Birdsville or Bust – By Patrick Cruywagen

31st January, 2017Posted in: The Stories

Birdsville or Bust – By Patrick Cruywagen

When I looked out the plane’s window, all I saw was the red dunes of the impressive Simpson Desert below. I was on a flight from Brisbane to Alice Springs, which is situated in an area they call the Red Centre of Australia. They could not have come up with a more apt name, as Alice Springs lies more or less in the dead centre of Australia. These Aussies are real clever buggers. In about 48 hours I would be driving across the desert in what is now known as the ARB Icons, four specially selected and prepared vehicles that epitomise the past 40 years of the Australian off-roading scene. According to the T-shirt they gave us, the Simpson Desert is one of the world’s largest sand dune deserts and, to cross it, we’d have to drive up and over more than a thousand dunes. From up here, the dunes don’t look much higher than the pile of sand Naas Botha once used to place the ball on when taking a strafskop.

A Simpson Desert crossing is one of those 4×4 routes that everyone in Australia should do at least once in their lifetimes. The four selected ARB Icons for our trip were: a 1976 FJ40 Toyota Land Cruiser, a 1991 Nissan Patrol GQ, a 1994 Toyota Hilux SR and, last but not least, a 1995 Land Rover Defender 110. They were all purchased and prepared by ARB stores from four different states. This was my fifth off-roading trip to Australia and the one thing I know is that while South Africans and Australians might enjoy combat on the rugby and cricket fields, when it comes to off-roading, we are cut from the same cloth. There are subtle differences, of course. We braai and they have a barbie (barbeque), we have big lions and elephants that can kill you, they have deadly snakes and spiders, they sleep in a swag while we prefer ground or rooftop tents, they love the Nissan Patrol GQ while most South Africans hardly recognise the existence of it. I was joined in Alice by six journalists from around the world, plus the ARB support crew. The four ARB Icons were all shiny and clean, while every bit of ARB kit imaginable has been added to each.

Despite the fact that ARB was in the process of celebrating its 40th birthday, they still make a comprehensive range of gear or older vehicles like our Icons. This includes full suspension set-ups and ARB bull bars plus a host of other extras such as Outback Solutions Modular drawers, AR21 Intensity LED driving lights, ARB roof rack with awning, an ARB fridge freezer and ARB swag. As seven journalists need feeding, help with recoveries or repairs and someone to take the pictures and video footage, we had some support vehicles. There was a 2016 Toyota Hilux, 2016 Mazda BT-50, 2016 Ford Ranger and the beast-like TDV8 Land Cruiser 79 Series double cab. The Mazda was my favourite, mainly because it was towing the trailer packed with grub. After enjoying a bacon ‘butty’ – folding a single slice of buttered bread around copious amounts of bacon – at the Anzac Hill for breakfast (it was here that I learnt that many Australians lost their lives during the Boer War), our small convoy left the comfort of Alice Springs.

Read the full story here- Aussie Icons