After a stretch living in England, a young Andrew St Pierre White’s family was ready to return to Africa. They missed the bush and Andrew’s dad had a dream — to buy a Range Rover.
“Dad was an adventurous man and he’d take us into the wilds of the African bush in his four-wheel drive,” Andrew recalls.
“I was completely hooked!”
Now, having owned 16 of his own 4x4s and driven in five continents and 20 countries, Andrew is seen as an expert on the subject. So how does he think budding enthusiasts need to take their overland aspirations to the next level?
“Don’t focus on ‘I’ve got to have this before I go…’ It’s just a big fat excuse,” Andrew says.
“All you need is a vehicle with four-wheel drive, good ground clearance and strong tyres.
“Obviously you’re assuming the vehicle is in good shape and it’s well-serviced but often people will take a vehicle like that with rubbish tyres, or ordinary road tyres, and expect it to go 1000 kilometres on a gravel road. It won’t!”
“If you’re going to spend good money on a four-wheel drive vehicle, get a set of good tyres, a way to pump them up, (so you can let them down) then worry about everything else later.”
Although he understands that kit is fun, Andrew says going overboard with buying gear has become a bit of a disease.
“If you’re going to spend good money on a four-wheel drive vehicle, get a set of good tyres, a way to pump them up, then worry about everything else later.”
“While it’s nice, you don’t need a GPS for example,” Andrew says.
“Take a detailed road map, monitor your mileage and pay attention. We did it for decades without GPSs.”
Andrew and his wife Gwynn can speak with authority when it comes to living simply. After all, they spent a year in one of the remotest spots on Earth — the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
“It was during that year in the African wilderness I wrote my first book about four-wheel drives,” Andrew says.
“We literally lived in a grass hut for a year, so we didn’t have electricity and laptops didn’t exist in 1991. So I got an inverter so I could plug my computer into a car battery to get it to run in the middle of the bush.”
The couple also kept a diary during their year out from the rat-race, which Gwynn (a writer) turned into an award-winning memoir — Torn Trousers (http://bit.ly/Torn_Trousers).
Meanwhile, Andrew’s four-wheel drive book was released in 1993 and it was South Africa’s very first book dedicated solely to the subject.
“Everything kind of followed on from there — making DVDs, videos and today YouTube is a very important part of the business,” Andrew says.
“In July next year, we’ll be celebrating 25 years of www.youtube.com/4xoverland.”
Like his father before him, Andrew was quick to introduce his own family (he and Gwynn have three daughters) to the great outdoors.
“We started our kids exploring and enjoying the wilderness and nature as soon as they could walk,” he says.
“Our first child came with us to Namibia when she was just eight months old. I’ve got photographs of her sitting on these enormous sand dunes!”
These days though, Andrew and his family call Australia home. While they’re based in Western Australia, Andrew has been on some epic adventures all around the country.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview to hear about Andrew’s favourite Aussie trail…
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Finance One.