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Tales of the travels, trials and triumphs as we explore Australia in a converted bus

Navigation for your Motorhome

Written May 2004

Getting around Australia requires more than just a vehicle and a tank of gas. You have to know where you are going had have some idea where you are. That is easy if you are a native or have been travelling for years. For us it is essential to have good navigational equipment. What started off as a bit of a hobby is now a very important part of our travelling equipment.

Glossary of terms used.

GPS - Global Positioning System. Sometimes called Satellite navigation system. An American owned cluster of satellites that allow accurate positioning and navigation to about 4m - 10m accuracy (depending on conditions and the view of the sky)

Track - A series of points containing exact latitude and longitude and optionally altitude and time/date information. When these points are joined you have a track that represents the exact path taken on a map.
Waypoint - A single point containing latitude and longitude and optionally altitude and a comment. Waypoints are used to mark locations (in our case camp sites). Using any GPS it is possible to navigate back to the exact waypoint.

The Hardware


We use two Garmin GPSís. One is a small handheld unit that runs on two AA batteries. We take this with us in the Moke or when walking and use it to mark locations and, most importantly, to get back to the motorhome.

The second GPS is a dash mounted unit that has pre-loaded maps onboard. These maps are extremely comprehensive when in large cities but are close to useless when you leave the city or the main highway. Fortunately this GPS outputs positional data to a notebook computer via a serial connection. I have wired the GPS to a socket located near the co-pilots seat. This allows the passenger to track our exact location on PC based maps as we travel.


The small GPS also has serial data output, so that it too can be attached to a PC or handheld computer for mobile use. The big advantage the dash mounted unit has is itís ability to accept an external antenna. Without an external antenna the satellite signal is often lost when buildings or trees block  a clear view of the sky.




The Software

We use an Australia produced program called Oziexplorer. There are alternatives, we have tried them and nothing provides as many features in an easy to use package.
What does Oziexplorer do for us?
It interfaces with the GPS providing both real-time navigation and end-of-day track and waypoint management.
Using real-time navigation Oziexplorer plots our exact location on an electronic map and we can watch our progress on the notebook screen. The waypoint management allow us to mark a spot, comment it, attach a photo to it and even email the location to others. At the end of each day we capture the track stored in the GPS and save this onto the notebook. Thus we can plot our journey to the second over the entire duration of our travels. This is extremely useful when combined with a digital camera. Because a time and date stamp are stored with the photograph it is a simple matter to locate the point on a map where a photo was taken.


When purchased, Oziexplorer arrives with no maps. You must purchase maps to use with the program. Maps are available in various forms, scales, levels of detail. Prices range from free to 1000ís of dollars. We use a mixture of maps but most often we navigate with the AUSLIG 250K maps. These cost about $200 for coverage of all of Australia. It is also possible (although perhaps not legal) to scan paper maps and configure these for use with Oziexplorer.



Other Stuff




Oziexplorer - Mapping software and maps http://www.oziexplorer.com 
Garmin - manufactures of GPS equipment www.garmin.com



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