck construction or better.
Do the right thing and let your tyres down.
On trips of extended duration and if travelling with a party, it is important to clearly set out protocols, before departure, so all travellers have a clear understanding of the routines and expectations of the trip, otherwise simple misunderstandings can quickly escalate into difficulties.
Have a pre-trip meeting to discuss and agree on at least the following:
Appoint a trip leader
Determine trip leader responsibilities
Agree on the route of the trip
Agree on the general speed of travel
Agree on the techniques for driving over corrugations
Determine daily camp departure times and end of day camp times
If having campfires agree that everyone is to assist with collecting firewood and it to be collected prior to setting camp
Agree that everyone is to assist when a breakdown occurs, there may be only two vehicles so all need to assist
You may think this is over the top or ‘it’s my family’ we are travelling with. Many trips and friendships have been ruined because not everyone was on the same page. Establish trip ground rules early. Comments often heard by me when meeting other people, also on an extended trip, include:
‘They don’t want to stop and take photos of flowers or features, its go, go, go.’
‘All he wants to do is drive, drive drive.’
‘They are always late getting going, sometimes by an hour; we’ll never get home at this rate.’
Fellow travellers please stop and think, everyone has spent a fortune getting ready for the trip, be considerate of others, it’s their trip as well.
Expect to use significantly more fuel on sandy, gravel and rocky tracks, because of your vehicle’s weight and because you may be in low range and need to press the accelerator for power and traction.
Calculate travel distances between and refuelling points carefully and then apply your known vehicle fuel consumption plus 20%. The 20% margin is usually sufficient when driving tracks such as the Connie Sue Highway, Anne Beadell Highway and tracks in Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park.
Below are a range of vehicle fuel usage figures I have compiled from travellers:
Toyota 80 series 4.2 L, aftermarket turbo, 18 L/100 km
Toyota 105 series, 4.2 L, aftermarket turbo, auto and towing, 29 L/100 km
Toyota V8 4.5 tray back, 17.1 L/100 km Toyota Troop carrier, 14.1 L/100 km
Toyota HJ47 Troop carrier, diesel, 17.9 L/100 km
Toyota Hilux 2010, 3.0 L diesel, 20.8 L/100 km
Toyota Hilux 2012 3.0 L turbo diesel, 19 L/100 km
Nissan Patrol 4.2 L Turbo diesel (2 vehicles), 18.9 L and 20.6 L/100 km
Nissan Patrol Y62 5.6 L petrol V8, 22.2 L/100 km
Nissan Patrol 3 L ZD30 DI, 17 L/100 km
Navara 2003, 3.0 diesel using occasional LPG, 14 L/100 km
Navara 2013 D22, 14.3 L/100 km
Jeep Wrangler JKU with 2.8 L CRD, 16.9 L/100 km
Land Rover 1.6 L petrol, 17.6 L/100 km
Mazda Bravo, 2003, 2.5 L turbo diesel 19 L/100 km
Triton auto, 2016, 2.4 L diesel, towing, 24.5 L/100 km
When travelling in remote country, such as the Western Deserts, getting out to help by vehicle can take days. Prevention is the key; travellers should ensure they are fit enough to undertake the trip and have sufficient supplies of all medications used by them. While some Aboriginal Communities may have emergency clinics, they don’t usually hold the medical supplies and services you would expect to access in a city.
If a person suffers from a high-risk medical condition, then it may not be appropriate they travel in remote country. Seek medical advice before you travel and plan thoroughly, it’s your health.
Most communities have a clinic staffed by at least a nurse. While the best possible assistance may be provided, do not expect 24/7 service; and it is possible the nurse may be at another community or otherwise not be available. Some communities are closed to visitors; permits to enter may normally be required, however in times of emergency common sense prevails.
Travellers should ensure they take adequate supplies of prescription medication.
Because of the remoteness of some of the areas of your intended travel, you are strongly advised to visit your doctor and ask for advice on what ‘just in case’ medications you should take with you including: analgesics, anti-diarrhoea tablets, antihistamines for bites and stings, heat rash medication, general antibiotics in case of severe infection etc.
Medical conditions and medications form
When planning a trip, it is best to know in advance medical conditions people may be suffering and what medication they are taking. A sample ‘Emergency Medical Information Record’ is available at this link.
It is strongly suggested that this form be completed by each member of the travelling party and that it be placed in a sealed envelope in their vehicle’s glove compartment and only opened by family or the trip leader should an emergency occur. This protects a person’s privacy but in times of emergency significant medical information is quickly on hand to assist.
First Aid and First Aid Kit
Ensure you have an up to date and comprehensive first aid kit. St John offer an ‘Off-Road Motoring Kit’, also consider purchasing a ‘Bites and Stings Kit’ as well.
Determine in advance who has a current first aid certificate or medical training. If no one has such training, strongly consider that at least one of the party completes an ‘Advanced First Aid Certificate’ or a ‘First Aid in Remote Locations Certificate’.
Toileting can be a major issue for remote travellers. There is nothing more disgusting, when arriving at a camping area, than to have to clean up faeces, toilet paper and dirty nappies left by others. Most people manage toileting discretely; others seem to take delight in being pigs and leaving their used paper and deposits near campsites or scenic areas in view.
Men have it easy. Ladies if you use toilet paper or wipes carry a sealable plastic bag in which to place the used item. If having campfires, burn it to reduce potential health risks, but wait until everyone using the fire for cooking has finished. If there isn’t a campfire, then store it as best you can for correct disposal later.
Should there not be a toilet, then walk a distance away ensuring your business is well away from the camp. Dig a deep hole. When you have finished your business burn the toilet paper in the hole if it is safe to do so (don’t start a grass fire). Or using a sealable bag take it back to the campfire for burning at a discreet moment, but again after everyone has finished cooking. Rather than use matches, consider using a small gas canister blowtorch to burn used toilet paper.
Animals will smell your excreta and being inquisitive will dig it up. If you haven’t burnt your paper, it will be blown around by the wind and strewn over bushes, a most disgusting sight.
Sanitary items and nappies
Again use a sealable plastic bag and dispose of properly.
Whilst the above information, and for that matter the whole website, suits me and my travel needs; it is the responsibility of the users of this advice to ensure that they understand the information, the difficulties and harshness of the trip especially when travelling in remote areas, and that they have a suitably prepared vehicle with adequate communications and safety systems. You will need to accept responsibility for any decisions you make using this information.