The Riley “Big Lap of Australia” in our Gypsy Express farewelled the city of Perth this week to begin our trek up the western coast towards Broome – and then on to the warmth of Darwin in the Top End by mid-winter.
The nights are becoming a little cooler in the south of Western Australia so we’re chasing the sun north as it continues its autumnal recession.
As a Seventh-day Adventist pastor I’m proud the first person to circumnavigate Australia in a motor vehicle was a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist in 1925. Neville Westwood had planned to travel from his home in Perth up to Darwin to help spread the Good News and do some work in the remote northern communities. While he was up in the “Top End”, Neville decided to just keep going and lap the continent – a feat never achieved in a motor car.
Today, the Riley family is doing our “Big Lap of Oz” in an air-conditioned four wheel drive, towing a comfy caravan, and on (mostly) paved roads with plenty of fuel stations along the way – but Neville Westwood had none of that. His pioneering lap was all done in a tiny second-hand 1923 Citroen 5CV they nicknamed “Bubsie”. For much of the journey Neville had to travel on cattle tracks and through scrub and dessert at under 10kmh, and buy fuel from farmers by knocking on their door. Punctures were repaired by stuffing grass and leaves into the tyres, and there is a faded photo of the small Citroen being pulled across the famous Fitzroy River by local Indigenous women.
When Neville arrived back in the city of Perth at the end of 1925 there was a large crowd of celebrating West Australians to greet the motoring evangelist pioneer as he drove his beaten-up little yellow “Bubsie” back into the city.
Almost a hundred years later the Rileys are ‘travelling in Neville Westwood’s tyre marks’ – both geographically and also spiritually. The Riley Gypsy Express is hoping we, like Neville Westwood, help share the good news;- the good news of a loving God who created this beautiful and vast southern continent; the good news that our future is filled with a “Blessed Hope” of re-creation (see Titus 2:13 in the Bible).
You can visit Neville Westwood’s pioneering Citroen in Australia’s capital city Canberra where this hundred-year-old car is on display at the National Museum of Australia. Here’s a quick video of Bubsie’s restoration and display.
(Note: Neville Westwood’s travelling companion for this incredible trip was Greg Davis. Davis left the trip after a few months when they both reached the town of Albury in south-eastern Australia)
* In Titus 2:13, the Apostle Paul writes: “We look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.”