Explorer On The Road with Warwick & Vicki
Here we meet by chance the legendary Leyland’s in their Explorer Motorhome. Everybody is familiar with their amazing talks of outback travel and TV shows. To be able to pass a few hours with Mal and Laraine was a real pleasure. We could have spent much more time in their company listening to the stories and perhaps adding one or two from our 20 plus years of outback and desert travel. We started our adventures with a double swag and land cruiser in the early 90s and after a while moved to various hired 4WD campers. We soon graduated to the best off road caravan on the market for 25,000km or so of remote travelling. Then some very different thinking, in order to simplify our travels, saw us purchase a good tent! Sounds absurd after the luxury of the caravan. But it worked.
Then wait there is more……..A New Zealand friend of ours came across to the lucky country to look at something called an Explorer Motorhome. We tagged along with him to John Burke’s place in Buderim to see what our particularly demanding friend was interested in. Eureka! Although there is no “one solution fits all” method of outback touring this Explorer setup appeared to be ideal for us. Not jumping to any conclusions and being somewhat particular ourselves, we then visited several other factories producing small 4WD drive motorhomes/caravans, thoroughly checking out the market. There was a standout conclusion to our research; the Explorer Motorhome was the best by a long shot!
Off to Clontarf to meet David Ridings at the Explorer factory. David has previously had many years’ experience of building fibreglass boats. Good boat builders are renowned for the quality of their work, the attention to detail and the canny use of space. Manufacturing a product for such a harsh environment, as the ocean, requires serious understanding of significant stresses and forces. (Sounds like outback travel to us!)
Service at the Explorer factory is personal, without fuss and so accommodating. Planning and ordering is a breeze. Without further ado we ordered a new Explorer Motorhome and took delivery in June 2014.
Vicki Simpson is trying to tell us something. Life is short, let’s get out there and enjoy the experience. She points to the Burketown sign. Time for all the grey nomads and others to “get out there”.
Rough as guts in places; a very good test for any vehicle. 024 TVK came through with flying colours. Nothing amiss what so ever.”
Keep the weight down by repacking items into plastic jars rather than glass ones. Try to pack a minimum amount of kitchen gear. Aim for multi-purpose items. I find a non-stick low sided casserole dish serves both as a fry pan and a pie dish as well.
Line kitchen drawers with a dense light foam product you find in the DIY stores to protect them and provide extra padding to stop rattling items. I chose to have the option of a gas oven/grill instead of a microwave. Far more practical for me – the grill is an excellent toaster. The two gas rings and one electric works for me and provides flexibility.
Explorer installed a gas bayonet fitting outside by the fold down table, on which we sit a Baby Q Weber. When travelling this Weber fits nicely into the shower.
To make the bed feel as plush as our Sealy at home two woollen doonas we don’t use are put under the fitted sheet-luxurious!
I take a rectangular plastic container with handles to do handwashing in and it fits nicely inside campground tubs if you happen to be staying at one. Doubles as a washing basket, water carrier, foot spa ….. Well after a few months of orange dirt your feet deserve a treat somewhere along the way!
A well thought out first aid kit is a must.
A satellite phone we consider essential for remote travel. Over the years we have had to use one when we had mechanical problems – or even to give family an update on ‘’where the hell are you now!’’
Sorting out a few pointers…
• Buy a good hydraulic bottle jack and take a solid board to put it under on soft ground.
• Spend money on a good compressor and get a reliable tyre gauge.
• A spare 20 litre plastic fuel container fits neatly into the outside storage cupboard.
• Consider a B.E.S.T. water filter for your intake hose.
• 100 mile an hour tape, tying wire, multipurpose glue, rope, a small selection of tools and a roll of ‘’rescue ‘’ tape.
• A long handled spade is a good idea.
• Make sure you have a snatch strap and correctly rated shackles.
• Purchase a simple plug tyre repair kit.
• A great Christmas present for your wife/partner is a 12V Ezywrench Rattlegun. This will make it easier for her to get off a wheel if necessary!
