“Oh no, looks like Dad’s going exploring again,” chorused the three teenagers from the back seat. The break in the roadside scrub had caught my eye as we rounded the bend and I simply couldn’t help myself. Resistance was futile and, with a cautionary glance in the rear vision mirror, I braked suddenly and wheeled the Patrol off the blacktop and on to the gravel track. The wheel tracks wound briefly through the scrub and high guinea grass before emerging on a sandy bank overlooking a clear, flowing mountain stream. In a flash the moaning back seat drivers — who had only minutes earlier been rolling their eyes at yet another impromptu detour — were out of the vehicle and splashing excitedly in the cold water.
Do you understand my affliction? Are you an explorer too? I don’t mean “explorer” in any grand, gung-ho sort of way. Nor am I talking about climbing mountains, or four-wheel-driving your way into the wildest, most rugged and remote country imaginable. What I mean is… do you ever wonder what’s at the end of un-signposted tracks that you whiz past in your travels? Perhaps you prefer to leave the bitumen behind and see where the roads less travelled will take you?
More often than not, of course, it’s disappointing. Perhaps it’s just a dead-end track in the bush or an access road to a landowner’s pump. But every now and then we’ll stumble onto some magical, out-of-the-way place that makes up for all the time-wasting detours. It might be a picnic spot with a stunning view, an uncrowded swimming hole or, as a keen fisherman, I’m always thrilled to find a new spot to cast a lure or soak a bait. Accordingly, for me, the most rewarding side roads are usually near river crossings or behind beaches. Others might prefer to find a stunning view, a waterfall, or an historic building… the thrill of exploring can appeal to all tastes.
Finding these tracks can be as simple as keeping an eye out as you travel, or you can adopt a far more thorough and methodical approach by studying maps and tourism information publications. Some guide books include interesting side tracks and topographical maps (I love ’em) show amazing detail.
Google Earth is another excellent tool and a great way to spend the hours as you click and drag your way across country, following the winding track which promises adventure.
Or you can simply talk to the locals. The spots which they’ve known about for generations are often the gems that make a memorable side trip for travellers.
Of course a little care is required when exploring. To begin with, most tracks aren’t suitable for caravans or motorhomes so leave them back at camp. Blind corners, fallen trees and washouts mean you should also limit your speed. A four-wheel-drive isn’t a necessity, but can be very handy. The main thing is to know the limitations of your vehicle and yourself and to turn back before you’re in strife.
YOUR SAY: Are you an explorer? If so, how about sharing some of the special spots that you’ve found. Tell us about the hidden gems you’ve discovered by taking a road less travelled. Directions to secret fishing spots should be emailed straight to me.