Picking our way down a steep and rocky trail from the summit of Mt Murray in the Victorian High Country, trying to make it back to camp before the coming rain arrived, we rounded a bend to find a 200 Series Land Cruiser off to the side of the track. To the side stood the owner, a distinguished lady of certain years, expensive camera in hand, all on her own, capturing images of the white remnants of dead snow gums across the steep landscape.
Was she okay? Yes, certainly. Did she need a hand? No, no, all okay. Plainly we’d met someone of self-assurance and confidence in their own ability to deal with the environment.
You know there’s rain coming? Yes, yes, I’ll be fine.
We headed on.
Later that afternoon as a gentle rain fell, we sat under the awning with this same lady, Louise Hackett; a resident of Melton outside Melbourne and a keen camper trailer owner and photographer who has been taking on the bush in her Vista Crossover XL for some years.
Louise moved from Melbourne to the Northern Territory in the 1960s, “...so every road except for half a kilometre in the middle of Alice Springs was dirt or mud or covered in water, so you just did it. We didn’t have 4WDs, and if the water in creek crossings was below your knees and it wasn’t too slushy you could probably get through”.
What was once a necessity is now a recreation.
“Now, I just enjoy being out in the bush and seeing what’s happening. Taking photographs is always high on the list of things to do.”
Louise’s love of horses and show jumping — often with a measure of success — has begun to wane as they are very time consuming, though she still retains a couple of what she refers to as “paddock decorations”.
The Vista is now her choice of residence when on the road. She takes it out probably once every couple of months, though she feels that there are probably few truly remote places left in Australia; aside from a couple of spots such as the Canning, except when the weather changes and you can be rained in and stuck for a few days.
Louise was attracted to the Vista by the absence on canvas, the combination of a roomy interior and modest external size and the ease of use.
“Plus, it’s extremely well made, you just buy it and it works,” she added. “While there are quite a few hybrid-type campers around today, that wasn’t the case in 2012, and a lot of them are bigger and ergonomically not as good. I’ve had six people inside in a storm.
“I could change a tyre, but I suppose that’s about it. If it did anything else I might be stuck, but that’s why I bought one, because they are strong. That’s why I bought the Land Cruiser.”
Louise likes her long trips up north, including the Cape and The Kimberley.
“I thought Gunshot was pretty good, though I chickened on the difficult descent, but it was still Gunshot. I slid sideways into the water, turned left and drove out. I don’t mind water crossings, as long as someone else goes first or else I’ve walked it myself.
“Nolans was good, but I did it a bit too fast and built up an excessive bow wave. It got a bit white knuckle for a minute. But when we got to Seisia there were a whole bunch of cars which had gone in without a bra and ripped the fan blades off because they’d been drawn into the radiator.
“The guy in Seisia with the garage has a roaring trade. I had a fan belt that was squealing quite badly. It was fine, nothing wrong with it, just with dust in it, but it was squealing. He said he had way too much work to do to fix it, so just went and parked next to his office and left the engine running and it squealed and squealed until he finally came out and fixed it. I know he was busy, and he was a nice man but I needed it fixed.”
Plainly this is a person who isn’t put off by any problems she encounters in the outback.