Wilderness and back
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