• The vehicle GVM is 3300kgs. – Each of the Pirelli Scorpion AT tyres fitted to our Explorer Motorhome have a maximum load rating of 1090kgs. Therefore, the total loading on the rear axle, at its maximum, should be no more than 2180kgs. Consider weighing your rear axle to make sure you are complying with loading limits. Roughly two thirds of the vehicle weight is on the rear axle.
Boulia to Alice Springs
Come on, Uncle Bob!
Boulia camel races
If you haven’t been to the camel races, make the effort. The whole affair is great fun and really entertaining both on the track and off. Our favourite ‘Uncle Bob’ won all his races and the Boulia cup plus made us a few dollars.
A huge amount of firewood is provided so we had a fire going for four days and nights, ideal for damper and potatoes, and a very fine meal of lamb cooked in the camp oven served with eight vegetables! Great lamb, thank you Trish.
You won’t believe the at times completely random behaviour of these racing camels. Sometimes sitting down 50 m from the finish line, sometimes sitting down at the start and sometimes simply racing off in the opposite direction. Hilarious! Great weather, great company and great facilities make this an unforgettable outback social event.
Boulia on to Alice Springs via the Donohue/ Plenty highways is an interesting 820km road, most of which is gravel. Numerous points of interest make this route worth considering as a direct way to the centre. No problems with fuel stops and easy driving. There are various camping options. Road conditions as usual vary according to the weather, traffic and maintenance.
Everyone has their own ideas about tires and tire pressures. This road was the first opportunity we had (off the blacktop) to test our ideas in our new Explorer. In many years of previous outback road we’d established a regime for tire pressures. Essentially it’s based on the 4 lb rule. This simply tells you that if your pressures from the cold setting to hot go up by more than 4 lbs, you’re starting pressure was too low. Conversely if your pressure from cold to hot goes up less than 4 lbs, the indication is that your starting pressure was too high. Overall this is a good guide, but will depend on the temperature at which the cold pressures were set, weight, speed, road surface, daytime ambient temperature etc…
When setting off on a trip our Explorer Motorhome is within the 3330 GVM. We have Pirelli Scorpion 245/65/17 AT tyres fitted (factory option). We set the rear tires at 46lbs cold and the front at 44lbs for the seal.
On the gravel depending on road conditions we’ve gone to 32 at the rear and 28 in the front. In bad conditions we are prepared to go lower than that. Under these circumstances the 4 lb rule is inappropriate.
To simplify all of this we have fitted a set of ‘Tyre Dogs’ which give constant pressure and temperature readings on each tire. Recommended. Most opinion presents the argument that speed and tyre pressure management is of real importance in outback road /track travel.
Winton to Boulia
Campfire Cooking at it’s Best!
Even on the dustiest, dirtiest roads no problem, no mess, no dust gets in. Messy husband well that’s a different story (In fact mine is quite well trained!).
If you find your toilet roll jumps off the holder just put a peg on the end of it, same goes for your towels although ours don’t move.
To flush the toilet at night to save a lot of pump noise and water we have a water bottle filled that we squirt round the bowl.
One of the most appreciated additions to our Explorer is the retractable clothesline which is fitted over the shower. I love the fact that my hand washing dries during the day as we drive along.
Bitter Springs and onward…
Lorella Springs crossing Crocodile Creek
There is no real ‘setting up’ time involved; and packing up for departure takes minutes. Nothing is heavy, complicated or stressful. The supermarket visit is just as it would be in your car. No domestic disputes when parking on a site at a camping ground – especially at happy hour when everyone is looking for entertainment! Bliss. The ability to score late in the day the primo position on the waterfront at a freedom camp due to our manoeuvrability and size is priceless. Then there is the good humoured awning envy when we run out our electric one. You won’t believe it!
Drifting down the warm river at Bitter Springs was an ideal way to set us up for our trip to Roper Bar and onto Burketown. There has been some mystique around Roper Bar; this is an historic and strategic crossing of the Roper River discovered by Leichardt in 1845 and is the obvious limit to navigation on this river, some 140 klms from the sea, once a vital access to the interior.
