Founder of Stoney Creek, Hank Rojek, has just returned from the trip of a lifetime. He and his wife, along with the couple next door and the husband’s brother, set out from Brisbane early in June, and proceeded to travel around the upper stretches of their state and then over into the Northern Territory, before returning home in mid-July.
KITTING UP FOR THE TRIP
All images by Theo Sloots
“We were sitting around one day at home,” Hank tells Camper. “And we thought, we really ought to go and experience all of those places we’ve missed on previous occasions.”
“As for our neighbours, they’ve always wanted to go to Cape York and do the extreme stuff; but they had never felt confident enough.”
So they collectively conceived their wide-ranging itinerary. Hank’s neighbours undertook an advanced 4WD training course, while Hank selected the appropriate RV models from the Stoney Creek stable.
For himself and his wife, the Scout Hybrid Off-Road Caravan stood out as most appropriate. It’s made for two and is something Hank, with his offroading experience, could handle at 2.5 tonnes ATM.
For the other three, the ultra-nimble SC-WT (Walk Through) took the cake, with its ample storage space and room to sleep as many as six.
Offroad-ability and quick set-up times (given the amount of travel) were two other important factors. But then all Stoney Creek RVs are built with these attributes in mind, Hank says.
“Anywhere your 4WD goes, our campers will go, too,” he says. As for set up, both of the models he selected can be left on the tow ball overnight. All the hybrid takes is to raise the pop-top, whereas the soft floor simply folds over, with a wee-bit of canvas positioning.
Hank ran us through the setup of the Scout: “We had a free camp setup with solar, a king bed that was perfect after a hard day’s travel, cafe dinette and shower/toilet combo – rare in a 14 footer.”
And of course, the 4x4s – a Mitsubishi NW Pajero and Triton – had to keep up on the rough stuff: “On the NW Pajero, we had a two inch lift, Iron Man suspension, Yokohama A/T tyres, a bull bar, winch, and quarter inch plating underneath the motor gearbox and fuel tank.”
ON THE ROAD
Just before they set off, it became clear that the track to The Tip from Cairns was still closed following the wet season, as was Lakefield National Park due to flood damage.
“Fortunately, we knew that we could shuffle around our course if we needed to,” Hank says. “If we liked a place, we knew we could sit down and spend a night there. Just as we knew we’d never be short of options if one destination didn’t work out.”
So, after making Cairns, the group cut across to Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria. Here they cracked out the rods and spent a successful hour’s fishing.
“We all caught some nice fish right away,” Hank says. “Barramundi, bream. We were running very light tackle, unfortunately; we hooked a few big queenies, but you could see the line break and them take it away.”
From Karumba they trooped south-west to Leichhardt River and Leichhardt Falls. Here, they ventured off the beaten path in their 4x4s:
“Around Leichhardt, there’s a lot of free camping; and it’s incredibly beautiful and pristine,” Hank says. “We made out way through creek beds to find a perfect campsite.”
They made sure to do a lot of bushwalking in the area, too, including the track to Walker’s Monument – a commemoration of Frederick Walker, who died from malarial fever after conducting a search party for Burke and Wills.
Next, the group cut west to Lawn Hill, visiting Gregory Downs’ historic hotel en route. Upon arrival, they laced up the boots and undertook a few extended walking loops. From there it was 4WD tracks north towards Doomadgee. Here their plans were struck a blow.
“One of the vehicles lost its back window around Hell’s Gate,” Hank tells Camper. “A rock from a passing car came through the back window; the whole canopy got full of dust.”
“We rung Darwin, and managed to have a rear windscreen fitted there. From Darwin, we worked our way back through Kakadu.”
In Kakadu, they witnessed sacred rock art, walked around Jim Jim Falls, and took on Cahills Crossing – commonly renowned as the most dangerous water crossing in the world. However, Hank told us, it was not especially challenging this late in the season.
One of the highlights a little east of this was the camping at Bing Bong, near Booroloola: “Picture miles and miles of sandy beach, where you can free camp anywhere,” Hank says. “And there’s no one else there.”
