21 Jul 2017
WATCH: Meet Anne and Terry Sullivan as they share their stories from the road.
The lure of outback adventure gives this retired couple from Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes an adrenaline rush.
The couple started their love affair with life on the road in 2003 and just love exploring Australia’s dirt road only, hard to reach places.
There’s nothing little about the way Anne and Terry Sullivan travel. The retired couple from Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes like a car and van with grunt.
They wipe red Simpson Desert dust from their camping gear as they park their Chevrolet Silverado.
Pic: Simpson Desert.
“It’s very well-equipped to tow our off-road heavy van. We just drove up the Tanami Track from Alice Springs. It took four days of travelling and we stayed at Wolf Creek Crater for two nights. There’s a lot of red dust up there,” Anne says.
Pic: Wolf Creek Crater.
After a few nights rest the explorers are off to Western Australia’s Pilbara.
“We haven’t been there before,” Terry says.
“The next plan is to head home through Meekatharra, which will bring us down towards Kalgoorlie and then across the Nullarbor. That’s the broad plan. We have another three months yet to do it.” Anne smiles.
“Plans were meant to be changed though. We’re always making little detours! That’s the beauty of caravanning.”
The couple started their love affair with life on the road in 2003. Previously, Terry spent 21 years in the army and Anne was a social worker. They went on to work together in private business and retired in 2002.
“We started with a van that was not off-road and discovered we wanted to go places we couldn’t,” Anne says. They bought their Trackmaster Simpson off-road caravan in 2009.
“It’s ideal. They’re heavy and solid but they don’t shake apart on the corrugations. It suits us nicely for what we want to do now. We did very well on the Tanami – we just chugged along at the right pace for the corrugations.”
The couple also has a Nissan Patrol and share the driving load.
“You can’t afford to be driving while you’re tired,” Terry says. “Anne has a bigger lead-foot than me!”
Their ‘OFWEGO’ number plate sums up their approach to life but they’re always grateful to return to the comforts of home. “We’re not ones to dispense with our home base,” Anne says.
“The Gippsland Lakes is a very lovely part of the world. We live right on one of the lakes looking across the water, so it’s nice to come home to.”
Friends watch over their pad when they’re away.
“I don’t think we would like to be travelling continually,” Terry says.
“A lot of people do it. I like to get home, clean everything up, and get ready for the next trip.”
Of all the places they’ve visited, Terry loves the Simpson Desert best.
“We went across on a guided tour with Outback Spirit Tours. It was wonderful: five cars, five staff and 19 people. It was great fun. It wasn’t glamping, though. They cooked but you had to wash up yourself, and put your own tent up. The Simpson has vegetation everywhere at the moment. We were told it had four good wet years so everything is growing. You imagine red, red, red out there but it’s actually red and green. It’s amazing.”
Anne rates Kakadu at the top of her list.
“It’s wonderful. We are bird people. We’re not ‘twitchers’ but we have been known to spend four days in one place trying to find a certain type of finch. We saw quite a few interesting birds as we made our way up the Tanami, and coming up the northern highway yesterday we saw two bustards. We even saw one of them fly.”
They also have a thing for plants.
“That’s why we love the Simpson Desert,” Anne says.
“We saw grevillea wickhammi on the Tanami Track in the desert. It is also common at the Bungle Bungles.”
The couple belong to the Mansfield Alpine 4WD Club (Terry used to be president) and when they hit the road they don’t leave much behind, including the 12-foot boat carried on top of the Chev.
“We do a lot of free camping so need to have campfire and cooking stuff,” Terry says.
“On the front of the van there’s a cut-down stainless-steel beer keg which is a moveable fireplace. It has legs that fold out. A good friend of mine made it.”
The van has an ensuite bathroom (toilet and shower combined) and they take books, computer equipment, photos and two foldable bikes.
“If we’re going to travel for four months, we have a bit of gear with us. Otherwise we’ll sit around and twiddle our thumbs.”
Despite taking a satellite dish, they only switched on the television once in four weeks.
“We just don’t have time for it,” Anne says.
“We’re too busy chatting or planning where we’re going next. Or what they’re eating next. On the first night out, whenever we go away, we have spaghetti bolognaise.”
“Once that happens you can then take it easy,” Terry adds.
“A bottle of good red with the spag bog isn’t too bad either.”
The pair agree the key to an amicable relationship on the road is flexibility and respect.
“It’s good for our relationship,” Terry says.
“We have a few disagreements here and there but not many… You just have to know when to sit down and get out of the way.”
Anne laughs. “And know your place!”
Are you after more stories from the road? Click here for Shelby's story on what it's like to travel with kids.
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This travel feature was published in G’DAY Magazine.