G’day from the Top End, and welcome to our blog!
We thought that we’d take this opportunity to introduce ourselves and give you some insight into who we are, where we are from, and what we are hoping to achieve this year and beyond!
By way of introduction, we are Alan, Felicity, Lachlan (aged 5) and Nicholas (aged 4)! We live in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) and are your average Aussie family living the average Aussie life. Like many families with young children, we have wanted to get out and experience the splendour that the Northern Territory has to offer but have been a little overwhelmed by how to go about it with kids in tow. This blog will be a story of our journey – our successes, our challenges, our failures and the laughs we have along the way.
Given our location, unique issues such as the remote nature of many destinations, the presence of saltwater crocodiles and marine stingers at many of our beaches and waterways, and the tyranny of distance played on our own fears of how the kids would cope. In hindsight, I’m sure the kids would cope fine, and it was our own fears of how WE would handle the kids that was keeping us at home! Whilst Felicity and I have been camping before we haven’t camped with the kids and were a little unsure of how to go about it. So we started somewhere obvious – getting the right gear to start enjoying camping and all the fun it has to offer!
The biggest investment in our pursuits was the vehicle, and planning actually started late in 2014 when our previous vehicle, a Toyota Hilux 4x4 was written off after a collision with a wild horse near Katherine, NT. Rather than treat the accident as an impediment, we took it as an opportunity to start afresh and set about sourcing a replacement vehicle. Taking the ultimate role the new rig would play into consideration, we started building up a touring 4x4 from the ground up. We chose an Isuzu D-Max 4x4 crew cab ute as the basis because of its reasonable price, payload, economy, towing capacity, comfort and reputation for reliability. Given some of the remote destinations we would be striving to reach, reliability and confidence in the vehicle’s performance and economy were paramount.
As with any endeavour that requires a big financial commitment, we had to budget and plan the modifications to the D-Max well in advance. We started by hitting up the Isuzu Ute dealer to throw in as many extras as possible, and then used their buying power with the local ARB 4x4 dealer to work out some better prices on a bullbar, winch, canopy and snorkel.
With some nifty budgeting along the way, the D-Max has since been fitted out with an ARB canopy rack, side and rear work lights, UHF radio and some other modifications to make touring safer and more enjoyable. After some research on various online forums, we fitted a Dobinson Suspension 50mm lift and heavy duty suspension to better handle the terrain the vehicle was likely to encounter and the load that was likely to be carried along the way. Choosing the right tyres to best suit our needs was the next hurdle, but based on past experience the decision was an easy one.
As with any build-up of a vehicle, it’s a work in progress and there are still a few things that need to be done, but we’ll do our best to explain our reasoning behind the modifications and why we settled on the accessories we did later on.
We also had to update many of the general camping items that we did have as the old equipment had either perished (the joys of living in the tropics!) or wasn’t suitable for its new role for camping as a family. After making a list of what we had, what we needed and what needed to be replaced we hit up our local camping store and gave the VISA card a workout. We are now the proud owners of a new tent and OzTrail swags, sleeping bags and chairs. I also scoured the local classified and came up with a 9 quart camp oven and some other nicknacks for the kit. Again, our choices for selecting what we did will be expanded on along the way.
So having everything just about sorted for our inaugural camping trip, we’ve planned a weekend sojourn to the Tumbling Waters caravan park about 40 minutes south of Darwin. It’s close to home in case things don’t go according to our cunning plan, and there are a number of activities there to keep the kids entertained for hours. It also provides a ‘soft’ introduction to camping to keep the kids (and us adults!) from getting scared off by getting to too deep too soon!