Desert Trakking

If Jean Foerster’s story of his Trakkadu AT and Wintery Getaways shows how this amazingly adaptable vehicle helps him explore Australia’s Snowy Mountains in the beautiful depths of winter, how does the Trakkadu AT meet the needs of a keen “explorer” of Australia’s Outback? And one who is also a city dweller with plans to turn his toddler grandchildren into camping partners?

Peter wanted an RV that could be used as a daily driver, could safely transport grandchildren, would fit onto a suburban block and under an ornate carport in one of Sydney’s garden suburbs - and which could also be relied upon to explore “the outback” where the going gets a little tougher than the freeway. And all the time offering high quality technical underpinnings with the effortless comfort of a compact, snug and efficient “tiny home” on wheels without bugs or privations.

I agree completely with everything Jean has said about the VW Transporter into which the Trakkadu is built, it’s an iconic vehicle with an almost cult like following worldwide. Shortly after my taking delivery of the Trakkadu in April 2019 a business colleague asked me to accompany him and another colleague in a 3 vehicle convoy with two big Landcruisers on a journey following the desert track of Burke and Wills, possibly the best known and most tragic explorers of Outback Australia in the mid 19th century.

We approached Burke and Wills northbound path making our way via Menindee along their track into the Strzelecki Desert near Innamincka where both ultimately died.

(Interestingly we met up en route with the owner of an ancient Trakka VW Camper, 300,000 km on the worst roads imaginable, twice around Australia and still perfectly serviceable and “never given me any trouble”).

Countless red sand dunes, each about 4 metres high, aligned north to south were where our East to West track, intersecting the dunes at right angles took us. The Trakkadu simply glided up the faces of the dunes, only the flashing of the dashboard indicator lights reminding alternating me that the ATC system constantly worked to ensure optimum traction through hard surfaces and deep soft “bull dust”, the talcum-like finest of fine sand ground down from sandstone over millions of years. Plenty of ground clearance, smooth as silk auto gear response to changing surfaces made it enjoyable, breasting each dune, keeping a close eye out for monster holes in the downslope you had a fabulous view of the Strzelecki Desert. The Trakkadu has a great outlook from its commanding driving position. The promise for 2020 of Hema maps allowing integration into the vehicles Apple CarPlay system will really enhance its remote country navigation and exploration capability.

I honestly think that one can’t really appreciate what a Trakkadu is all about until you own one - years in business teaches that excellence in design and implementation don’t come though hope or luck. The Trakkadu impresses with how everything works together, how clearances and tolerances to the millimetre combine to optimise storage space, functionality and comfort. There is no evidence of a “work around” or cost cutting culture. Someone has put a lot of thought and passion into making this vehicle a truly quality product. Setting up camp at Day’s end on the desert is raising the “Pop - Top” roof and ... well that’s about it.

Everything is there, ready to go. The Webasto diesel stove is a sensation - once you get your head around how it works and anticipate the need for heat and how to use “run off” heat to warm water to wash up or for post dinner tea, wow - it’s brilliant. Jean spoke of the Webasto heater in the Snow, trust me nights in the desert can be icy and the Webasto diesel heater is fabulous. Warm as toast within minutes! The little fridge is way bigger than you think once you get smart about what and how to pack it. I ran all these appliances plus music, lights, iPhone, iPadPro and a CPAP machine in an inverter for about three days off grid when we camped near Wills grave on the banks of Cooper Creek, the Lithium battery constantly delivered a full 13 amps over that time, and was recharged after leaving camp by driving out and doing some 240 V charging. The solar charger seems able to maintain the battery as it runs the vans systems.

The rear cabin and bed set up reminds me of my favourite flying seat, the QANTAS Skybed with everything near to hand, neat, beautifully presented and cosy. The LED interior lighting likewise is as beautiful as it is functional, select where you want light and dimmers deliver the required ambience.

I can’t cook, but I love the best food. And with the prospect ahead of 10 days in a remote harsh environment I was dreading the problem of eating well. But with help from the “Trakka family” I put together enough meal ideas to sustain two of us for a couple of weeks, storing all the dry / tinned / packaged ingredients in labelled stout Zip Lock Bags “displayed” on the shelf above the bed! No rooting around in cupboards, just gaze across the display, select the meal of choice, dig out the refrigerated ingredients and let Trakkadu systems do the rest!

I found carrying the internal 50 Lites of water was sufficient, although I did carry an emergency 20L plastic container inside “in case”. One becomes water wise when supply is not guaranteed. Likewise I carried two full size Kumho AT tyres on steel wheels, one in the spare carrier and one under the bed. Fuel use was frugal, around 8.2 L to 100 km over a 4,500 km journey, with highs of around 14L per 100 km for brief spells traversing soft dunes and stretches of bull dust to around 7.6 on Motorways at 90 kmh. I didn’t need to use a Jerry Can, having planned re-fuel points.

Speaking of the Trakka Family, it’s refreshing to “meet” so many people on the Facebook site with similar vehicles who are generous and open with tips and help, who are focussed on the fabulous adventures their Trakka’s take them and seem to have such great senses of humour. No boasting or hubris here! I’d include in that “Trakka Family” the people who own and operate the business who have proven to be accessible and unfailingly helpful.

Jean makes the point that the Trakkadu could be portrayed as a ‘far more capable adventure vehicle” than it currently is. Certainly one of the factors in my decision to buy the Trakkadu AT is just how capable it is. I’d never ever “push” the vehicle hard, but looking at You Tube “Sahara Desert VW AWD” shows the sort of pedigree the VW has and why it’s such a great choice for the Trakkadu. It’s capability is, I also think, understated.

Beyond the comprehensive package Trakka offers, the Trakkadu is open to hacks by doting owners, with smart ideas for stowing maps, aiding “sit up in bed and lie back” enjoying fresh brewed coffee in the morning, showering au natural and fitting extra spares & stores on swingaway hitch mounted devices. And if you are bush camped for a few days, the rear annexe included with the Trakkadu AT adds a shower room and a toilet for those who carry a Porta Potti.

The fabulous almost 360 degree panoramic outlook from inside is via tinted picture windows, with ease of seating for four people inside for pre dinner drinks, sitting around the campfire to watch a Desert Moonrise, long sound sleep on a really comfortable bed, coffee in the morning propped up in bed, admiring another Trakkadu Desert Sunrise - its all part of the Trakkadu Desert experience.

Doubtless there are cars which drive more luxuriously on the freeway, massive 4WD “trucks” which can traverse boulder fields and ford deep rivers, RV’s with built in Queen Beds washing machines, dishwashers and spas, tiny hatches which can park on a handkerchief and family sedans which are perfect shopping trolleys and good for occasional touring holidays in Motels & AirBnB.

This Desert Trek reaffirmed however that only one vehicle manages to come close to combining so many of the above attributes. The Trakkadu will cruise beautifully on Motorways, capably negotiate difficult remote and hostile country, offer a relaxing daytime space and by night sleeping comfort and convenience, whilst still filling all the roles of any family sedan or SUV in the suburban setting. And that’s why I think the Trakkadu was the perfect choice for me - it’s an all rounder that fills multiple roles but is also one with a true appetite for Adventure ! Just add Snow, or Desert or ... yes “moving day” and when the Desert Trek is over and youngest daughter and her nippers need to be moved, the Trakkadu will be there, Thomas the Tank Engine and all!”

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