Thuraya XT-Lite Satellite Phone
A big question I get asked about Sheba Rides Australia is what kind of precautionary devices I took with me to make sure I could call for help if I found myself in trouble.
Riding Australia wasn't necessarily difficult, but a bad situation could put your life at risk, fast. Being on a tight budget, I almost decided not to go with any communication other than my mobile phone (with a Telstra network - the most widespread network in Australia). It would have probably ended in pure stupidity. After riding the lengthy stretches between petrol stations, I have to say to anyone riding Australia: Take a sat phone with you. Even if you don't use it a single time, that's a good thing.
I had never used a satellite phone before. I've only seen it in movies (like Jurassic Park) where they are bright yellow, clunky, and seemed to always have poor reception. Then again, Dr Alan Grant was fighting for his life against a spinosaurus so I give him some credit. In actual fact, the latest models of sat phone are lighter than my mobile, far more durable, and have a battery range that lasts up to 7 days if you don't use it. (It's always safe to keep the battery charged though).
The model I went with was a Thuraya XT- Lite sat phone, which came with the device itself and a charger. The charger was bigger and heavier than the phone. Luckily, the phone was a hardy little device similar to the old-school Nokias that have been known to put dints in the ground. But, the Thuraya weighed next to nothing and was easy to keep inside a Killswitch Pack at all times. I only really needed to charge the phone about 6 times during the 5 week trip.
Although I kept the phone charged, I'm happy to say I didn't have to use it once. This is a very good thing. But to find out how it worked, I called my friend while staying in Wauchope, Northern Territory. Where is that, you ask? Exactly. It's a town so remote that it was the only town that had no mobile reception.
To make a call:
- Stand in an open area, the fewer the buildings the better.
- Orient yourself to face north
- Turn on the phone and wait until it grabs a satellite signal
- Pull up the antenna so you hear a click
- Dial out to your contact, just like a regular phone
It's really that simple. The call quality itself wouldn't be the same level as if you were in a city, but it functions well enough for you to call for help. This is a must for anyone traveling into remote areas - especially if you're going off the main roads.
Sat Phone Sales also hires out the IsatPhone 2, a model I didn't get to try out, but is available on their website. Both IsatPhone and Thuraya are known companies in the industry.
Think about how long your adventure will be, and whether it might be worth actually purchasing the phone. The phone runs on a credit system and you only get charged if you call out (and even then, it's about $2/minute - pennies if you're in trouble). I hired mine because I didn't want it sitting around after the adventure. Either way, Sat Phone Sales provides both options at a reasonable price.
This device would suit riders who are going on extreme off-roading, those who are traveling alone and may need a tyre repair etc, or those who miss their partner back home.
Spot Trace Theft-Alert Tracker
Another cool product they offer was the Spot Tracker device. This is actually meant for anti-theft, so it comes with little mounts that you can attach to your motorcycle. It runs on batteries and when left on, lasts approximately 3 weeks continuously. It was 2 weeks in that I figured out I should shut it off at night. But for people following Sheba Rides Aus, it was great to be able to let them know where I was and that I was still moving around - without even lifting a button to call out or post on Facebook. That way, I could completely forget about social media and "unplug" as necessary, without making people worry.
The Spot Tracker is small and can also easily fit inside a Killswitch Pack. It's a bit heavier than the phone but is robust enough to withstand a couple of drops (whoops). It also communicates with the servers in the middle of nowhere. During the Brown Pants Detour, people following the live feed knew I was going off course because Spot was telling them. Remember to turn it off if you want some privacy.
How it works:
When you receive the Spot Tracker, Sat Phone Sales will send you a link (or you can set it up yourself). You can distribute this link however you wish - I put mine publicly, but you could choose to just let your close friends and family know where you are. Send them this link before your expedition.
- Turn on the Spot Tracker by pressing the Power button on the side.
- Leave it outdoors for about 5-10 minutes while it gathers its bearings.
- If you click the link, you can now see that it's tracking where you are.
- You can choose between 2.5 to 60 minute tracking intervals. I chose 2.5 minutes for greater accuracy, but you can choose longer to conserve battery.
- As you travel, Spot Tracker sends info and your location appears on the map that everyone can see from home. It'll leave a trail of about 50 last locations so they kind of know your route.
*Takes 4 AAA batteries and you'll need some small tools to get it open. If your trip is under 2 weeks, the batteries should easily last.
This device would be helpful for riders who enjoy traveling alone and getting unplugged, but would still like their family and friends to know that they are safe.
Sat Phone Sales Review
Dealing with Sat Phones Sales was a refreshing experience from many electronics dealers I've come across. Their business rep, Kevin, was a pleasure to deal with and was a knowledgeable fellow rider/adventurer. The sales process was never pushy or invasive. He was quick to respond to emails and was helpful in offering advice outside the scope of the business (such as petrol tank advice, etc).
Shortly after we sorted out the needs for this ride, they sent the devices via Express Post - batteries charged and ready to go. It came the next day from regional Queensland to Melbourne. It also included a self-addressed return parcel so that I could just pop it back into the post when I came home.
It might be worth mentioning that after I came back from the trip, Kevin himself took the devices and competed in a paragliding competition... and because some followers were using my Spot Link, they thought I was flying around the countryside on my bike. So, make sure you take the links down after you use them!
Sat Phone Sales took the stresses out of planning for the worst. I would highly recommend that you pick up a few of their products for your next adventure. Contact details are below. Thanks Kevin and Sat Phone Sales for a 5 star experience!
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