Milo comes alive: Old friends on new adventures
Gleno's call rang through my head long after the ringing in my head had gone away. I'd taken a day off, kind of a rare thing with so much of Australia needing Unlocking and Milo needing so much work.
His timing was right though. I was starting to get shed fever, if there's such a thing. Sure there'd been plenty of travel in the last six months getting all around the country talking to politicians and press secretaries and anybody who'd listen, but the miles that weren't done in planes had been done on the tar in the family 76. Apart from a quick rocket up the Cape and a couple of beach holidays, but that hardly counts compared to some serious Miloing…
"What'd'ya reckon John? Kenno's in, Mel and Gav are keen to do the shooting, we can get the crew together real easy. Milo must be missing her tracks!"
I'm not sure about that. Part of me figured Milo was enjoying a well-earned rest to be honest. I mean I've hammered the poor old girl up some of the worst tracks to see some of the best places in Australia for a decade and a half now.
And loved every minute of it too.
But here's my old mates putting together a plan that'd see us out there doing it all again. Like all the big decisions in life, I figured it'd be best made down at the pub.
Which is why my head was ringing and I was having a day off. Must have copped a bad prawn or something. But Gleno wasn't giving it a break. Like anybody who knows the big man will tell you, Glen 'Hasbeen' Hadden nearly always gets what he wants. It's hard to say no to such a nice bloke.
"First trip should be about finding ourselves again," said Glen. "Going through some of our old stomping grounds with a view to finding something new too. Kind of like running in a rebuilt motor. Anyway, I'm losing weight, I've missed your cooking."
When Gleno and I first started travelling together all those years ago I knew straight away I'd got lucky. There's plenty of blokes who want to go bush but only a few who really make the grade. In my world you've got to be good on the wheel, good on the shovel, willing to try things that make tough guys shake and willing to help wash the dishes at the end of the day too. Gleno ticked all the boxes from day one; we've been adventuring together ever since.
"So are you getting the purple 80 out again old mate? Or maybe the hot rod 200?"
It took Glen a while to spit it out. He knows me well, knows what I think of certain late model trucks from the land of Queens and corgis. Seemed he was planning on taking his brand new Land Rover Discovery. No wonder he didn't want to go too far from home...
"Hahahahahahahaha, you're joking right? C'mon mate, we'll have to lay off the rissoles and start sipping chardy with a cheese platter instead."
But I knew what was going on. See, while Glen and I have plenty on common, there's a few things we see from completely different angles. I guess it's the age difference as much as anything, me being a generation younger than him and all...
He was the first to pioneer the relationships between chips and exhausts using dyno technology and create more horsepower in a safer environment than anybody in the country had before. Now he's out there again, creating a team of engineers throughout Australia who have mastered the magic arts of flash tuning, or recalibrating the new age vehicle's computers.
This is, to me, rocket science. To Gleno it's all about making diesels go like rockets...
So taking a new Landy along was more about experimenting with new era machinery in the real world of mud, sand and dust than it was about pomp and ceremony. It was about matching the vehicle's computerised drive assist functions to power output potentials and testing it all like nobody had been game to try before. But there's another side to Glen that's an opposite to me too - yep, Glen loves his comfort and the new Disco, with plush leather everything and power assisted door knobs, is almost the total opposite to Milo's stark 'just the bits you need' sort of style.
We weren't going out to do battle without Kenno though. Kent Hindley might have come to our traveling game late but he'd proven himself on some of the toughest treks we've done.
Originally it was all about testing his brother Vaughan's MDC camper trailers because 'The Vogan' as we call him, wanted to know what his products would do when pushed hard and, trust me on this, nobody pushes harder than Kenno! A battle scarred trail bike rider who loves his surfing and fishing as much as his hunting, Kent soon proved he had a skill behind the wheel that could make trailers fit where no trailers had ever gone before!
Yep, we're talking about the first man to pull a caravan up Billy Goat in the High Country, proving his Hilux and himself as much as the strength of that prototype XT10. This is the guy that towed a trailer through the mud holes, the worst track we've ever done in Tasmania. I rolled my Mustard truck that day, Kenno got through with some scrapes and bends on the trailer guards. He's good, and his much hammered Hilux has proven its stuff too.
