Been There, Still Doing That. 4WD Industry Legend Vic Widman
Vic Widman is the owner of Great Divide Tours and has been in the 4WD industry for 44 years.
Identifying a need, Vic started a 4WD tagalong and driver training business, Great Divide Tours, in 1990. In 2003, Vic built a 240-acre dedicated 4WD training facility near Braidwood in southern NSW. Check it out here http://www.4wd.net.au/ Vic has personally driven virtually every 4WD track in Australia and has led 26 tours across the Simpson Desert.
Where’s the remotest place you’ve been to?
I was granted permission to drive cross country from the Hay River Track to Queensland. However, I have also driven an artic truck on a glacier in Iceland, and that was rather remote.
What's the best trip you have ever done?
To the church to get married to my beautiful wife, Julie.
Okay, she probably won’t read this so let’s say there are many starting with Karijini NP, Arnhem Land, Iceland, New Zealand Southern Alps, and my all-time favourite location/trip is a cruise off the Kimberley coast.
What’s one of the hairiest moments on a trip?
Being stuck at the bottom of a very steep hill in the Victorian High Country with two tagalong groups using this location as a base camp. We needed to get 16 vehicles up a very slippery hill after it rained all night on us. I managed to drive straight up in my 80 Series but it took 7 hours to get the remainder up. Eventually, we arrived home 21 hours after we started.
Have you ever been ridiculously lost?
Of course not! Well ok, maybe once! In the heavy fog, I led a group away from Wheelers Hut in the Victorian High Country and we drove for one hour and then passed Wheeler’s hut again! We had a morning tea break an hour after breaking camp from there!
What has changed how you travel?
When I started exploring in 4WDs in 1978 there were no maps or GPS or satellite gadgets. Travel then was much more challenging and unknown. The vehicles too were far simpler. The advent of electronic traction aids can make bad drivers look good but if you get stuck with traction controls engaged, you can get really stuck!
Also, there’s been many track closures for political reasons and an inability by the National Parks and Wildlife Services to acknowledge tourism as a legitimate use of our land. Aboriginal land closures have changed the face of touring in Australia now.
Due to the rising popularity of 4WD touring, it has become hard to find solitude in some areas. This popularity has also led to tracks becoming damaged by overuse. This then leads to more track closures, it’s a terrible cycle. The economic on-flow of 4WD Driving and touring needs consideration before separate groups make decisions impacting the industry.
Favourite touring vehicle?
200 series Landcruiser I now own three of them!
What's the one piece of advice you’ve treasured?
The late Adam Plate, formally from the Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta, told me to drop my tyre pressures when off the highway. Funnily enough, it works! Better traction, better rise and less track damage!
What is one piece of advice you would like to pass on to the readers?
Never, ever use a tow ball in a recovery. They can, and have killed people, unfortunately.
What is the biggest misconception people have when people attend a training program?
We still get males that think they know it all and they are only there for their partners. Generally, we are always proved right and they realise they have a lot to learn. You never stop learning when four-wheel driving and if you think you know everything, you don’t!
My wife Nancye and I have travelled with Vic and GDT for over 10 years and would heartily endorse their professional and supportive approach for 4WD touring.
We have seen some of the most remote parts of Australia and have always felt safe when travelling and camping.
All participants on Vic’s tours are looked after and breakdowns etc are catered for, nobody gets left behind.
Could not agree more. I started in a similar vein to Vic, beginning in 1976 in very basic Nissan Patrols. Driver training was none existent, I saw the need and started the original program in the Nissan 4×4 club. Recently retired as an Instructor in Victoria’s Country Fire Authority, but still getting out there and doing it. Just returned from the Simpson Desert myself, but my first crossing was back in 1983.
Great to hear Vic is still at doing a great job very professionally. i had the pleasure of experiencing Vic’s skills in learning to drive 4WD and traveling Vic High Country in late ‘80s with Vic’s team.
Well done Vic, i am very disappointed i don’t a 4 WD to do the long routes with you.