Desert travel tips

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Front Page - By Will Swan­ton

Hav­ing read the ar­ti­cle about the fam­ily stranded in the Simp­son Desert, I was re­minded of a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence (“Can any­one hear me? We’re in trou­ble”, Nov 24-25). In 1995, some friends and I set off to cross the Simp­son in three 4WDs. Some 70km west of Birdsville my diesel 4WD would go no fur­ther after we had put wa­ter in the fuel tank by mis­take. I spent the night there while the rest went on to cel­e­brate the cross­ing at the Birdsville Ho­tel. Next morn­ing Peter Barnes from Birdsville Mo­tors, guided by my friend, ar­rived at 6.30 and towed me to Birdsville. The ve­hi­cle could not be re­paired so I opted to have it taken to Port Au­gusta to be fixed. The only costs to us were meals and air­fares as we were, and still are, mem­bers of the Royal Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion of SA.

Tony Gwynn-Jones Clare, SA

How for­tu­nate for the Shel­ton fam­ily that there are still peo­ple in the Aus­tralian out­back pre­pared to go to the aid of oth­ers. My hus­band is a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer who served in a re­mote lo­ca­tion in the late 1970s. We lost count of the num­ber of tourists we pro­vided as­sis­tance to who were stranded in bro­k­endown, ill-equipped ve­hi­cles. They would run out of fuel, wa­ter, food, spare tyres, bat­ter­ies and even dog food. We of­ten had no choice but to give them a bed and shower in our home and even pro­vide our own clothes to change into. Do you think we were thanked? Rarely. Re­im­bursed in any way? Never. Crit­i­cised for not do­ing enough? Of­ten. I can un­der­stand why the Mt Dare and Birdsville folk are not in­clined to go to res­cues with­out pay­ment. Robyn Macken­zie Stan­thorpe, Qld

From the com­fort of my lounge room it’s easy to crit­i­cise other folks’ out­back travel plans. How­ever, the itin­er­ary and solo laden and age­ing ve­hi­cle reads like “lambs to the slaugh­ter” to me. The trip should have com­prised at least three ve­hi­cles in con­voy, prefer­ably four; and an HF ra­dio, plus a back-up sat phone. An EPIRB can eas­ily be hired. Tell some­one your itin­er­ary – my neigh­bour is my trip emer­gency li­ai­son con­tact to po­lice and land man­agers; I pro­vide her with all my plans, maps, GPS de­tails, ve­hi­cle ID etc. For ex­tended re­mote travel, I top up her credit card with at least 3k in the event she has to pay for re­cov­ery. Prior to re­mote out­back travel, con­sider join­ing a 4WD Club. Ger­ald Wollmer

Land Rover Own­ers Club of Vic­to­ria Inc Mill­brook, which we vis­ited in Au­gust. It is sad that John had two un­for­tu­nate ex­pe­ri­ences there, but from the out­stand­ing meals we en­joyed I am happy to en­dorse the restau­rant. Paul Turner Der­nan­court SA

The writer of De­cem­ber’s best let­ter wins French Vine’s cu­ra­tion of six premium ar­ti­sanal French wines plus a bot­tle of 2007 Le­clerc Bri­ant Mil­lésime Cham­pagne. The prize is val­ued at $526.

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