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Lost on Root Hog Road


Lost on Root Hog Road

Well... maybe we're not lost... not technically anyway. We are in New South Wales. We know it's a mere 20km from the old ghost town of Ophir to Hill End - as the crow flies - Ophir once a thriving frontier town and the site of Australia's first 'payable' gold strike. We leave at noon, after a 2hr bush hike among the long-abandoned diggings and shafts.

In the beginning we take the tamely-named Freemantle Rd. It's dirt, but in good enough nick. And the hard copy map shows a continuing track... the trouble being we are now facing a 'No through road' sign, and our iPad shows the road stopping at Macquarie river. 

Eventually we come to a fork in the road, and stop.  One leg heads in the general direction of the river.

We check our ipad again, and the truck GPS - the GPS with a river crossing.

But yes, this fork does 'head' for the river. But what happens when we get there remains a mystery.

A ute comes from the opposite direction - a wet stock dog in the back.

I wind down the window once the dust settles, the cheery driver "born and bred in these parts".

Will we be able to get across the river? The local scratches his chin and looks over our truck. His dog barks and wags his tail.

"Yeah... dog's been for a swim just now, and you'll make it in that. Track's a bit rough, rocky in bits... and the farmer doesn't like shooters, so sometimes shuts the gate."

A trip we expected to take maybe an hour, takes more like 3-1/2

Hindsight is a great thing, but there's definitely something ominous about a fork in the road, when the way forward is a crooked post with a sign that says 'Root Hog Road.'


Under the weather - Planning


Under the weather - Planning

Just wondering... how much time we need to complete this little roadtrip trek of ours... the million dollar question... the elephant in the room... 

The pre-trip work has mostly been done over the last 12-months or so. Let's call it 'PLANNING' - the PC screen crowded with a multi-coloured, seasonal weather map, and  Hema digital map awash with tagged wishlists of places we 'just might' want to visit; a commingling of the odd and the isolated, the mysterious, abstract, the scenic and beautiful. Let's call them 'known unknowns'. And yeah, there are quite a lot. But these days there is heaps of info out there too, like and

And there are a truck load of wild and woolly tracks - the Canning Stock Route, the Deserts Simpson, Stony and Sturt, the Gary and Gunbarrel Highways, the Gibb River Road, the Tanami, Strzelecki and Old Telegraph Tracks - anywhere our truck will go.

And then there's the weather wildcard! It's a big country, with the full gamut of weather... Tropical and wet, hot and dry - through to VERY hot and dry - with freezing winters down south.

I do a quick calculation and come up with a roadtrip of... mmmm... 2-YEARS! (All pending the generosity of seasonal and unseasonal weather gods resulting in possible unplanned flights home to Melbourne from time to time.)

And, here's another thought - do we have everything accounted for? Well... there is the early July BIRDSVILLE BIG RED BASH, and the Easter BYRON BAY BLUESFEST... and the WA whalesharks and wildflowers among other things.

... To say nothing of the 'unknown-unknowns' along the way. Like... let's say we meet 'Jack' on some far-off wayward track. He sits propped at the bar of an Outback pub, staring into his ice-cold beer, the checkered shirt smelling of cigarettes, a battered pair of cowboy boots faded and scuffed. He says we 'must see' this or that, "just a day or 2 out of our way".

I stare at the PC screen, my cluttered maps of Oz - then look across at Sue. Will we have the time?

There really is an irresistible attraction in heading off with lots to see, while blessed with an indefinite vaguery of a timeframe.


How do we get anywhere?


How do we get anywhere?

Will a modest amount of good luck and basic black magic be enough to find our way? Mmmm... maybe not.

I'm at my desk PC starting to plot 'must sees' with the help of newly purchased Hema digital maps and OziExplorer software. And it's obvious this trip won't be as simple as a circle; more like `Oz-all-over'.

I scratch my whiskered chin and shuffle Harry the cat to one side, giving me a better command of the keyboard. Mmmm... we've certainly got a truck that will do the job - the Toyota Troopy of course - but with so many places to go, how the Hell do we actually find our way? I suppose now's the time to start thinking seriously about getting a GPS fitted... yeah... time to move with the times.

