Ask anyone who loves off-roading or camping what their bucket-list of Aussie trips looks like, and you can almost be guaranteed that Cape York will be near the top.
I think sometimes as a Queenslander you can forget just what is on our doorstep. The likes of Fraser Island – the largest sand island in the world, the Great Barrier Reef – the largest living thing on earth, the Daintree – the oldest continuous tropical rainforest in the world, Whitehaven beach – 7kms of pristine white sand and turquoise waters... hell, we even have the Gold Coast, and for all it's reputation it's actually a beautiful place too.
When you think about it, it's not surprising that Cape York – the ultimate beach-meets-bush trip – is high on the off-roading lists. What is surprising is just how little thought we'd truly given to going, until it started to pop up more and more over the campfire during group trips. Timeframes were discussed. Two weeks, three weeks, a month? Years, seasons, equipment, routes. Before we knew it, we'd formed a plan. It wasn't something we'd done consciously – working in travel I tend to gravitate towards lusting after the last destination to pop on my desk; Japan, Iceland, Argentina, Greece, Africa, Norway, Canada... but it suddenly made so much sense to 'do the cape'. It was right on our doorstop. It was everything we looked for in a trip.
We'd had the Navara for a few years and thought it was going to be 'it' for a while. Old faithful, our donkey. But a few things happened and we ended up changing course, and after 7 weeks of searching we bought a Patrol. Technically older than the Navara by 3 years, it had been owned by an old couple in their 60s. It had provided them with a lot of joy and good times (it's done two laps of the country already) and yet it was in mint condition. We couldn't believe our luck.
Since October we've set to work slowly chipping away at small modifications, all with the sole purpose of making our trips easier. You certainly don't need a modified 4x4 to go off-road, but after many years we've lived with and without certain things – we know what works for us. The Cape is next for us, then we're heading to Tasmania next year, but when we work away at these things the long term goal is (and always has been) to do a lap of Australia in a beloved car – hopefully before we're grey. The Patrol is that car for us.
The Patrol came with dual rear drawers, a bed extension that allows us to fold down the back seat and have a flat durable storage space above, a snorkel, UHF and an excellent headunit/gps/reversing camera (that we could never have afforded ourselves but love to death). Since we got her we've put on slightly bigger all-terrains, custom-fit neoprene seatcovers, decent LED spotlights, a better UHF aerial, a rooftop tent rack and a rooftop tent. We also bought a Waeco fridge, which I think is some of the best money we've ever spent.
It's early days, and at the moment we're still in the midst of working out some rock-sliders/brush bars (Matt's very handy with a welder), a better water tank system and a bullbar that is winch compatible.
We're still working through rough plans for the route we want to take up north, and settling on how we want to configure the car for long-haul trips, but we're getting there, and we're excited. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for us at all, please leave a comment below! We're all ears. x
Brisbane-based lover of travel, off-roading, camping and photography.