At the recent Queensland Caravan and Camping Show I had the privilege to meet and chat with Aussie travel legends Laraine and Mal Leyland. I don’t think there would be to many people who haven’t watched at least one episode of their television shows. ‘Ask The Leyland Brothers’ was certainly mandatory Sunday night viewing in our house. I was so excited to meet them that I couldn’t resist purchasing Mal’s book Still Travelling.
Still Travelling is a look back on all Mal’s travel adventures with his brother Mike and the many twists and turns that his life has taken. It is brutally honest which makes for fantastic reading.
Mike and Mal Leyland arrived in Australia in 1950 with their parents as “ten pound poms”. It would seem that they developed a sense of adventure from an early age. Their first big adventure was when Mal was a mere 18 years old. They decided they would travel the full length of the Darling River in a small boat. In many places there was not enough water for the boat to go through and they would have to push, pull or carry the boat to get through. All the while Mike was filming this epic adventure and Mal was taking still pictures.
Their second big adventure was to cross the Simpson Desert from west to east. There was no track for them to follow, as the Simpson Desert had never been crossed before. It took them the best part of four months because of the conditions and numerous vehicle break-downs along the way. Of course they filmed the whole trip which they turned into a movie, ‘Wheels Across A Wilderness‘. This they showed in movie theatres and town halls across the country.
Following on from those successes came their television shows which involved their wives and eventually their children. Their ambitions continued to grow and in time they built and opened Leyland Brothers World. Their very own Aussie theme park. For the first year business boomed but soaring interest rates and a greedy bank saw receivers step in and both Mal and Mike lost everything – including their relationship.
Eventually Mal and Laraine settled in Northern NSW where they created their own sustainable lifestyle. Both had some health scares and eventually sold the property and moved to Queensland.
Mike passed away in 2009 after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
It is no doubt that these Aussie trail-blazers have inspired many of us to travel and to continue to travel. Perhaps his words on the last page of his books reflect the calibre of the man.
“Our lives have been full of ups and downs, but it’s been a grand ride. I consider that I’ve had a fortunate life. I have lived every bit of it as an adventure.”