We were feeling rather pleased with ourselves after completing the track out to Purnululu NP (the Bungle Bungle) when an elderly gentleman in an elderly troopy pulled up in the caravan site next to us. We soon started talking about where we had been. I felt instantly drawn to Clyde in a rather protective manner; he was in his mid-80s with a tremble in his voice and he was on his own. His wife of over 50 years had died and, as he explained to us with tears in his eyes, he didn’t want to sit around the bowls club waiting to die. Instead, he would fulfill his dream of a lifetime: complete all of Australia’s most notorious 4WD tracks, gobbling up kilometres on the Gunbarrel Highway, the Canning Stock Route and the Gibb River Road. On this trip he was taking it easy, “only” travelling the Plenty and the Tanami to get to Halls Creek before heading home via the Duncan, the Buntine and the Buchanan highways.
After tea and bickies at our place, Clyde invited us over to see his setup. The back of his troopy was gutted and had a homemade kitchen, cupboards and double bed with a swag rolled out on it. The bed, he told me with a playful wink, was “just in case he got lucky”. What a wonderful, inspiring man he was. We still think of Clyde and speak of him ten years on. Someday, if we are lucky enough to reach our eighties, we hope to inspire other travellers to keep going because, as Clyde explained to his family, it’s better to die out there under the stars then to die of boredom at home. That one evening spent with Clyde was an encounter we’ll never forget. Such are the joys of travelling Australia.
- Writer Linda Lee Rathbun and photographer Steven David Miller have spent 20 years 4WDing Australia. David and Linda produced content for Gregory's 4WD Australia - 50 short getaways. Read Linda's top tips for travelling Australia in a 4WD in the May 2010 edition of Caravan World magazine, out now.