Trekking in the Blue Mountains with the I-Venture Club.
Isuzu D-MAX ute and MU-X buyers are special. So special in fact that Isuzu Ute Australia runs a special fun-filled escape adventure in different areas of the country where owners gain expert tuition in how to get the best from their vehicles when travelling off the bitumen.
Isuzu’s determination to provide great aftersales customer support goes way past that of its competitors in order to show D-MAX and MU-X owners the abilities of their vehicles, as well as developing skills, all wrapped up in a good time under the heading of I-Venture.
Delivery recently joined an I-Venture group of owners across some of the more challenging terrain of the Blue Mountains in NSW, taking a far less direct but more scenic path through the reserves and national parks than the direct run on the Great Western Highway.
The mountains to the west of Sydney present challenges even today, although less strenuous than it was for the likes of explorers Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth, who completed the first trek across in 1813.
The Isuzu I-Venture club is taking the convoy through the magnificent bush regions either side of the highway, using tranquil tracks through the scrub that require genuine off-road ability of the vehicle and some skills behind the wheel.
The D-MAX utility and its MU-X sibling offer the mechanical skill set to complete some challenging tracks to stunning lookouts, the first foray of about 500 km on largely-unsealed roads over the following three days.
The drivers are supported by 4WD trainer, David Wilson, who imparts advice, instruction and directions, in tandem with tour guide Greg ‘Simmo’ Simpson, a Bathurst local.
This is no sojourn on graded pristine back roads to wineries for wines matched to undersized meals on oversized plates. The convoy has varying experience levels of drivers, but it is soon traversing rocky, rutted tracks, with less-experienced drivers (and their passengers) having any concerns allayed by instructions over the two-way radio, or by Mr. Wilson on foot.
The convoy winds its way through the scrubby Gardens of Stone National Park, taking in the panoramic view from the Lost City lookout over Marrangaroo.
It is the fourth year of the Isuzu programme, with more than 2100 customers participating in over 100 day-trip or long-weekend events, ranging from driver training days to long-weekend trips of the same ilk as the Blue Mountains event.
Interest remains strong, with weekend trips like this run selling out in a matter of days – the training days cost $300, which covers two people with vehicle, breakfast and lunch, and a dedicated 4×4 trainer.
The longer format trips generally cost between $1500 for three days or $2000 for a four-day sojourn, and that covers two people, all food and non-alcoholic beverages, the trainer and overnight accommodation.
Isuzu Ute Australia’s marketing and public relations general manager, Mike Conybeare, said the I-Venture Club was all about enabling customers to experience the lifestyle that comes with owning an Isuzu vehicle.
“We take the time to educate our customers in a safe and controlled environment and equip them with the tools they need to confidently ‘go their own way’,” he said.
Mr. Conybeare said the programme was a key factor in the brand’s ongoing success.
“Our aim is to inform and educate our drivers on the correct way to tackle any terrain in a way that both looks after the vehicle and the safety of its passengers. Most of them are blown away by the inherent capability of the vehicle off-road and are empowered to then head off and enjoy all the benefits that owning an Isuzu offers,” he added.
The convoy is well fed and watered, with the lunch stop in the quirky village kiosk – once the pub – of Newnes, a highlight. Nestled deep in the Wolgan Valley, surrounded by thick bush and abrupt and tall rocky peaks, there’s precious little to interrupt the tranquillity, made even better by an absence of mobile phone coverage.
After an overnight stop in Wallerawang, the Isuzu convoy returned to the bush, heading into the Ben Bullen State Forest.
The rookies were feeling a little more at ease behind the wheel, coming to grips with the talents of their vehicles and growing in confidence.
The lookout over Wolgan Gap provided a stunning backdrop for selfies and a group shot.
Steep downhill sections soon tested the confidence of the drivers and the mettle of the machinery.
The group all negotiated the slippery rock-riddled and deeply-rutted section under the direction of Mr. Wilson, with instructions and humour in equal measure.
Lurching through ruts and lifting wheels like seasoned campaigners, the participants repeatedly expressed amazement at the terrain their vehicles could cover, as well as praise for the brand and its customer programme.
A dusk gold-panning lesson on the banks of the Turon River was a quirky conclusion to the day, which finished with dinner and overnight accommodation in Bathurst.
A few relaxed laps of the famous Mount Panorama motor racing circuit – a public road and NSW Highway Patrol turf for most of the year – preceded more off-roading, this time through the Mount Walker and the Marrangaroo National Parks. The vehicles and their occupants were again challenged by slippery rock-riddled tracks, as well as some creek crossings.
At the end of the I-Venture journey, the crew tucked into pub lunches and reflected on the 500 km jaunt, during which confidence and skill grew, enthusiasm for four-wheel-driving and the brand was amplified, and plans for more trips were made.
It’s interesting to note that Isuzu Ute Australia is the only vehicle retailer in Australia to actively promote vehicle familiarisation and driver training options to its customers. In Thailand the company operates an off-road driver training centre that is world class. By extending this experience to Australian buyers, Isuzu puts more back into the value of ownership, increasing the appeal of a brand that has the reputation of being one of the most reliable in the market.