Australia Big Lap – Trip Planning

dec50d23-03e7-4b9f-8654-0b0f63314041We are in the final stages of counting down before we set off on our Australian Big Lap adventure.  This has taken months to plan to get to this stage and have everything almost in place ready to go.  It has been interesting for me reading and researching other people’s trips who are doing a similar thing or even just reading up on shorter trips we are wanting to take in on the way around.  After the last 5 years of trips around WA and into TAS, QLD and SA we have built up a knowledge of what we want our trip to consist of and potentially what we want to miss out on, as there is never enough time to do everything.

Our Big Lap started as a bit of a dream and a wish that all our other trips could have been longer rather than spending many hours driving and rushing to get to places.  Every weekend trip we would talk about if taking a year off was really going to be feasible or not.  In the end we came to the conclusion that life is too short and we just need to make it happen.  So with the stars aligning at work and with our lease in Perth ending we decided to go for it.

How long does it take to plan?  I don’t think there is ever really a set time as it will differ depending on what you want to do on the trip and where you are going to go.  I know some people who would easily just set off in a weeks time without any planning and whilst this could work if sticking to the main routes, the chances are lots will be missed and also no plans in place for when something goes wrong.

So what about us?  This blog covers what we are looking for out of the trip and the planning process we have gone through to get to where we are now.

This is what we are looking for…

  • To visit the places we have read about in travel books and other people’s trip reports which include lots of places off the beaten track and some that will have the high likelihood of getting stuck at times, but that’s part of the adventure as long as we are prepared.
  • Activities will include hiking, backpacking (multi-day trips), Canoeing and Mountain Biking.
  • Undertaking/Exploring some iconic 4×4 tracks

So where do we start?  I have split this down into a few different planning sections to cover the process we have gone through to get to this point.  Each requiring more research and months of preperation.

Vehicle Preparation

Preparing the vehicle for the trip we wanted to undertake has taken a reasonable amount of time.  Over the years we have tweaked our setup for other trips and now we wanted to ensure this was perfected for the Big Lap.

We own a Land Rover Discovery 3 and before we tweaked it for this trip we already had the following fitted..

  • Opposite Lock Bull Bar with 9500lb VRS Winch
  • Uniden UHF Radio
  • Llams Height Controller (Adjustment for Air Suspension)
  • All Terrain Lightweight Truck Tyres (Bridgestone Dueler)
  • Lightforce Spotlights
  • Compressor Guard from Green Oval
  • Second Spare Rim from Green Oval
  • Rhino Rack Bars, Tray and Roof Pod – Not shown in pictures yet as we used to have a Maggiolina Airlander Rooft Top Tent before the Drifta Trailer came along.
  • Boot Shelf with Fridge Slide (From ORE) – Given the choice again the drawer system now produced by Drifta specifically for the D3 and D4 would be a much better choice.  I may upgrade on the way around!
  • Secondary Battery using a Thumper Battery from Home of 12v – This was from a previous vehicle (Freelander 2 – Review Here).  If I was starting without this I would go for a dual battery setup under the bonnet to save space in the boot.  However the Thumper does give you flexibility and looks like the Kickass range of products from Australian Direct are better than the Thumper.
  • Mitch Hitch to raise the hitch height to an off-road hitch
  • Rear Bar and Wheel/Jerry Can Holder (from Kaymar)
  • Spare 18″ Wheel from Green Oval
  • ARB Compressor mounted under the Bonnet
  • Cargo Barrier – This is a full size one however really only need a half cargo barrier
  • ARB 47L Fridge/Freezer – This has lasted us well for the last 5 years without any issues apart from the light not working.  An early review from when we first started using this is here.

So with all of that out the way we needed to make some final tweaks to the setup as follows:

  • Tidy up all under shelf equipment – This is all our recovery and vehicle repair equipment.  This all fits now into a number of slide out low height boxes.  Ideally a drawer system would be better but this will do the job for now.
  • Add additional recovery gear and tools to ensure we can be as self sufficient as possible.  Additional gear over our standard setup included a winch extension strap, compressor extension for the trailer tyres (we carry a spare compressor in the trailer also), Jump Start battery pack, hose tape and Weld Glue.  The standard setup we had included all the usual recovery gear required and importantly the Max Trax :-).
  • Spare Land Rover Parts – This took a fair amount of research but the go to list of spare parts come from the Green Oval Experience guide within the book they produce.  I sourced these parts from the Local Land Rover Dealer and have been getting up to speed on how to fit when required.
  • Full Service of the vehicle – We had a few jobs to do to make sure everything was in top condition so this required a couple of visits back to Southern Land Rover.

Of course you would not need to do all this if the plan was to stick to the main routes, however our plan takes us off the beaten track and we will likely need to recover ourselves now and again and fix issues as we go.  Keeping the vehicle in top condition as we go will be important and regular servicing at Land Rover garages is in the plan as we move around.  The first will be in Launceston, TAS and then we will likely look at Brisbane for the next one.

