We Interview — Travel Writer Ron Moon
Off-road adventuring is what we are all about here at Hema, and the same goes for long-time travel writer Ron Moon.
Having hit most of Australia’s highways and byways — including the hard to reach ones that lead to a destination that will take your breath away — as well as a fair few overseas ones, he certainly knows what he’s talking about, and used his expertise to help develop our Flinders Ranges Atlas & Guide.
Here we caught up with him to chat about the hidden beauties of the Flinders Ranges, what led him down this path and what he wishes people knew when setting off.
(Image: Ron & Viv Moon doing what they do best.)
Q. HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN TRAVEL WRITING?
A. I started writing for Skindiving in Australia magazine in the mid 1960’s which covered our travels spearfishing in remote South Australia, which led to a column covering scuba diving and spearfishing in the Adelaide Advertiser.
Around 1984 I started writing for the 4WD magazine, Bushdriver, and around the same time Viv and I founded the magazine Action Outdoor Australia, centred around backpacking, rock climbing, cross country skiing and canoeing, here in Australia and occasionally overseas.
Then in 1985, Viv and I went full time travel writing, putting everything on the line with a three month trip to southern and east Africa. The subsequent articles helped set us up and started a long-term love of Africa. We then founded Adventure Travel magazine in 1986 but that didn’t have much luck — or a long life.
By then we had written our first guidebook, Cape York an Adventurer’s Guide, which continued through 14 editions, and along with our other guidebooks, was sold to Hema Maps in 2015. We also wrote four other guides on remote Australia, as well as more general guides for other publishers.
In 1988 I became editor of 4X4 Australia, a job I held for 15 years, and a year later 1989 I also took on the role of editor of Let's Travel Magazine. In 2002 I became 4x4’s Editor-at-Large.
Today we write for a number of outdoor and travel magazines, including Caravan World and Camper Australia, both here and overseas, and we still research and write guidebooks for Hema Maps, the latest being, The Flinders Ranges Atlas & Guide.
Q. IT’S CLEAR YOU ARE EXTREMELY FAMILIAR WITH THE FLINDERS RANGES, WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAD THERE?
A. I lived in the Flinders Ranges — Quorn actually — as a young kid during the 1950’s and grew up trapping rabbits and wandering the hills around Warren Gorge. It was a fabulous childhood and began a life-long love affair with those mountains, which we constantly return to.
Q. THERE’S SO MUCH TO SEE AND DO IN AND AROUND THE FLINDERS RANGES, WHAT’S A STANDOUT FOR YOU THAT YOU FIND MOST PEOPLE MISS?
A. Most people head for Wilpena Pound and places further north, missing out on the southern Flinders which have some stand out places to visit and explore. Alligator Gorge, south of Wilmington, is a cracker as is the camping to be had in the afore-mentioned Warren Gorge.
Tucked up into the ranges north of Port Augusta is Depot Creek — first seen by Europeans when EJ Eyre discovered this hidden glen in 1839. Other explorers followed and today you can visit this delightful place on Wilkatana Station. There’s more of course, and the latest guide gives you plenty of ideas no matter what you are interested in.
Q. HEADING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK IS AN ADVENTURE OF COURSE, BUT THERE IS AN ART FORM TO IT. WHAT ARE YOU BEST TIPS AND TRICKS TO KEEP IN MIND?
A. You don’t need a 4WD vehicle to travel around Australia or to see the Flinders Ranges, but it helps get off the beaten track. The vehicle also doesn’t need all the accessories and aftermarket gadgets available, though some accessories do help improve the safety and the capability of your vehicle and camper or caravan.
If you are new to remote or outback travel, take a 4WD course on how to safely drive on a dirt road. If new to towing a van or camper, there are courses for that too.
Plan your trip to safely cover the distances involved. Fatigue can be a real issue, especially for drivers not used to long distances and conditions of outback roads. Drive to conditions and take your time — you are out there to enjoy yourself, not set records. Driving fast over rough roads is always possible but leads to more damage and breakages, as well as accidents.
Tyres are probably one of the most important things to consider when heading outback or off the beaten track, with most of the tyres supplied on new vehicles pretty poorly suited to outback or rough road travel. Get LT (Light Truck) tyres on your 4WD with an All-Terrain (AT) tread type pattern.
Make sure you have some form of communication device suitable for where you are going, as your normal mobile phone is not good enough. You’ll find a UHF radio more than handy while a PLB will inform others if you end up in an emergency situation.
Always carry water and never leave your vehicle if something breaks or you get stuck.
Most importantly, set a date to go to make your adventure happen. Don’t just say, ‘We’ll do that one day!’