For most UAE residents, it's not exactly a bolt from the blue to pass a luxury vehicle on our busy roads. But, if you happened to whizz past Dubai-based Australian expat Callaghan Walsh, you might find yourself doing a double-take. You see, far from tearing up the tarmac in a shiny new sports car, Callaghan is the proud owner of a rather more modest motor - a 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup. As a vehicle typically associated with the UAE labour industry, it might seem an odd wagon of choice for the stylish, Brisbane-born photographer. But as Callaghan explains, he had some very unique reasons for choosing his beloved vehicle.
"If I'm honest, one of the main motives I had to buy this car was nostalgia," explains Callaghan, who moved to Dubai from Sydney three and half years ago, and currently runs his own photographic company. "When I was 23, I was employed at a cattle station in the outback for about two months. I'd just left university and decided it would be a fun place to work. While I was at the station, I got to drive around in a pickup truck, which is quite similar to the Toyota. Since then, I've always wanted to have one of my own."
Unfortunately, spiralling petrol prices and the cost of owning a car in Sydney meant that buying a pickup truck in Australia was out of the question, but after moving to Dubai, Callaghan quickly discovered his dream could be a reality. "If I was still living in Sydney, I definitely wouldn't own this car," he admits. "It would probably be double the price I paid for it here and it also wouldn't be a practical vehicle for the city. But when you live in Dubai, you need to own a car, so I figured, why not?"
And it's not a decision he has any regrets about. Having brought the car three years ago, with only 72,000 kilometres on the clock for Dh80,000, Callaghan's never had cause for complaint. "Mine is the deluxe version, which basically means it's got a tape player, automatic windows and a/c. It's a pretty basic car, but I like that because it's 100 per cent reliable. I've never had to do anything to it and it's not cost me a dirham in repairs or maintenance, despite the many long journeys I've done in it."
This brings us on to Callaghan's second reason for choosing such an unusual motor. "I drive a lot and enjoy exploring new places," he explains. "I've driven through Liwa, explored Oman, and gone all the way to Salalah, which was amazing, but the main reason I had my heart set on this vehicle was because it's my ambition to drive from Dubai to Cape Town. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time and it was one of the incentives I had when choosing the car. I wanted something that was dependable enough for the trip and, while I've yet to pack up and hit the road, it's something I'd like to do one day. So it's nice to know I've got a car that's up to the job."
Adventures aside, what sort of reaction does Callaghan receive from fellow drivers? "When it comes to people moving out of the way, or letting me cut in, I honestly don't find that there is much difference to when I was driving a Yaris," he says. "That said, it's definitely a car that draws attention. The Toyota Land Cruiser pickup is traditionally a Bedouin vehicle, so I get a few laughs from locals when they see me pass by. Other people can be a bit snobbish. I recently visited a five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi and the staff refused to valet park it for me, instead making me take the service entrance. I found that quite funny."
But Callaghan takes the taunts in good faith and had no plans to trade in the Toyota any time soon. "When I first got it, my friends had a bit of a laugh at me, but they've since realised what a handy car it is for camping and off-roading. If I was going to swap it for another car, I think I'd go for a Land Rover, but for now, I've got no complaints." firstname.lastname@example.org