Travel – 4WD Swagman – a Lap of the Left Hand Side

This is the first in a series of posts chronicling the preparation for and the conduct of a big trip around the western half of Australia on four wheels in  mid-2017.

This post is a bit of an intro, just covering the why, the where, the when and the how. In the rest of the Four Wheel Drive Swagman series, you’ll see the vehicle and gear preparations, route planning as well as a few short shakedown trips before departure day. After that day, the Four Wheel Drive Swagman series will turn into a travelogue where you’ll see a day-by-day description of the Goulburn to Goulburn run around the left hand side of the Australian continent.


I’ve already done the right hand side of the country a bunch of times. In fact, the bit at the top right used to be my office. I’ve done a fair bit of travel through Victoria, Tassie and South Australia too. But unlike the tens of thousands of overseas tourists who come to our fair shores to work and travel every year, I’ve never seen the Northern Territory and I’ve never seen Western Australia, so that’s a good enough reason for me.

After I’ve done this circuit, no doubt I’ll head back up to the NT and WA for later trips. That’s what I love about travelling through Australia – there’s always more to see and do.


The gist of the trip. It’s not an exact routemap, since Google Maps wouldn’t let me add in some of the must-see areas such as the Kimberley and others. It gives you an idea though. More concise route maps will appear for each leg of the trip.

The trip starts at Goulburn NSW and finishes at Goulburn NSW. Along the way we’ll see:

  • Narrandera
  • Mildura,
  • Adelaide,
  • Woomera,
  • Coober Pedy,
  • Uluru,
  • Alice Springs,
  • Darwin,
  • Kakadu,
  • Katherine,
  • The Kimberley,
  • Broome,
  • Perth,
  • Kalgoorlie,
  • The Nullarbor,
  • Port Lincoln,
  • Adelaide (again),
  • Ballarat,
  • Melbourne,
  • Wilson’s Promontory,
  • Mallacoota,
  • Bateman’s Bay,
  • and everything else along the way.

Total distance travelled, from Goulburn to Goulburn, will be around 16500 km (10,250 miles).


Unlike down here in the southern latitudes, there are times of the year when you just can’t drive in the remoter places north of the Tropic of Capricorn due to the massive wet season rainfall. This means you have to time your trip so you won’t be stuck for days or weeks due to flooding. As I write this, there have been instances where tourists near Alice Springs have had to be rescued from flood waters and others are cut off until the water recedes. December/January is NOT the time to go.

The tourist season starts as the country begins to dry out and the roads open again in late May and June. This means I’ll be departing Goulburn on the 1st of August and a week later I’ll be boiling the billy in sight of Uluru. I’m not looking forward to sharing my bush time (or the corrugated roads and dust) with eleventybillion other people, but since I’m not driving the Tanami track this trip I’ll just have to grin and bear the crowds on the main routes for much of the driving time.

I’m allowing around 50 days for this trip, so if all goes well I’ll be back in Goulburn by about the early October 2017. If I’m not, then I’ve probably found a slice of paradise somewhere and will stick around longer, or maybe even indefinitely…


The Shorty during a quick trip out to Yerranderie a few weeks back. Basic, isn’t it?

The vehicle used on this trip is a 1979 model diesel 40 Series Toyota Landcruiser shorty. It’s not the best option for a long-range trip like this. Mine is even more basic than these shorty forties usually are. Onboard cargo-carrying capacity is no better than a soft top Jeep Wrangler; and being a soft top vehicle, there’s no scope for roof racks unless I get an exo cage and roof rack made up between now and when I leave. Onboard fuel capacity is only 85 litres. There’s no aircon and dust can and does blow around inside the cabin.

Aside from a couple of mod cons like a pair of 12v outlets in the front, wind up door windows and a plug and play aftermarket dual battery system installed for this trip, the shorty is about as technologically advanced as a 1940s Blitz truck.

Sure, I could go buy myself a 75 Series troopy or even a Landrover 110 for this trip, but I’m not going to. Doing it low tech in a 36 year old vehicle is half the fun.

This little car is a highly capable four wheel drive and it’s simple to maintain and repair. Everything about it is designed to get you there and back, just not in luxury or even in comfort in some cases. The car is running factory 6-stud split rims with old school 7.50r16 “pizza cutter” tyres. I’m carrying two spares – one on the rear in a swing out carrier, and one inside the vehicle, bolted to the roll bar on the passenger side. From experience in the Cape, I am confident that these rims and suitable tyres will be easier to find in the more remote areas than the mags and fat 35 inch mud tyres I had on the vehicle previously. I’m not expecting any problems with the rims themselves, but you never know…

Onboard fuel capacity is a problem. Ideally I’d like to carry 120 litres extra (6×20 litre jerry cans), but due to interior space constraints I’ll only carry two (40 litres) on the vehicle’s rear racks. I can carry two more on jerry can holders on the front of the trailer and another two inside the trailer itself. So that’s 80 litres of fuel carried in or on the trailer.

Anyway… I’ll delve more into the pros and cons of the vehicle in a later post. Here’s some fun facts though… the car will probably use around 2100 litres of diesel over the course of the trip, which will cost me anything from $3,000 to $3,500 in fuel alone. Then there’s the oil changes – I’ll need to perform 3 oil and filter changes while I’m gone. Should be fun.

Stick around for more posts in this series. I’ll try to get some video shot too so you’re not confronted with a wall ‘o text with every post. Thanks for reading!


Since this post was published I’ve acquired an army trailer, which solves a lot of the storage problems inherent in a soft top shorty, but increases the complexity of the whole setup as well as the fuel consumption. I’ll get the fuel consumption numbers calculated after I’ve done a couple of shakedown trips with the trailer.

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