What happens when a US Overland Bound Member studying abroad in Australia reaches out to the Queensland OB crew? A full adventure happens, that’s what. Read about how the unlikely pairing of a college student from Oregon and a retired Aussie off-roader created one epic story.
By Anna Merlo
Overland Bound is special to say the least. Thousands of people all over the globe have forged friendships and made memories through its community; its forums, Facebook groups and events have a way of bringing people together from all walks of life. No matter their differences, though, Overland Bound members always share one common passion – adventure.
This passion was strong in Nick Hopple, originally from Oregon in the US, who found himself on a three-month program studying abroad in Australia. His thirst for adventure eventually led him to reaching out to the Overland Bound Queensland Facebook group, hoping to find out more about the ‘inventors of the lifestyle’ that is off-roading. As part of his study, he had to pick a topic and conduct field studies and interviews to form a presentation. Nick decided to base his project on the concept of overlanding, with a focus on environmental conservation and sustainability. To do this, he would need help from locals, who knew and understood their landscape better than anyone else. As a bonus, he’d score some cool Instagram fodder.
He put up a post and tried his luck.
Almost instantly, Tom Panic piped up, offering tours of hidden tracks and breathtaking destinations, happily giving up the passenger seat of his capable rig to help out a fellow OB member. Tom has been retired for three years and mostly spends his time off-roading and hunting. While it may have seemed like an unusual pairing to begin with – a retired Aussie off-roader and a college kid from Oregon – they made a great team during their travels.
After picking Nick up from his hotel in Brisbane, Tom drove to Roma, nearly 500 kilometres away. From Roma, they left for Carnarvon Gorge, Nick’s favourite part of the expedition. They camped at the Takarakka Bush Resort and enjoyed a 14-kilometre hike, an Aboriginal art gallery, and – especially for Nick – getting up close and personal with the wildlife (yes, including kangaroos and wallabies).
After spending a few nights at there, they left for Charleville. Tom explained that due to heavy rain, they had to ‘cheat a bit’ and stay in a motel for the night. They soon made up for this the following night by camping in the open air in Dalby, reflecting on their travels over whiskey and cigars.
They capped off this whirlwind tour of Queensland’s highlight reel with a barbecue at Wivenhoe Dam with other Overland Bound members. Of course, to give Nick a true Australian experience, a good old fashioned ‘sausage sizzle’ was in order, complete with caramelized onions and lashings of barbecue sauce. Nick and Tom spent the day eating, laughing and recounting their travels to their new friends, savoring the view (and a rum or two).
Eventually, the question of ‘When can we meet again?’ popped up. This seemed to be a tradition with the OB Queensland members; when one day ended, planning for the next one began. Nick pulled out his schedule and explained that his Mom would be coming to visit him soon, to which many replied, ‘Bring her along!’ This spirit is exactly what Overland Bound is all about – getting people together, no matter who they are or what they drive. Making the time, even if it is only a sausage sizzle at a local park and enjoying the sense of belonging that this community encourages.
We wish Nick all the best for the remainder of his studies, and hope he continues to see more of the Australian landscape. We definitely know who to call if we are ever in Oregon! We would also like to sincerely thank Tom Panic for stepping up to show Nick all our beautiful country has to offer, this wouldn’t have been possible without your generosity. We’d also like to urge all OB members, Australian and abroad, to reach out to the global OB community and offer a helping hand wherever possible.