Mal Leyland.
Mal Leyland.

Discover where Mal Leyland is exploring these days

LONG before grey nomads, there were a couple of "young nomads" known as Mal and Mike Leyland.

Last month Mal turned 72 and, sadly, Mike passed away in 2009 at 68.

These two young men brought together cutting edge film techniques and a quirky, gutsy, adventurous spirit that saw them turn into Australia's best known outback tourism guides.

It seems they were born for the television era and the success of their tshow, 'Ask The Leyland Brothers' a series of outback adventures, proved that Australia was ready for them.

Once a week, between 1967 and 1984, 2.5 million viewers, at its peak, watched the program that started with the ditty: "Travel all over the countryside, ask the Leyland, ask the Leyland, travel all over the countryside, ask the Leyland brothers!"

The tune imprinted itself into the psyches of a pre-4WD, mass communication generation and 40 and more years after its creation, Mal Leyland still travels the countryside and has never graduated to anything more luxurious than his very comfortable caravan.

"Luxury accommodation - that would be like putting me into a nicely appointed padded cell," the Aussie adventurer laughs.

However, in typically diplomatic style, he adds: "But it's not bad to see how the other half lives."


The Leyland brothers.
The Leyland brothers.

Compared to the five-metre aluminium dinghy the brothers used to navigate the length of the Darling River, and the vehicles used to make the first automobile crossing of the Simpson Desert, the caravan is indeed luxury. Their Simpson desert trip was 18 months in the planning and five months to complete.

"There were no satellite cell phones then and because of the isolation we travelled in tandem," Mal said.

These days Mal travels with his wife of 47 years Laraine, and as much as possible, with his daughter's family, including the three grandchildren.

He said that similar to many teenagers, his 14-year-old grandson was prone to playing with tech gadgets in the tent rather than rollicking in the outdoors.

"So I urged him into coming for a walk with me, " he said.

"We went down to a waterfall, and told him to look into a dark space in the waterhole."


For a while the dark space did not alter.

Then a school of fish dispersed and their miraculous appearance spiked the teenager's imagination.

In some ways, it was the Leyland brothers' recognition and sharing of similar special moments, that allowed city dwellers to enter the Australian bush from the comfort of their loungeroom.

These days, Mal and Laraine live in the Queensland's Sunshine Coast Hinterland town, Maleny.

He still loves camping and reckons there's so much he still wants to explore.

Last year, Mal wrote a memoir and shared his adventures and groundbreaking documentary making.

If you take to the road, keep your eye out for Mal; he marvels at the modern camping facilities, the dirt tracks that are now civilised lengths of tar and the communication that keeps you connected.

But mainly, he's still happy lying under the stars.


* 1963 - Down the Darling: A trip from Mungindi, Queensland, to Mildura, Victoria, following the 2300km course of the Darling River, part of Australia's longest river system, in a small aluminium boat. An accompanying book was titled Great Ugly River was published by Lansdowne Press in 1965.

* 1966 - Wheels Across a Wilderness: Driving two Land Rovers from Steep Point, Western Australia, across the centre of the continent to Cape Byron, New South Wales. The trip was also published as a book, Where Dead Men Lie.

* 1969 - Open Boat to Adventure: A six-month journey from Darwin to Sydney in an 18-foot open boat, following the coast around Arnhem Land and Cape York. The book was titled Untamed Coast.

* 1972 - The Wet: Documents a journey to what is now called Kakadu National Park via Darwin. There were no sealed roads to the north-west part of the Northern Territory at the time. It also provides footage of Darwin.

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