Meet Gary Weir and Amanda Markham, the popular adventure bloggers from Down Under and IN.CO community members who know a thing or two about sharing their epic outback experiences.
From catching crocs to camping under the stars, these guys have done it all and blogged about it. Together, they became influencers by inspiring a huge community of adventure seekers with their expert tips and planning ideas for getting out of the city and being self-sufficient in remote travel locations.
As part of IN.CO LEARN we caught up with Gary from Travel Outback Australia to bring you this inspiring influencer story from the Aussie Outback.
IN.CO: What was your inspiration to start Australia’s most popular outback travel blog?
GARY: We were often told that we were living a life many others dreamt of.
Not only were we living in the middle of the outback, but our unique and unusual jobs took us camping, 4WDing and hiking in some remote and amazing country. My job, I say that lightly, as park ranger enabled me to see and do many things that the average person just would not get the chance to do.
Amanda, as an anthropologist/archaeologist, got to work closely with Aboriginal people and also venture deeply into places steeped in Aboriginal lore.
So there we were, we had all this knowledge and experience, so why not write about it and encourage other people to experience what we love doing.
In June of 2010 we started building the Travel Outback Australia website. Our aim was to write about our experiences and inspire others to come and experience the outback in the same way that locals like ourselves do.
Now, it is one of the most popular website blogs on traveling the outback of Australia.
IN.CO: What’s your most awesome adventure story?
GARY: I worked in the Katherine area for a couple of years as a ranger and got to see some amazing sights and this great story always comes to mind. We were doing annual crocodile surveys out at Flora River, a small park south west of Katherine, where the Flora River meets the Katherine River and becomes the Daly River. We’d set up a couple of croc traps during the day and were doing a night time spotlight survey by boat. There were a group of us, wildlife rangers from Katherine and my senior ranger and myself who looked after the park.
We motored up next to one of the traps as we were going by and noticed the cage door was shut, this meant a croc had likely entered the cage and became trapped. We decided to remove it then and there, at about 8 o’clock at night. Between us we got a snout rope on and bound up the legs with duct tape, the usual practice, before dragging the 3m croc into the boat, which was about 6m long. Once the croc was in the bottom of the boat we headed off to continue spotlighting and counting crocs.
So there we were cruising along this river in the dark with the only light out front looking both where we were going but also for eye shine of crocs. There were three of us sitting at the rear of the boat, one at the front with the spotlight and a driver, the head of the croc team. At the rear all us big tough rangers sat enjoying the coolness of the night air, when a soft voice rang out…”I think the croc just got loose”…followed by a moment of silence, then, “Are you sure?” and then, “Which end?”.
Enjoyment turned to trepidation as no one could answer the questions in the dark. So no one moved. The crocs are normally bound with duct tape around their snout, their front and their rear legs. This keeps them from being able to move and cause any issues. I don’t use the term “issues” lightly when I talk about crocs. The question from one of the rangers about which end was loose was the most pertinent and of course being in the dark we couldn’t see and no one was prepared to put their hands down on the croc to find out.
All the while we are cruising along the river and all we could think about was the croc who might have got loose and might, just might, decide to take a piece out of us.
Well in good time we asked the person on the light to swing it around so we could see which end of the croc was loose. There was some disbelief out of the driver who just wanted the light to see by as we whizzed along the river and that we should just deal with it.
Eventually after some cajoling the light quickly flicked around to the deck of the boat where upon we could see that, in our relief, it was only the rear legs that had come loose and not the bitey end that might have done some real damage. Instantly we all jumped on the croc knowing we only might get flicked by the tail and not get bitten. We retrussed the croc back up with extra tape this time and relaxed back into our seats to continue our work.
IN.CO: How do you plan for your remote adventures?
GARY: We often travel alone but are well prepared and ensure our vehicles are maintained and that we can contact the outside world if it all goes pear shaped. That and always carrying a little extra food and water goes a long way to feeling secure.
Planning is another important aspect of outback travel. Where are you going, what or how much fuel is required and do you need a permit are all important questions you need to answer. Sometimes this phase of travel is as enjoyable as the journey itself because it involves the anticipation of the experience.
Outback travel is becoming more and more popular and, as vehicles become more reliable, people seem to be seeking out experiences that take them away from the humdrum of normal everyday life.
It is this experience, this feeling of being self sufficient, that we love sharing. Getting across the sense of isolation and solitude and that this is not something to fear but to grasp also provides a high. Only then will a person enjoy and recharge one’s batteries.
IN.CO: What are your tips for people looking to travel in the outback and share their stories?
GARY: Do your homework, plan your trip and make sure you keep your vehicle in tip top condition. Try not to overload your vehicles by taking everything you can think of as this often leads to mechanical breakdowns or failure.
Talk to other people on your travels. Sometimes they are coming from where you are going and can share vital information. It’s also a great way to meet other people from all walks of life.
IN.CO TIPS “If you just want to share your stories on your Facebook page or your own Instagram page then go for it. If you want to make a business out of it then acknowledge it is a lot of hard work and that time and effort are required to get your story out there and then find like-minded people to support you along the way. You’ve got to engage with people, share your experiences and your photos and people will keep coming back to your page.”
Gary and Amanda, Travel Outback Australia
IN.CO: What are your influencer adventure tips for 2017?
GARY: As we spend more and more time on building our website it only encourages us to go out and do more research. This means more and more time spent in the outback.
This year, we are starting out from our new base at the southern end of the outback to explore remote parts of South Australia. Places like Maralinga and the Gawler Ranges are on the list as well as a place I have not visited for some time, the Flinders Ranges.
We get a lot of questions about what type of gear to use and to this end we have started doing reviews of products that suit our style of travel and experience. There are so many new products that purport to make or break your trip into the outback so if you’re looking for an audience for a particular product then drop us a line and we’ll work with you to get that information out there.
Meet the Travel Outback Australia Team
Gary Weir is a recently retired park ranger (with 20 years experience) who managed the group of parks west of Alice Springs including the majestic Watarrka-Kings Canyon National Park, Finke Gorge-Palm Valley National Park, and the iconic Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park.
Amanda Markham is an anthropologist and archaeologist, formerly employed by the Parks and Wildlife Commission NT and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (the Sacred Sites Authority). She now runs her own cultural heritage management business and also works with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (she speaks an Aboriginal language).