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We didn't 'Planet'! One camper van. Two blokes. Four weeks. What could go wrong?

Grey Nomads

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 23 March 2007 | Views [6486]

One of the good things about travelling outback Australia is the interesting people you can meet. It is that sort of place, where talking to strangers is normal. Whether you are filling up at the gas station, supping a cool schooner in the pub or just walking down the street, it’s ok to be nosey, which suits us just fine.

Spotting a bright yellow Land Rover, Matt and me shuffled over to chat with the owner. This was no ordinary run-around; it bristled with enough add-ons to tackle an expedition to the moon and back. As a spotty teenager, I used to follow the annual Camel Trophy, from an armchair of course. It involved thirty or more identical Land Rovers, crewed by international teams, travelling to remote and generally very muddy parts of the world. Their objective was to complete a gruelling route through a delicate ecosystem, digging large holes and felling trees along the way. For fairly obvious reasons, this has become about as politically correct as President Bush at a Peace Corps AGM, and has now been disbanded. Dave Stephens is a lifelong devotee of the British made Land Rover (love them/hate them), so he jumped at the chance to buy this particular vehicle that has completed an unbelievable three challenges; Tanzania, Sabah and Amazon in 1987. You’d think that spending a small fortune on a truck that has been pushed, pulled and thrashed through some very messy parts of the world would be a bit of a bad deal. Not for Dave though; this is a collector’s piece and he has lovingly restored it to a point where it is almost more beautiful than the Ambassador van.

But Dave’s story only just starts there. Once the vehicle was ready, along with his wife Margaret, they set off from London on a fourteen year odyssey that took them through Europe to Morocco, across the Middle East and Asia, back to Africa and also South America. This is a trip most of us could only ever dream of. Matt and I jostled to get our questions in first – so much to find out! (I wanted to ask where his money tree was, but that is a little personal I decided). You might expect someone who had completed such a trip to be the typical brash and outspoken explorer type; but Dave is an unimposing and quiet man. Quiet, but clearly confident – I imagine there is nothing this couple has not seen or had to deal with. I asked him if they ever had any worrying moments. With casual abandon, he replied “ah yeah, well we got robbed a couple time and spent a few nights in jail with border problems”. Timo and Matt are impressed. ”Plus we did get shot at once, with automatic fire”. The holy grail of traveller panache. Nobody really wants to get shot at, but there can be no denying that those bullet dodging dinner table stories will always get the most Ooh’s and Ah’s.

Dave and Margaret, who live at nearby Mildura, have now joined the ranks of Grey Nomads that roam outback Australia. Having seen a large slice of the world, they now spend their time exploring the vast expanses of their own homeland. The typical Grey Nomad, sixty something, driving a Landcruiser with tent trailer, is a common sight around the country. Somehow, I think this particular twosome will always stand out a little with the Land Rover and their above average campfire stories.

Tags: ambassador van, people

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