Camping Equipment/Camping Trailer (Drifta DOT 6)

We purchased our first camping trailer in November 2015, a Drifta DOT 6 after a lot of research and working out what best suited us.  I have a Blog Post covering an initial review of the trailer and there will be more of this to come over the next year.  We could have undertaken this trip without a camping trailer as we had a reasonable vehicle based setup with roof top tent.  The issue with the vehicle based setup was the amount img_0395of kit in the vehicle and the pack up every day before we could go anywhere.  The trailer offers us a great setup for all weathers and a huge amount of storage for carrying all the equipment needed for the adventures we would like to undertake.  We have almost perfected (well, there are always tweaks to be made!) the equipment we will be taking in the trailer and the best setup for the trailer over the last year.  Having enough time to spend tweaking this over months works well.

img_0069Our camping trailer is an off road trailer so will pretty much go anywhere our Land Rover will go within reason.  We will be taking the trailer to lots of remote places however for some places we will leave the trailer and undertake the more difficult tracks without towing.  We will have an OzTent RV2 with us which forms part of our camping setup with the trailer but can also be used on it’s own for trips without the trailer.

img_0445With the camping trailer comes an excellent kitchen including our second fridge built into the kitchen unit.  We tend to us the kitchen fridge for all the main food and the vehicle fridge for keeping drinks cool and as secondary food storage/lunch food.  The ability to also carry 160L of fresh water give us a large capacity to spend time without needing any water sources and enough water for some quick showers.

Activity Equipment

FullSizeRender.jpgThe activities we have planned include backpacking, hiking, mountain biking and canoeing.  We have had to work out what equipment to take with us and how to carry all of this.  We already have the equipment built up over years so the real challenge was how do we keep the weight to a minimum and where do we put it all.  We have planned the lighter equipment to go in the roof pod box and the canoe/mountain bikes to go on the trailer.  The canoe is an inflatable canoe from Advanced Elements and fits well in a custom made Drifta bag in-between the toolbox and the stone guard.  The mountain bikes were a bit trickier as to how to take with us and we have tried a number of solutions until we came up with the right solution for us.  We have a bike carrier from ISI Systems which fits into our Mitch Hitch on the Land Rover and gives an off road solution for bike carrying.  The bike carrier also comes with a bracket that can be welded to the trailer on an upright post for the carrier to be fitted.  We contacted a local welding company (Perth Mobile Welding) to fabricate a post for the draw bar and weld on the ISI bracket.  The Bikes now sit above the Stone Guard.

Trip Itinerary Planning & Bookings

How much should you plan?  This is going to vary and I read some people’s trips who plan nothing and just go with the flow and others that are planned in great detail from day to day.  No answer is the wrong answer as it depends on the individuals but I do think somewhere between these two views is the sensible one.  Some things do need to be planned well in advance or you simply won’t be able to go to some places at certain times.  A good example of this is where we wanted to be in Freycinet National Park, Tasmania around the Christmas time and the only way to be there is to enter the Ballot system around 5 months in advance to find out if you have a camping spot.  Then of course there are ferries to book to get to Tasmania and back etc.  We found we needed to have some places more planned out than others and especially during school holidays where you need to book up well in advance.  We also have people joining us for the trip so have certain places we need to be on specific dates which we can’t miss.  That being said there also needs to be flexibility as you will find places you want to stay longer, places you don’t know about and of course no doubt some issues to deal with along the way.

We have a master spreadsheet that is pretty detailed and plans out the first 6 months of the trip and includes things we don’t want to miss, booking we have made, travel times, important notes etc.  We have allowed parts of the trip to be flexible and others to be more fixed so have tried to get a reasonable balance.  The second 6 months of the trip in the north will be planned more closer to the time and be much more flexible with some specific dates for meeting people.

How did we plan what to do?  This takes a long time and is built up with knowledge from previous trips around things we have missed, talking to others who have been to where we would like to go, reading blogs like this, using travel guides and lots of websites.  When it comes to sources of information we have balanced using Lonely Planet guides so we don’t miss some of the top tourist attractions, national park websites, local area websites and trip reports from forums like MySwag.  No doubt there will be things we add on as we go and some we may remove as we gather more info during the trip.

Other considerations/things to do – Mail, Internet, Phone etc.

img_0066So packing up and heading off takes a lot of planning but there are all the usual things at home which need to be sorted and this will differ depending on your circumstances.  We were leasing an apartment so moving everything into storage and heading off was our plan, although this may not be so easy if you own property etc.  Some of the things we made sure we had covered…

  • Removal & Storage company planned well in advance.  Packing everything up always takes longer than you think.
  • RAC/Motor Vehicle breakdown cover at the highest level you can get
  • Travel Insurance – This will be dependent upon circumstances and what you have already planned/paid for and need cancellation insurance etc.  We went for a year long policy with RAC and it does seem tricky to find policies that cover up to a year
  • Cancel Home Broadband, Utilities, Contents Insurance, club memberships etc.
  • Ensure Motor Vehicle insurance is up to date as well as trailer insurance if relevant
  • Mail Redirection & Mailbox setup.  We decided to go with SOS mail to setup a PO Box address that mail can be redirected to.  Once mail is receive by SOS mail they scan the letter and you decide if you want the contents scanned or forwarded to an address of your choice (such as a campsite you are heading to in a couple of weeks etc.)
  • Important paperwork, need to take some and others need to be left somewhere safe.
  • Medical Insurance – Need as a minimum ambulance cover and ensure you have a valid Medicare card etc.
  • Safety Equipment topped up, SatPhone top ups and any emergency locator beacon subscriptions etc.

Conclusion

Planning this trip has been fun as well as stressful getting everything in order before we head off.  At the time of writing we have a week left to go so are in the final stages of this planning and can’t wait to have everything in place and start enjoying the adventure rather than planning it.  Ultimately having enough time to plan should make for a much more enjoyable and hassle free trip and I don’t think we could have done this without a few years under our belt subconsciously  planning and gaining experience from previous trips.  Let’s see how we go 🙂

 

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