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"After 10 years driving a 4WD, I learned how to drive it off-road."

Our ride for the weekend.

There is a thing called Four Wheel Drive-ism.

It’s an inherent disapproval, dislike, or even hatred, of WLM (Women Like Me) who drive biggish four wheel drive vehicles around suburban streets and not up and down sandhills and random rocky outcrops.

Personally, I don’t really care what people think of my choice of car, but will say I like the fact that it seats eight and that it has lots of room when we go camping – for necessities like the Moroccan tagine, at least five varieties of breakfast cereal, several vats of wine and the king-size doona (I hate and despise sleeping bags).

So when the 4WD haters hate, I can say in all honesty that our family car has felt the sting of sand on it’s undercarriage – but, and here’s the kicker, my husband always drives it when we are off road. Because he knows how to. I don’t know whether he was taught or whether men are born knowing how to drive off road, but until recently I’d never dream of taking the wheel if we’re away from the asphalt. Like doing a wee standing up, it seemed wrong.

But you know something? Although the upright wee is something I’m yet to master, I’m a GUN OFF ROAD DRIVER. I’m the Leyland Brothers’ long-lost sister. I can do it and it’s FUN.

See, at the beginning of the month, I was invited on a girls weekend away. A famil… oh, all right, a junket… to Moreton Island – a short ferry ride from Brisbane. Generally, Moreton is regarded as the home of beery boy-fests, but this itinerary involved ‘glamping’ (permanent tents with floors, bathrooms and beds), champagne at sunset, delicious food (cooked for us) and expert instruction in how to drive off-road, on actual sand. On real beaches.

It’s called – wait for it – Dirty Girls 4X4 Weekends Away. Which at first (and even second) glance looks like the worst kind of Vegas hen’s night, but in fact, it was anything but.

It was a bunch of women, aged between 25 and 50-something, keen for a weekend somewhere beautiful with the added bonus of learning something new – something they’d been meaning to do for aeons.

Because I was a guest on this trip, I was offered the use of a 4×4 vehicle. I thought great! Better to trash someone else’s car than my own and also my husband would need ours to ferry the kids to a volleyball match, hockey clinic, two birthday parties and also to tow the trailer to the tip.

When I showed up on the Friday afternoon to collect the car, I was mildly horrified but mostly thrilled to see my ride was a hot pink Jeep Wrangler with the plate ‘DRTY GRL’ and a big splashy ‘Dirty Girls’ decal on the doors.

‘This’ll be fun at school pickup,’ I thought (my daughters attend a small, very conservative Catholic school).

My older daughter was horrified when my pink jeep appeared in the queue of diver Volvo SUVs – she likes to keep a low profile. My younger daughter is the opposite. She wanted me to continue driving round and round the roundabout while she yelled, ‘MY MUM’S A DIRTY GIRL! WE’RE ALL DIRTY GIRLS!’

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Anyway. Next morning it was an early start and I collected my sister Janey who was to be my plus one for the weekend. In

Me and my sister Janey.

the carpark at the ferry terminal, we met the other girls on the trip. Nice women, friendly and funny. Then the people from the local Jeep dealership who run the weekends (you don’t need a Jeep to go – there were a couple of Prados, a few Pajeros, a Suzuki Vitara… there was no judgment).

Once on board, we were shown how to reduce the pressure in our tyres and briefed on how to drive off the barge. Basically it was this: drive it hard, like you stole it. 

Fun!

Importantly, we were told not to stress – bogged cars are part of the deal. Someone’s bound to get stuck in the sand and we’ll show how to get unbogged. It happened (not to me – phew) but it was no big deal. Basically we used what was like a big piece of undie-elastic to pop that car right out.

The guys instructing us were great – funny, patient and the polar opposite of patronising.

The weekend wasn’t all about driving though. There was a snorkelling tour of the famous Tangalooma wrecks, swimming in pristine freshwater lakes, Champagne at sunset and even facial for those who wanted more than sun and salt on their faces.

It’s great value – $345-ish per person for two nights, which includes all accommodation, barge fares (normally $200 per car), great food, including cooked breakfasts and lots of drinks (you can buy or bring more if you like), and the off-road driving experience.

This is Dirty Girls One. Do you copy?

You also get to use a two-way radio, which is so much more fun than a mobile phone. And you’re ENCOURAGED to use it while you’re driving. It’s very liberating to be hurtling over a sandhill in a hot pink jeep, sun beating down, barking into your two-way mic in an oh-so-cool voice, ‘This is Kate and Jane in Dirty Girls One. Just advising we’re safely through the cutting. Over.’

That was a first for me. And these days, I don’t think any of us do enough first.

If you’d like to get off road and learn to do it properly (and in style), there’s a four-day Fraser Island trip planned for November 17 with accommodation at the award-winning Kingfisher Bay Resort. The trip is all-inclusive (but you’ll need your own 4WD) and costs from $890 per person triple share, $940 per person twin share and $1,150 single share. More details here.

Click through to see some more of Kate’s pictures from the trip:

Kate and her sister travelled as guests of Dirty Girls 4X4 Weekends.

For more information click here