Not that it would have been a problem if others were there, he says. It was lovely, on their journey, to see families pull up and have a good time together.
“Parents and kids would pull up, sit down and play cards, toast marshmallows, sing songs, bring out the guitar,” he says. “Parents would spend quality time with their kids. It was lovely to see. I think people are a lot more relaxed on the road.”
From up north, the group tracked south to experience Uluru, the Olgas and Kings Canyon. At Uluru, Hank says, school holidays and the impending ban on climbing made for unexpectedly large crowds. “It was like Queen Street, watching people walk up and down the rock,” he says.
Kings Canyon itself was epic; as was the Mereenie Loop, until one of the vehicles lost its power steering to the corrugations. Hank had to draw on his experience to get them out of that fix:
“We managed to get a little bit of power steering fluid and every 20 or 30 kilometres we’d put a little bit in and feed it through, so it didn't burn out the power steering pump. Finally, we got through to Alice Springs with the vehicle on a hoist.”
“I wouldn’t call Mereenie Loop a 4WD track as such,” Hank reflects. “It’s just a very badly corrugated road. One of the worst in Australia. Lots of people lose their suspension; there were broken down campers and damaged vehicles on the side of the road.”
Hank is by no means a camping greenhorn. He’s a veteran of sorts – a title further earned by his latest outing, which is just one of many throughout his long touring career.
“Camping has been a big part of my life since I was 15 or 16 and in the air-force cadets and reserves,” Hank says. “I have loved camping since then.”
“Many years ago now I started Trackabout Campers, but we sold that about 20 years ago. I then went on to work on offroad caravans. In 2012, we started Stoney Creek Campers – with the intention of providing strong campers that were capable of doing the remote outback.”
The RVs along for the ride, then, were a long time in development; they are the product of a lifetime of experience. Still, Hank says, the trip was a great R&D opportunity.
“What better way to test out, and try to break down, our quality systems,” Hank says. “For example, the fridges. On trips like these, you can get an answer to the question, how will they cope with the vibrations, the heat and the dust?”
When we asked Hank if there were any issues, he said it was smooth sailing. Literally. “We were running independent dual shock suspension on the Scout. It was brilliant. We could sit at 100 kilometres if we had to go on corrugated roads, and we didn’t even know the corrugations were there.”
As for the off-grid systems: “The beers were always icy cold at night.”
The only hassles were a broken external brass tap from a flicked-up rock and a worn-down stoneguard from the 1000s of offroad kilometres. Both, Hank is glad to say, were easy fixes.
ITCHING TO TRAVEL AGAIN
Now it is back to work for Hank, but in the background he is plotting additional trips. He can do so given the business is in the capable hands of his son, Chris.
“I’m ready to go again,” Hank says. “The vehicle is clean. The RVs are ready. Later on in the year we’ll probably go down towards SA and the Great Australian Bight, and do a quick trip over to Esperance on the coast.”
After a life spent developing RVs, you might as well enjoy the products you’ve created!
AT A GLANCE: SC-SCOUT HYBRID OFF-ROAD CARAVAN
A hybrid for those who prefer a solid roof and minimal setup. Made for couples who like to challenge themselves offroad, while still enjoying luxuries from home (SC-Scout 4 available for families).
Stand-out features XT2800 Cruisemaster suspension, 200L of water capacity, 2 x 100amp deep cycle batteries, REDARC 30 BMS, king sized bed, interior toilet and shower.
Body length 4300mm
Overall length 6600mm
Travel height 2400mm
External width 2100mm
AT A GLANCE: SC-WT (WALK THROUGH)
A classic camper in the soft-floor style, offering outdoor living under the sizeable annexe. Capable of sleeping as many as six people.
Stand-out features King sized main bed, four burner cooktop, independent coil spring suspension with twin shock absorbers, 160L water capacity, heavy-duty 14oz canvas.
Body length 3400mm
Overall length 5300mm
Travel height 1600mm
External width 1800mm