Not without a whole bunch of parts along the way - but when I rang Kenno to see if old Blue Balls'd be right to roll again he could barely control his excitement. Especially when I mentioned Gleno's plan, that this time around we had a new game plan, this time we were going to take it easier and soak up some of the brilliant country we'd be driving through too. Oh sure, there's always going to be the tough tracks, Australia's like that. But rather than go looking for country to dig up, this time there'd be time out to chuck in a line and maybe wet a board too. That sure appealed to Kent!
Got to tell you though, Kenno might be the most enthusiastic fisherman I've ever seen but I've never actually seen him haul in a fish. I mean, the guy has a bath with a net, showers with baited hooks and trolls spinners behind his truck in the rain - but do the fish care? Not that I've seen. Maybe our LowRange trips will change that...
Mel and Gav, the absolute best producer and shooter team to ever work in the Australian bush, couldn't wait to come along, especially when they heard that the camera truck would be Gleno's fully loaded 80. While most camera crews get to drive a rented Pajero or something, both Mel and Gav have done so much serious off-roading that they've come to love what big wheels, big motors and lockers both ends can achieve.
You probably know that special thrill, the feeling that you've out gunned the conditions by bringing along a much modified beast. Anyway, the sort of terrain the LowRange team were contemplating meant taking the usual dross wasn't even a consideration. This wasn't to be about parking on the road and filming the mud puddle right next to it, this was to be serious off-road touring.
We got lucky with our photographer too. Anthony 'Anton' Warry had just come back from another overseas trip and was busting to go bush again. With LowRange already demanding nothing but the best, Anton was a natural fit. Unfortunately even his mastery behind the lens can't make me look any good but you get that....
So with Kenno's brother Vaughan 'The Vogan' along in his 200 Series and with mates Dave De Vries and Big Steve Robson to do some back up stuff along the way, we set out to work out our first trip away.
With the whole world to choose from, guess what? Yep, we decided to stick fairly close to home for LowRange round one, mostly because we live in one of the best places on earth but also because we wanted our first trip to be as much about proving the new team and vehicles and relaxing into it too. Plus there was this great big lump of Queensland that none of us had explored just north of Fraser Island, our first destination, and we want to go have a look!
Which is why the first ever LowRange DVD kicks off with glorious Fraser Island, one of the must do's on every fair dinkum Aussie 4wd'ers list, before heading north to experience the Burrum Coast and Bulburin National Parks.
See, I've been going to Fraser for over 40 years now since my first trips working there in the 1970s and the rest of the team's got plenty of Fraser history too. But none of us had ever camped along that brilliant stretch of coast south of Bundaberg - we had to go and have a look!
What's it like? Hey, you've got the DVD for that! Plus Anthony Warry's awesome photos no doubt. We had a lot of fun perched up on the dune right behind the sea even if Kenno couldn't catch a fish there either. He did give it his best shake though, even to using the camera drone to lob the bait well behind the surf!
After that we drove over to Bulburin National Park too because LowRange is about doing all the things we've always wanted to do. For more years than I can remember I've carved up and down the Bruce Highway and seen the signs to Bulberin along the way. But time was never on my side and like so many places in this great big wonderful country, Bulberin just kept getting missed.
Not this time though! It was really good for a whole lot of reasons too. As you know I've been busy pushing Unlock Australia, the not for profit organisation that's dedicated to opening up public parks and lands for all of us to share. By getting heaps of people with similar feelings together around the country we've already had some success.
But the more the 'Unlock' word gets out, the more we as an organisation are formulating our direction. At Bulburin I met Bruce Thompson, the Ranger in Charge of Bundaberg region. Bruce is one of many fair dinkum blokes working to not just look after the land in their care but to make it people friendly too.
This folks, is exactly what Unlock Australia is all about and here in Bulburin I made some big realisations from talking over the situation with Bruce. He and his teams are already working hard to open up more tracks that have collapsed under the weight of too much lantana in the past and they genuinely want to attract more people to the park and the region.
At the end of the day, the financial health of parks and the regions that surround them depend on people travelling in to enjoy their country. When enough people like Bruce begin to realise this, we can look forward to a whole new world of freedom.
Of course with freedom comes responsibility, as no doubt your parents might have mentioned about the time you started driving to parties on your own. But experiencing that beautiful grassy camp ground surrounded by huge gums and knowing it was maintained by people who want it to be shared by us all made our last destination all the more special for me.
But everywhere we go in LowRange is kind of special! OK, I've got to go, we're packing Milo for another trip right now.
Cop you later mates!