dirty work

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - JOHN ROOTH

HOW com­fort­able do you need to be dur­ing an off-road ad­ven­ture? Well, that’s re­ally one of those piece-of-string ques­tions isn’t it? It all depends on who you are and who you’re trav­el­ling with.

I’m start­ing to re­alise there’s a bit of a cir­cle of life thing at­tached to my camp­ing life. As a lad I’d drape a can­vas sheet over the mo­tor­bike and wrap my­self in a cou­ple of In­dian blan­kets on the ground. They were partly wa­ter­proof, very tick­lish and warm enough for most of the south­ern states (most of the year). But I was young, poor and very sin­gle. Try get­ting the wife to cud­dle up on the ground un­der a tarp!

Plus, as your edi­tor knows, there’s not a lot of car­ry­ing space on a mo­tor­cy­cle. Once we got into 4x4s the whole world opened up. In fact, I re­mem­ber hit­ting the bush for work back in the 1970s in the boss’s G60 Nissan with a big can­vas pole tent, a mat­tress on the roof, sleep­ing bags and pil­lows. I even car­ried a foldable ta­ble and a oneb­urner-ring LPG bot­tle. Talk about plush! But that was work and that meant weeks away at a time.

Hol­i­days used to see my girl­friend and I sleep­ing on foam mats and sleep­ing bags in an Egyp­tian Cot­ton two-man tent. We had a wa­ter con­tainer and lived off bis­cuits and cheese for the most part, drink­ing port at night be­cause there wasn’t any way of keep­ing stuff cool. No wor­ries when you’re 18, of course. Later on it was swags, and some­time a decade or more ago I dis­cov­ered stretch­ers.

Mean­while the wife wanted the se­cu­rity of a camper trailer for the kids when we got to that stage, and that’s how our fam­ily camps went. There’s noth­ing quite like a trailer when you have got a bunch of kids run­ning amok – if for no other rea­son than the soli­tude it pro­vides.

That’s also the stage when you need to be cart­ing heaps of gear. Open our old trailer and you’ll find ev­ery­thing from the shade mesh ‘grass’ the wife loves to have un­der the awning, to the col­lapsi­ble clothes hoist. There’s a pop-up bin, a ta­ble and five chairs, plenty of lights, and a box full of things like footys and kites. And you know what? Most of it has had a run.

Now that my lit­tle fam­ily is on the other side of that trailer hump, we’re start­ing to think out­side the box. It started with the lads ask­ing for swags of their own for Christ­mas, and then set­ting them up on the pe­riph­ery of our camp. A lit­tle bit of in­de­pen­dence goes a long way when you’re 12.

From there the wife started stay­ing at home with our el­dest daugh­ter, pre­fer­ring to do girl things, while the lads and I took off on more ad­ven­tur­ous trips with our swags. In fact, after a decade of fam­ily camper trailer hol­i­days I can see a time when I sell the trailer be­cause it’s not get­ting any use. Me? I’m fine with a swag, but once the wife ex­pe­ri­enced the new style of ’vans with a hot shower, well, I’m think­ing her swag might have been a waste of money.

Last year I fi­nally traded my old roof top­per for some Cruiser bits. Liv­ing on top of the truck was ter­rific, es­pe­cially on the beach, with a great breeze and the chance to shake off the sand on the way up the ladder. How­ever, the older I got the more trips up and down that ladder I had to make dur­ing the night. Not a real prob­lem, not un­til the knee oper­a­tion any­way.

The main rea­son the roof top­per was kept in the shed was be­cause 40s are easy enough to tip over as it is. Weigh­ing in at around 50kg and sit­ting up high on the rack, it worked like a pen­du­lum if things got hec­tic when chuck­ing Milo from side to side on springs that have been se­verely soft­ened al­ready.

One day when I’m old, crusty and re­tired – the wife reck­ons I’m two out of three al­ready – the plan is to drive around Aus­tralia in an old Toy­ota and ex­plore new tracks. Sounds like work but with­out the cam­eras!

A while ago I was camp­ing with my mates ‘Troopy’ Pete Richens and Steve Gor­don up at Landcruiser Park, and it was hard to get away from the bril­liance and com­fort both these blokes have built into the back of their Troop­ies. Chuck in a com­fort­able bed, some cur­tains and draw­ers for the kitchen stuff, and per­haps sleep­ing in the back of the truck is where it’s at.

Full cir­cle? We’ll see! Catch you up a track, eh?

I like my sim­ple swag and stretcher combo. In fact, since mov­ing up to the Darche stuff al­most a decade ago, I’ve been so com­fort­able I usu­ally spend the first few nights at home swag­ging to get out of the groove.

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