Now for an admission here - I'm no IT geek when it comes to the ways of a fast-moving modern world, and in fact it's a miracle I didn't disappear with the dinosaurs. I suppose I've gathered a few bits of info over the years - obtuse snippets, shreds and bibelots, mostly about this and that, while being a master of naught.

The next 3-days I'm lost in a techno haze of Hema Navigators, MotionX, Apple, Bing and Google, iPads, Parrot and Pioneer. But of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg... maybe I need to get out more!

At this stage I'm thinking a single built-in unit with music, reversing camera, Bluetooth and internet. But one thing for sure: the answer really is out there, somewhere. And I soon discover it's definitely not one size fits all... probably a case of horses for courses I reckon. (Thanks to my fellow forum travelers on for their valued input.)

And the winner is (for the very non-geek me)  - a simple dash inbuilt Alpine INE-W960A with reversing camera, for on-road mainly, some off-road; along with an internet-capable iPad loaded with the Hema 4WD Maps App. Oh... and my trusty notebook/laptop. So... I'll be able to import my initial planning hard work from trusty PC to my notebook - including any Oziexplorer/Hema must-see places and tracks. And THAT will ensure we never get lost. 

Well OK, not so sure about that last bit. Just maybe a dash of luck and magic would not go astray... and I think we'll pack some hard-copy Hema maps. Let's just call that insurance.


Biting the bullet - finally


Biting the bullet - finally

Let's just call this `day one'. Although it's not REALLY day one.

After 2yrs in Africa and Asia, this is the first time we don't have an ongoing air ticket... anywhere!!!

So, what to do? Well yeah, we have certainly pondered what comes after`WORLD', and now - golly, is that the time? - we've been `home' in `The World's most Livable City' since April... that's here in Melbourne btw.

Was it Chaucer that said "Time and tide wait for no man"?  Itchy feet? Mmmm, well maybe just a little. And the thought of jumping in a vehicle and heading off for some previously unthought of place for an indeterminate time does seem somehow alluring.

Do we need a plan? Well, we'll head off clockwise, summering down south. Oh...and try and pick up as many middle bits as possible too. Yeah, OK, so there's a little work to do... 

Will it be one year or two? Now... that is the question. We'll see.

It is true....thinking about this decision is not exactly new. We've pondered proposals on floating pontoon bars by Lagos Lagoon, among the patrons of Paris pancake parlors, in the teppanyaki kitchens of Tokyo, and by Berlin beer-halls. We've chatted in the subways of Seoul and New York City.

Australia outside Melbourne? Well yeah, there certainly is one. Mmmm... just a minute though, haven't we already seen most of The Lucky Country? 

Well, we have been to Darwin, Cairns and the Flinders Ranges. We've been lucky to have traversed The Nullarbor more than once and sailed the edge of the great Kimberley wilderness. We've driven the length of Fraser Island and suitably chilled-out in Byron Bay. We've even tackled the wilds of the Canberra capital.

But no, we haven't exactly seen`most of the place'. And there's always `Outback' of course - a notion more difficult to define.

So, time marches on - with the big departure date set for first thing March 2017. Plenty of time? No, not really...there's planning and equipment to sort. And yes, a `suitable' vehicle for our adventures - something robust, and `go-anywhere'.

Well, today there's some news. This is the day!

After browsing for some time we've found our truck - our future home - and the winner is... a white2014 Toyota Landcruiser GXL Troopcarrier.

OK, so that's a start... along with Navigation software and a 4WD Raster Map collection. 

Oh, have I forgotten something? We need a blog?... another blog? (Yes, I know, I'm already involved in 2, one being - a collection of short stories on people and places - and the other being TravelnRavel - a wandering bird's-eye overview of most things even vaguely related to travel.)

Well... we really do need a blog for our roadtrip around Australia. But what will we call this new blog? Now... that can't be too difficult.

So, here we are, at the beginning of yet another work in motion. But, it is early days... and there will be tweaks as we go.

WHAT'S NEXT? - a few local Victorian roadtrips and getting to know the truck we've just bought. And more thinking about what we need and where we go from here.