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20 Years on the Tracks
As owner and tour leader at Adrenalin Off-Road, Ben Carceller has plenty of opportunities to see some of the best that remote Australia has to offer. Courtney Cunningham sat down with him to ask about journey ideas, travel tips, his favourite Hema products, and being an “Alpha” user.
Q. You have been the General Manager for Adrenalin Off-road Centre for over 5 years now, what are some of the highlights and opportunities that have arisen from this position?
Owning a 4WD shop has definitely provided a lot of opportunities around things I love to do. We’ve been on some great trips to all sorts of areas of Australia doing photo shoots with suppliers, participated in trips for video and magazine publications, met some great customers that have a wealth of information about off-roading and travel around the country, and been given access to properties and areas that we would otherwise not be able to access. More recently we’ve expanded our business to include taking customers out on 4WD trips to share our love of off road and experience travelling the country with them. We get a chance to test out all sorts of equipment in our travels and this has given us the opportunity to tune our off road and touring setup over the years to work exactly the way we need it to. I’ve been 4WDing for around 20 years now, but in the time I’ve owned the shop I’ve definitely been able to take it to the next level.
Q. Is there anything in particular you use that helps with off-road treks? Any equipment, tips or tricks?
We rely heavily on our gear when we’re out and about, especially when in remote areas. For trip planning we’ve always used Hema paper maps for the area we’re planning in. Even prior to owning a business in the industry, this has been my choice of tool for pre-trip planning. There’s nothing like sitting down around a paper map with a drink and a mate and putting a trip plan together. While we’re out on the tracks we use the Hema HX1, both to navigate our trip as well as to log our trip route for future use. This allows us to reproduce a trip for later use either personally or on tour, or to pass on a trip route to one of our tour drivers or friends to follow. Hayley and I have often stopped somewhere super remote and wondered how we’d be in a location we’re at if we didn’t have a GPS that showed us where we were and what is around us in real time.
Aside from navigation, our other day to day touring equipment factors heavily into how well our trips run. We can’t afford for equipment to fail on tour, or when working or travelling in remote areas. As such, we use only quality branded gear, from Darche swags, rooftop tents and awnings through to TJM bar work and suspension, Lightforce lighting, and many other quality brands. If I were to make a recommendation on buying gear for your travels, I’d suggest talking to someone that uses their gear heavily, and save your money to buy a quality product once that won’t let you down in the field.
My last piece of advice would be to get out there and have a go! There is so much to see in Australia, and the more you do, the more you realise you haven’t done. We have a giant Hema wall map in our study at home, and we’ve been marking off routes we’ve travelled on it in black marker. It’s amazing to stand in front of that map and think you’ve done a lot of travel, then realise how much more you haven’t seen! Especially with international travel restrictions, now is a great time to visit your own back yard and see what it’s got to offer.
Q. What has been your favourite off-road trek to date?
Picking a favourite off-road trek is like picking a favourite child, you can’t really do it! But in saying that, I’d have to pick either the remoteness, scenery and history of central Australia, or Cape York for similar but warmer reasons.
Q. How has being trained as an “Alpha” user by Hema Maps helped with your travels?
Working with Hema as an Alpha user has given us a reason to add an extra few days or weeks onto the end of some of our travels, which has led to us finding some new tracks and locations we wouldn’t have normally visited. It’s made us take that extra track we usually drive past, to capture the data for the system, then find there’s something great at the end of it or on it.
Q. In what way will the maps and field data obtained from the “Alpha” program help others in their future off-road trips?
Capturing data in the Alpha program allows maps to be more detailed and up to date, which will help end users plan their trips, and travel through an area with accurate data on which tracks are open and closed, where locked gates may be, what track conditions to expect and show some of the points of interest in that area.
Q. What would you say is your most used and abused Hema product and what’s the story behind it?
It’s hard to pick which Hema product I use and abuse most. All my 4WDs have an HX1 in them which have all seen some places, I’d say my Australia mega map which I have on the wall at home and in the office at the shop would have the most hours on them of me looking at them. But the most abused would probably be an old paper map covering the Victorian High Country around Dargo, which I’ve drawn on, highlighted, and carried with me on just about every High Country trip I’ve done in the past 10 years. It’s pretty tattered and has a lot of holes in it where the folds are, but it’s a cool map.
Q. Hema’s motto is ‘prepared to explore’, but of course, things don’t always go to plan; what’s something you’ve encountered on a trip you could never have prepared for?
You can’t be prepared for some of the challenges that pop up when you’re on a long-range trip over rough terrain. For example, I once did a six-week central Australia trip where I thought I had all the spare parts and tools I could possibly need to get me out of trouble and into the next town, when I was proven wrong. A couple of weeks into the trip we had driven nearly 80km from William Creek to the edge of Lake Eyre at Halligan Bay with the track condition probably one of the worst I’ve driven. We pulled up to set up camp for the night and went to restart the car to move it and it wouldn’t start. Long story short, the fuel pump had given up the ghost! We had plenty of food and water supplies but were lucky enough to find a kind soul to flat tow us for hours back to William Creek. From there the car dealer arranged a tilt tray for us to Coober Pedy overnight and we arranged a spare pump to come up overnight on the Greyhound Bus from Adelaide. We only lost a couple of days out of the trip but met some excellent people over those few days and have a great story to tell out of it!
On a positive note, you can’t be prepared for what some of Australia’s scenery looks like. You can research a place like Uluru or Old Andado Station, look at pictures and videos, talk to people who’ve been there but the first time you roll into one of these places it’s still so much bigger, better and more impressive than you could have ever expected.
We always tell our tag along tour customers to prepare well but expect the unexpected.
Q. What’s your advice for aspiring off-road travellers, especially with people hoping to get out travelling around the country due to border closures for the foreseeable future?
My advice for travellers would be that if you haven’t explored Australia yet, plan your next holiday somewhere different in Australia. There’s a huge amount of scenery and history to be taken in and some places you won’t believe exist. Plan as if the external borders will stay closed for a while yet but the internal borders will remain open. If your plans need to change due to things like covid lockdowns or state border restrictions, there’s an endless list of substitute locations you can take your trip, but planning to holiday somewhere in Australia is the first step.
Q. Do you have any big tag-along tours or trips coming up that you’re looking forward to?
We have plenty of tag along tours to see out the rest of this year before we start planning next year’s tours. Our calendar is full of one and two day beginner and intermediate tours close to Sydney. The next multi-day trip for us is our Lightning Ridge tour, then we’re off into the Simpson Desert again, back to Cape York in August and down to the Victorian High Country once the seasonal closures finish in November.