There aren’t many silver linings to the pandemic, but one may be that we get to know our own country a little better. Europe can have Cinque Terra, the Dalmatian Coast and the Acropolis. America can keep its Yosemite, Aspen and swampy bayous. As wonderful and awe-inspiring as they are, they’re easily matched by our own Kimberley, Victoria’s high country, Tassie’s untamed south-west, the Pinnacles, the Bungle Bungles…
The list goes on. Point is, 2021 is a great opportunity to get in touch with the myriad landscapes that make up our sprawling country. And considering its sprawliness, preparation is key. Here are our top 10 tips to keep you on the straight and narrow on your off road trip.
#1: Vehicle check
This isn’t a quick trip to the supermarket. If you break down in the outback, there’s no air conditioned café serving decaf soy latte to while away the time in before road assist comes to the rescue. Obviously there’s nothing you can do to guarantee nothing will go wrong, but there are some simply things to check before you set off.
- Check your fluid levels: oil, radiator and wipers.
- Check your wiper blades and make sure they’re in good order – worn blades won’t be adequate in a downpour and can even scratch the glass.
- Check the pressure and tread of your tyres. If they’re losing pressure quicker than normal, it’s time for a new set. Have a look at our guide on checking tread to make your tyres have the grip to keep you on the road.
- Check your spare tyre – vital for an outback trip. Few make it there and back without a puncture or two. Does your spare have good tread and does it hold pressure? Also, is it a space saver or a full size that can deal with difficult terrain?
- Check all the lights to make sure they’re working.
#2: Drive within your means
There are innumerable roads, tracks and trails to find and get lost on in Australia. It’s important that you never pick the ones that require more experience or skill than you possess, or test the capabilities of your vehicle. There are plenty of amazing destinations accessed by sealed roads to satisfy anyone without having to take unnecessary risks. Whenever you travel off road, drive to your capabilities, as well as those of your vehicle.
#3: Have a co-pilot
The classic Australian road trip involves many hours behind the wheel, so choose your co-pilot wisely. Always have water, snacks and good music on hand, and never access them yourself. Extend a hand for a bottle of water with lid removed. Open your mouth for a chip to be laid gently upon your tongue. And – the golden rule – the driver chooses the music. If they want Billy Joel’s Kohuept on repeat for three hours, so shall it be.
#4: Get coverage
It’s annoying when you lose coverage in the city. It’s dangerous losing coverage in the middle of nowhere on an off-road trip. Away from urban centres and towns with decent populations, you are likely to encounter areas that render your expensive mobile a simple repository for your favourite tunes. Nothing is more important than communication when your car breaks down or – heaven forbid – you become lost.
There are plenty of places to hire satellite phones from, even some car rentals. It’s an added expense, but it’s also a no-brainer. An added word of advice: when selecting a satellite phone, base your decision on the antenna technology, not the network.
#5: Tell a friend
Before you hurtle off into the dusty interior, map your route and tell someone about it. Make sure they know which places you’ll be in and on what dates. It doesn’t have to be a day-by-day blow, but you want someone back home to know your general whereabouts on certain days.
#6 Be flexible
We like to think that only Melbourne experience’s four seasons in a day, but inclement weather can surprise you anywhere. And inclement weather in some parts of Australia can amount to torrential rain or searing heat. If a river is running a little high for a safe crossing, don’t cross it. If the temperature climbs into the 40’s, perhaps consider a day indoors or by the motel pool.
Unsealed roads can disappear after heavy rains, so make sure you have up-to-date information before you set off each day. Just because it’s on the map, doesn’t mean it’ll be there when you need it. Always be willing to turn back, try another route, or wait it out. Don’t push your luck when going off road.
#7 Trust the experts
If you’d like peace of mind, drop your car in at BM Tech for a general check-up to make sure it’s in good condition and fit for a road trip. We know all the things to look for so that you can enjoy the trip without any niggling doubts eating away at you. Remember, in remote areas, your car is your life raft. Take care of it and it will take care of you. Have fun!