DIRTY WORK

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - JOHN ROOTH

LAST month I had a good old rat­tle catch­ing up on the progress we made with Milo2. But how come not much hap­pened in the months be­fore that? Right, here goes. It all started with an in­vi­ta­tion to a wed­ding. Mark and Shay, friends of ours through the off-road­ing fra­ter­nity, were get­ting mar­ried af­ter 25 years of think­ing about it – at least I know I’m not the only one who can dodge a dead­line...

Nat­u­rally, my wife Karen was hang­ing out to go. Girls love wed­dings and, to be hon­est, I fig­ured this one would be a beauty from a bloke’s point of view. Any­thing that sounds like a party in Dar­win is al­ways go­ing to be good!

Mark is known to most peo­ple as emdee, the didgeri­doo player who’s wowed au­di­ences around the world. He’s an in­ter­est­ing bloke and his trav­els within the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties up north al­ways fas­ci­nate me. I’ve got a lot of mates there, too, so ev­ery way we looked at it, we were go­ing to go.

But there were other de­mands – as al­ways, work was get­ting in the way of life. Af­ter al­most 18 months of not shoot­ing any fresh DVDS, there was a whole lot of pent-up de­mand. I’d spent a good part of that break catch­ing up on Milo main­te­nance – af­ter 20 years of con­stant abuse with a string of patch-ups, there’s still a truck­load to go – but the busi­ness side of things de­manded some­thing be shot pretty soon.

So the dilemma was to fly to Dar­win and have a week off, or go shoot­ing footage? Maybe I shouldn’t have said that in front of the wife be­cause she, dead keen to get to this wed­ding no mat­ter what, jumped straight in with ‘why not do both’? That grew into ‘let’s take Milo to Dar­win and film the whole trip’. And, see­ing as we’d be up there in the truck, we fig­ured we’d get Mark and Shay and the lo­cal 4WD mob to come out and show us a few tracks? Bingo, an idea was formed.

I love my lit­tle truck and the thought of driv­ing some big miles didn’t bother me the slight­est. What did bother me was tak­ing the wife, who’d never been far­ther than Strad­broke Is­land in Milo. That was when the kids were lit­tle and the old girl

was still a petrol-pow­ered Troop car­rier with floor mats and a tiny ex­haust.

If you haven’t had a close look at Milo in re­cent years, let me ex­plain. Driv­ing on more than 750,000km of the worst roads in Australia has taken its toll. The lit­tle 13BT diesel is loud and throb­bing – I wear ear muffs at high­way speeds – and with a turbo next to the fire­wall it heats up the cabin, too. There are holes in the floor to let the wa­ter out, and the only com­fort fea­ture left are a set of Black Duck seat cov­ers and flaps that let air blow around your feet.

None of this both­ers me be­cause, like Edi­tor Matt, I cut my teeth rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles around this won­der­ful coun­try of ours. Just keep­ing the rain off your melon – well, some of it, she leaks a bit – a wind­screen in front of your face and a seat you can move around on makes pulling 1000km days in Milo in­fin­itely more com­fort­able than do­ing the same on a bareknuckle trail bike.

Maybe there was a self­ish tinge of ‘it’ll serve the wife right to get a dose of how hard I work to make a liv­ing’. I’ve been on the road al­most half of the child-rais­ing years she’s spent at home deal­ing with nap­pies, dance classes and footy train­ing, and more than once it’s been a com­pe­ti­tion to see who’s worn out the most when a trip’s done. The worst thing is, some­times a re­ally tough bush trip can look like a never-end­ing round of pub meals and beer when the re­ceipts are be­ing tal­lied. It gets worse when the photographer sends his shots over and the mud and dust you re­mem­ber eat­ing is trans­formed into mag­nif­i­cent views and won­der­ful places. Yes, I did have a habit of whinge­ing a lot when I got home; usu­ally I’d be tired and sick of look­ing af­ter my­self. It’s a bloke thing. Maybe it’d be good to share it af­ter all those years of do­ing it on my own.

Any­way, I knew if we were film­ing we’d need a cam­era car for the team, so she could al­ways bail out and travel in air­con­di­tioned com­fort. So, plans were made. West­point and Jeep came good with a Grand Chero­kee which, with its leather, air-con and cruise con­trol, un­der­lined what a prim­i­tive lit­tle earth-mov­ing ma­chine Milo was. My mate Si­mon wanted to bring his 61 Sa­hara, so be­fore the sun came up on a cold Bris­bane morn­ing our lit­tle con­voy climbed over the Toowoomba Ranges and headed due west. Talk about ad­ven­ture bound!

How did she go? Do you mean the truck or the wife? Same time, same chan­nel folks. I’ll let you know next month. But boy, did we have some ad­ven­tures. So much so, when we got back we had a huge task of just cut­ting down the footage – we still fin­ished with two DVDS in­stead of one.

I guess the big ques­tion is ‘will Karen want to go on more trips in Milo?’ I still don’t know, but I’ll let you know when she’s talk­ing to me again...

In a fort­night we did a tad less than 10,000km in the old girl, with 9000km be­ing on sealed roads. The other 1000 were the best...

ABOVE: Most nights we camped some­where where we could have a fire and a cook-up. Big miles might knock it out of you, but a good feed and a few beers can put it all back. TOP LEFT: The wed­ding was right at the tailend of the Wet, which made for some awe­some ad­ven­tures with my lo­cal four-wheel­ing mates like Ben in his mod­i­fied GQ. LEFT: A few days af­ter Penny was a brides­maid at the wed­ding, she’s seen here dump­ing the fam­ily 80 into a huge ditch! It was worth it, though; that track is named ‘the Penny Drop’ now.

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