Plenty of wonderful camping on the way to Borroloola including Town River, Butterfly Springs and the Southern Lost City. Spectacular! We detoured to Lorella Springs, a well-developed somewhat commercial camp, and had a few days wandering around the tracks and swimming in remote waterholes. Bonus was the delicious hot bread cooked in a wood oven by Crusty Dick.
One of the best books you can read on almost any outback area is ‘’Voice of the Wilderness’’ by C.W.Teece and Glenville Pike (hard to get but worth the effort) which relates specifically to Lorella Springs/Rosie River. Look for it you’ll be well rewarded.
The King Ash Fishing Club is on the McArthur River just north of Borroloola.
Great atmosphere, friendliest people ever, wonderful camaraderie – good old fashion camp spot. A compulsory target destination. The club is a large operation with a turnover in excess of $1 million providing many facilities including a restaurant of sorts. Numerous fisherman’s huts have been built there over the years and there are great camp spots along the river.
We are still in awe that people get in their 12 foot tinnies and travel 45km down the river to get to the sea. Little freeboard, no shade, basic equipment and in the same environment as crocodiles larger than their boat! The lure of the legendary Barramundi.
Borroloola to Hells Gate Road House was the ultimate test of the integrity of our Explorer Motorhome. It was diabolical at the time we travelled. The worst road we have ever been on in all our years of outback travel, but nothing broke, came off, leaked dust or developed any other nasty habits. Salute Explorer!
This road is not called the Savannah Way for nothing and it is clear to see why this was the first stock route from the East to the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Plenty of water, good feed and mostly friendly topography made this once the obvious drover’s choice. Tens of thousands of cattle passed here in the late 19th century and early 20th century on treks taking up to 18 months to 2years to reach their destination in the West. Great campsites abound and fuel is readily available. The Savannah from Roper Bar to Burketown should be included in anyone’s outback itinerary.
Savannah highway Borrooloola to Burketown
12 foot tinnies on the McArthur River
We found under normal every day conditions on the sealed road travelling at 95 kph plus or minus, we use around 10.6 L per 100 km.
Small increases in speed, say 100 kph, produce a disproportionate increase in fuel consumption to 11.9 or so. A good headwind may increase fuel consumption by 20%.
Your Hilux; its worth considering changing the headlamp bulbs to ones of higher wattage (eg. 150 watts) as this gives a dramatic increase in night vision.
A small Bow Saw is very handy as well as a sharp machete or small axe. Each are multipurpose.
Hide a spare key somewhere under the vehicle wired on in a plastic bag.
Tire pressure deflator adjuster makes this job easier.
At times you will appreciate a pair of leather gloves as well as a small light tarp.
Don’t forget a good torch.
The beautiful Town River
Sand road at Lorella Springs
What’s in my pantry?
Obvious staples like flour and golden syrup for damper. Potatoes to put in the embers.
Basics for everyday use are readily restocked along the way. We have a lot of coleslaw as cabbage travels better and lasts longer than lettuce.
I buy some of the very good curry paste and spice mixes that are available which makes meals easy. As well as the meat I add a few vegetables to the pot near the end.Marion’s Kitchen and Passage Foods Street Kitchen are favourites.
Couscous is great, you only need to add hot water. I’ll add some Moroccan spice, lemon zest and juice and cut up celery, capsicum, grated carrot – whatever is to hand. Chicken is another good addition.
I like to make my own baked beans, so always carry a tin of chopped tomatoes and tinned cannelloni beans. Cook up some onion, garlic and bacon pieces then mix in the tomatoes and beans. Like a curry the flavour develops overtime.
Tinned chickpeas mashed with a potato masher makes a good chunky hummus with the addition of garlic sautéed in a good dollop of olive oil and add a squeeze of lemon juice, plus salt-and-pepper. Optional add one teaspoon cumin seed to sautee with the garlic.
Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! 🙂