It was back in the early ’90s when a mate introduced me to four-wheel driving with a camping trip up the back of Coffs Harbour, and from that moment I was hooked on this whole new world off the bitumen.
Every spare chance I had I headed bush with old paper maps hoping to find new tracks, fishing holes and secluded camping spots around the coast – and boy did we have some great adventures. We also competed in a few competitions around the state, and took off on epic trips into the heart of Australia.
It was about this time when I started my journey in photography, back then shooting on 35mm film and hoping for that one great shot. Over the years my photography has grown, and taking photos is a bit easier these days with the amount of gear available; but there is still a thought process about image capture. I love getting up at the crack of dawn to wait for that magic hour of colour, trying to get that perfect landscape shot after hiking up a mountain or capturing those stunning desert colours everybody talks about.
Before long, mates wanted to come along with me on trips after hearing about my exploring, so I formed Woolgoolgaoffroad, which was like an informal 4WD group for anyone who wanted to join us on a day out. Kicking around the NSW north coast has been my backyard for all these years, where the bush and ocean meet, so I have had no shortage of places to go.
Roll the clock to now and there’s been some bloody good water under my bridge: driving three 4WDs; living out of camper trailers; being support vehicle for bike riders across desert areas; hosting many camps; working with a national camping chain; plus a few years with an off-road store in Coffs Harbour. And with all this experience it wasn’t long before I saw the potential to write a 4WD book on tracks around the Coffs Coast area.
With this new project I found myself taking more and more time off work to seek out new destinations and explore, so last year I made the decision to semi-retire and do the grey-hair, big-lap nomad thing. But it seems like I am busier than ever, collaborating with great Australian companies with advertising, destination write-ups and product reviews through to setting up customer appreciation camps and weekend drives, as well as supplying magazine content.
With 12 months of planning, buying a hybrid off-road trailer, rebuilding my 80 Series Cruiser and downsizing into a storage shed, the nomad plan came to fruition this year. Making the decision to rebuild the LandCruiser was an easy one, as it is easy to maintain, it’s a fantastic off-road truck set-up for touring, and I know all the squeaks and rattles in the old girl (built in Sept 1991). Plus, it has no electronic garbage.
Spending plenty of time in the 4WD industry I’ve seen the introduction of many ‘lower standard’ accessories to the market, and I’ve stayed well clear of these, choosing to fit only good quality Aussie accessories to the LandCruiser. And my camper trailer is extremely comfy, capable on and off the road, and if the weather turns crappy I can jump in there and whack on the radio or get stuck into some emails that seem to be never-ending.
Over the years with my outback trips I’ve seen areas covered in flood and drought, and it never ceases to amaze me that people who have never ventured outback will say there is nothing to see. However, waking up in the morning, seeing tiny footprints in the sand, the amazing variety of birdlife in outback waterways and the history that this country holds is nothing short of spectacular to me.
I love the remoteness of hard-to-get-to places and the dirt and dust that you travel through for days – it’s all part of the adventure and it really can make you appreciate life in a different way. Seeing wildflowers as high as my knees or hiking out into dry lake beds where early explorers blazed trees and left relics is what my life is all about now.
Meet the Expert
Name: Kev Smith
Experience: More than 30 years