Wilder­ness and back

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FEATURE -

VERY few SUV or four-wheel drive own­ers take their ve­hi­cles off road, let alone into de­mand­ing ter­rain.

Isuzu Ute is try­ing to change that with the I-Ven­ture Club, which it claims is the only of­froad ad­ven­ture club of its kind in Aus­tralia run by a ve­hi­cle maker. It runs de­mand­ing multi-day wilder­ness drives with ex­pert guides.

The 4WD spe­cial­ist sells just two ve­hi­cles here, the D-MAX ute and the MU-X five-door wagon. They share the 3.0-litre turbo diesel with five-speed man­ual or auto trans­mis­sions.

Both ve­hi­cles are on ro­bust lad­der chas­sis and have more than 200mm ground clear­ance.

Cars­guide was in­vited on a four-day ad­ven­ture into the Flin­ders Ranges, which was over­sub­scribed soon af­ter it was ad­ver­tised on­line. The club can cater for 10 ve­hi­cles but Isuzu staffer Marc Scott says there were about 50 ap­pli­ca­tions for the Flin­ders run.

“Many were from women wish­ing to tick off a real out­back driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with their hus­band shar­ing wheel time,’’ he says.

Bris­bane re­tirees Narelle and Bruce Bow­den took their D-Max on the Flin­ders trip — they were “sold” on the con­cept af­ter a More­ton Is­land ad­ven­ture three years ago.

“We spend about six months of the year away from home ... look­ing for ad­ven­ture,” says Narelle. “We re­ally en­joy get­ting off the beaten track.”

Ian Day and 13-year-old son Jay­den from Moss Vale, NSW, took the fam­ily MU-X along for the Flin­ders drive be­cause of, Jay­den says, “all the cool things to see and do”. The teen had his first drive along one of the many pri­vate dirt roads en-route.

It costs about $1300 a head for the Flin­ders Ranges ad­ven­ture, in­clud­ing guid­ance and off-road coach­ing from ex­perts Dave Wil­son and Drew Sy­monds, “glamp­ing” for two nights at Wilpena Pound Re­sort and a night in shear­ers’ quar­ters at Ben­dle-by Ranges homestead. Meals and passes are in­cluded and the guide ve­hi­cles carry re­cov­ery gear.

The four-day pro­gram started from Ade­laide af­ter a safety and con­voy driv­ing talk and wound through the Clare Val­ley, Or­ro­roo and Jamestown to Hawker for lunch.

Af­ter that it was on to his­toric Rawns­ley Sta­tion near Wilpena Pound to de­flate the tyres and se­lect 4WD, then on dirt on the-Arkapena Scenic Ad­ven­ture route up through the strik­ing Chance Ranges and steep off-road climbs and de­scents near the ABC Ranges.

No­body was spared as the group leaders sug­gested driver-change points that gave ev­ery­body a stint be­hind the wheel. Photo op­por­tu­ni­ties ap­peared at ev­ery turn.

Day two was to Cham­bers Gorge with its 20,000-plus-year-old Abo­rig­i­nal wall art and then back through the de­funct cop­per min­ing town of Blin­man for a mine tour. The re­turn to Wilpena was via the stun­ning Brachina and Bun­yeroo Gorges with crys­tal swim­ming holes.

The tour me­an­dered along well-made dirt roads dodg­ing shin­gle-backs and emus — al­most in plague pro­por­tions due to the greened up coun­try­side from re­cent rains.

Overnight at Wilpena, a strik­ing sky was the canopy for din­ner cooked in a fire pit.

Day three started early and pro­vided the high­light — a drive along the no­to­ri­ous Billy Goat Ridge af­ter the scree-cov­ered in­clines of Yucca Ridge.

Billy Goat Ridge trail rates as “dif­fi­cult” in “four­bie’’ speak but that didn’t stop all ve­hi­cles from com­ing through with a 50-50 male-fe­male driver split. Wil­son and Sy­monds were close at hand with side­line coach­ing.

Day four was es­sen­tially a trans­port drive from Ben­dle-by back to Ade­laide via Stone Bridge Win­ery at Clare .

Over the four days we cov­ered about 1100km with plenty of time off road.

De­spite the trep­i­da­tion among some at the start, all were keen to sign up for another bush-bash­ing ven­ture.

In­clined to ad­ven­ture: Isuzu ve­hi­cles on the four-day Flin­ders Ranges trip

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.