Above: Nissan Navara ON THE FARM

Above: Nissan Navara : Is it easy to drive in the highway, around town, and to park

Imagine a beautiful place, no not that one, THIS ONE!

You’ve travelled for 4 hours, through towns each smaller than the last. First the glorious Blue Mountains, then Lithgow, Bathurst, and Orange, and still you head west.

The countryside changes as you fling headlong down the open road. Its deep green is dotted with lakes of blue one minute, and huge brown-red paddocks the next. As you descend from the mountains, the vast western plains spread before you as if a setting for a Roberts painting.

As you get closer, the landscape settles in to a rhythm.

It is isolated, with hills once caped in velvet green, now barren from drought. Rocky limestone outcrops punch through the rich red landscape, with smaller gibbers strewn about by the hand of an unseen mad giant.

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Toyota Hilux Rugged X

Nissan Navara N Trek

Now, imagine how you would get there, not the trip, but the cars. Have you got that picture held in your mind? Pretty isn’t it?

The anticipation grows now you are very near your digs for the next few days.

You enter a large gateway at the side of a narrow country road, just this side of nowhere. The driveway is 2 “miles” long, punctuated by gates and cattle grids. You bump along the lane, so deeply rutted in parts as to be almost impassable. After traversing several paddocks, you cross a small creek on a culvert whose construction defies description or logic.

You climb a hill through a grove of ancient native gums, tortured by the worst drought in living memory, and come to a dusty clearing. There, behind a time-worn gate, rests a quaint farmhouse, untouched since the builder’s rubble was cleared, sometime in the late 40’s.

On the other side of the clearing, a collection of sheds and outbuildings sit proudly, if slightly neglected. They aren’t meant to be pretty, you’re now firmly in the beating heart of a hard-working Australian farm.

The Farmer:

“Harold”, an old nick-name, that for some reason stuck like mud to a blanket, is as Australian as they come. The broad drawl makes some of his sentences longer than Judge Jeffries’.

We decamp to greet our host, even before the cars have been unpacked. He is found in the heat of a shearing shed, ewe between his knees, mid-fleece. It was like the set of a Luhrmann classic. The strong smell of lanoline, mixes easily with essence of sheep poo in what is pure, distilled, history.

This vignette is not a mere pastiche, it is, quite literally, what made Australia the rich, proud, land that it is. The Covid turmoil, an outbreak of biblical proportions, seems very far away. Actually, it is very far away.

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We made our introductions, and walked back up the gentle hill to our cars, the Rugged X, N Trek Warrior and a 2020 Troopie. The latter, a vehicle unchanged since the automotive dawn, looked tragically at home. It has its fans, one of which I am not.

We brought our own gear. Food and snacks, bedding, and other life-essentials filled bag after bag.

Later, Harold joined us at the kitchen table for a hearty meal of meat. We talked through to the wee hours, fueled by a flagon of Jim Beam. Next morning, I was horrified to find it quite empty.

The Drive:

Next day, we set off to explore, but I’m ahead of myself.

Let me set the scene:

After turning in at a ludicrous hour, I had anticipated a sleep in, followed by a generous feed of bacon and eggs.

Instead, I awoke at sparrow’s, to raucous claps of thunder accompanying a torrential downpour. We had a trio of storms throughout the day. What had been fine drifts of powdery dust the day before, had turned in to claggy mires, lethal to the unwary.

After several coffees, brewed from bags imported from Sydney, and a breakfast of wheatbix, we turned once again for the long trek to the main road. I hadn’t noticed how lonely the trees looked. Most stood alone, mourning the loss of so many others. Some stood ghostly white, bleached by decades of scorching summer sun.

The cars were now caked from head to toe in rich, red, mud.  I was beginning to feel rather pucker. This isn’t at all the place for a gay man more comfortable at a café on Oxford Street.

In to Town

Canowindra, pronounced ke-noun-dra, is a tiny spec of a town of just over 2,200 souls Its colourful history includes many visits from gentleman bushranger, Ben Hall. He is well worth a google.

After a coffee, we took many, many photos. We sent up the drone for a bird’s eye view, flying up and down the main street. Gorgeous old buildings line it, but like most inland towns, the best days are behind it. Hotels and civic buildings now used for other things, if at all. It isn’t quite tumble-weed time, yet.

Then, back to the farm.

We crisscrossed the paddocks, carefully. The storms made conditions treacherous. We slid back and forth with tyres now clogged with clay. But, the stark beauty of a land taunted and ravaged by a climate that most would be unable to bear, seemed even more magnificent.

The Cars:

I expected there might be a clear winner. I thought one might stand on the shoulders of the other, but no.

Hilux had more gear, but lacks Carplay. Navara looks the business, with a sumptuous ride, even over the most appalling ground.

Neither had fancy off-road programming, just a basic 4WD system. Ground clearance for most folk, is just a distant fancy, something to brag about on the school run. Here, it really came in handy.

By the time we did the trails, and filmed our thoughts, it was late.

Getting home:

Much of our time was spent in the highways getting there and back. The trip home was far more subdued. The storms that had dogged us the day before, had turned to rain, set in for the duration.

I had to make a detour to the outer reaches of the newly developed North-Western Sydney. I took the Hilux so I could compare with the Navara which had been my ride outbound.

Perhaps it was the rain, perhaps it was the wee towns I’d left behind, but The Putty Road didn’t seem to hold the same allure it usually did. One thing was clear, neither Hilux nor Navara handles bends like a sedan. At best, I’d only ever be a “crossover” buyer. I need that interaction with the road. Infrequent trips to the country notwithstanding, LCVs like the Toyota and Nissan have their place. Indeed, Hilux is the best-selling car in the country, a position held for decades by Commodore. Holden failed to see the writing on the wall. It took its finger off the pulse, plunging from near 50% of the market to 4%. Recently, GM pronounced Holden deader than a dead dingo’s donger.

I dropped the car off, and climbed, battle weary, into my 2020 Range Rover Evoque. It costs $20,000 more than the Hilux, but the fact that they’re both SUV of a sort, is about the only similarity.

Facts and Figures:


2019 Toyota Hilux Rugged X

Engine: 2.8L four-cylinder turbo diesel, 130kW/420Nm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Warranty: 3/ 100,000km

Safety: 5 Star tested 2019

Price: from $63,690 + onroads

Navara N Trek Warrior

Warranty: 5 year/unlimited km

Engine: 2.3 140kw/450Nm, 7L/100k (twin turbo),

6 speed manual/7 speed auto

CO2: 186g/k

Price: $63,490 manual, $65,990 auto

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