Passionate about 4WDing and camping, Kev Smith has ventured to many locales in Australia. Kev keeps a written and photographic record of his adventures, maintaining a comprehensive blog site – as well as arranging 4WDing and camping treks for those who love the outdoors as much as he does …
Hi Kev. Tell us about yourself and your family – have you always called the Coffs Coast home?
My parents relocated to Coffs Harbour from the Blue Mountains some 27 years ago, before moving south again. I decided to stay here in the Coffs area, as I love the whole mountains by the sea atmosphere.
I am single, but have a beautiful daughter, Billi, who loves the whole camping, 4WDing and exploring scene. We have been lucky enough to have explored a lot of this great country – from a host of desert regions, our great coastline, some of the islands in Queensland, and we even touched the snow covered high country in Victoria.
We are very lucky here on the Coffs Coast, as we have one of the few spots on the East Coast where the mountains reach the sea – this was caused when the Mount Warning volcano erupted some 40 million years ago, and the nearby Ebor vent spilled out to create the hills that now lie behind us.
How did you first become interested in 4WDing?
I became involved in 4WDing some 20 years ago when I bought my first 4WD – a little Daihatsu Rocky. That was a huge learning curve, as I had only ever had street cars before that. I got bogged, stuck on hills, yet I knew it was the beginning of something big; it was fun.
Probably the biggest drawback I have at the moment is not enough time to get out there to explore more areas. But saying that, we just came back from a trip exploring the mid-west of NSW last month, as I write for several 4WD and camping magazines, and next month we are off to explore the north west of NSW.
Where are some of the most exciting places you’ve been off-roading?
I’ve been support vehicle for a group of mates who ride off-road BMW dirt bikes, and we have done several desert trips. These trips definitely rate highly; yet our trip through the desert in 2010 when the desert was alive with a mass of flowers, birdlife and still in flood was something to remember too.
Locally, Point Plomer has some great memories, fantastic beach camping, basic facilities, yet is so close to home – as does the Macleay region and the ranges west of Grafton. I fell in love with the Flinders Ranges too; Arkaroola to Wilpena Pound are just so different. Honestly – I rate everywhere I go highly, as it means I am out and about.
Deserts can obviously be dangerous and unpredictable places, so how do you prepare for a trips to places like this?
With the bike trips we have done, we needed to prepare for the worst, so we had a paramedic along, the boys on the bikes had every spare you could imagine, and it had to run like a military operation, as there were 7 of us on the trips.
But it doesn’t matter if it’s only us; we still do all the calculations for fuel, food, camp spots with facilities. I always have a comprehensive first aid kit, spares, like belts, fluids and bearings for the 4WD and the camper trailer. Safety needs to be paramount out in remote regions (and it doesn’t matter if you are 1,000 km away or just 100 km away); you still need to be prepared for any mishap.
What kind of vehicle do you use for your trips?
My vehicle of choice at the moment is a Toyota Land Cruiser 80 series. I have set it up as a ‘tourer’, so at any time it is ready to go out bush, or even outback. I have built it with off-road suspension, roof awning and basket, long range fuel tanks; other mods include a dual battery setup to run our fridge, large inverter to recharge any 240 v devices, rear drawer setup and other goodies.
Our setup, when teamed with our off-road camper trailer, ensures we can be self-sufficient for up to two weeks at a time.
Tell us about Woolgoolga Offroad …
I started up Woolgoolga Offroad some 17 years ago to meet other genuine people who love the outdoors and seek adventure. I’ve been lucky enough to have organised trips for clubs, 4WD magazines and friends who visit the coast. I am always happy to share my knowledge on where to go and what to see.
Share a funny story with us about something that may have happened on one of your adventures ….
One moment that sticks in my mind was a camp on the Warrego River, out the back of Bourke. Our mascot for the trip was ‘Dazza’, a Youtube cane toad who was concerned for his mate. One of our bike riders took it upon himself to ‘mimic’ Dazza’s mate – Baz, complete with outback boots, singlet tucked into his undies – running around the camp! Definitely one of those stories: ‘What happens in the desert, stays in the desert’!
You actually won the inaugural BCF Camper of the Year in 2009. What did you have to do to win this competition?
BCF ran a program called The Passionate Program, where you could compete against all other BCF employees (at the time there were some 4,400) throughout Australia. I chose the camping section, as that was and still is my passion. Basically, it was an exam type test, where you had to set up camp scenarios, product reviews, explain product pros and cons, cooking methods and more.
I entered the 2010 Passionate Program, where I stepped my entry up, but was told my entry was just too good and was asked if I could step aside; I was happy that I set the bar high. Winning the inaugural competition was something I aimed for when I was employed with BCF.
You’ve actually written a 4WD book for the Coffs Coast. Where can people find a copy?
I’m up to the second edition of my 4WD book, Coffs Coast, 4WD Destinations. The current book has around 70 odd pages of trips and photos. The next one will hopefully be double that, as I have a backlog of destinations to share.
Living here on the Coffs Coast, it’s so easy to get away for the day or the weekend, and what most people don’t know is you really don’t need a modified 4WD to explore. There are so many great places tucked away, with pockets of pristine rain forest, crystal clear creeks and some great coastal hideaways.
If people are interested in my book, they can buy it at the TJM Megastore at Coffs Harbour South for $30.
How can people contact you?
If anyone wishes to contact me for any further info on 4WDing here on the Coffs Coast, or just want to follow my 4WDing and camping adventures, they can jump online at www.woolgoolgaoffroad.blogspot.com. Here they will find a host of my ventures and adventures from the past 10 years. I update it every time we go away for a drive or camp, any modifications to the 4WD or camper trailer, or even if it is out for the day just to photograph this great area we live in.
They will notice that I am always looking for anyone to join me in day or camping trips away and to be featured in the many magazines that I currently freelance for. There is also the opportunity to subscribe to my blog updates by submitting an email address.
With the doors that have opened up the past few years, I am working towards the adventure of completing the big lap and hopefully all of my experience will come into play; but again, you can follow my ventures and the exciting places that I visit on my blog and in several 4WD and camping magazines.
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This story was published in issue 25 of the Coffs Coast Focus