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Take a walk on Tasmania's wild side: Part 1

Exploring the Apple Isle with Isuzu

I’m sure of it. Tasmania is the most pretty, untouched, unfettered and most natural part of Australia.

In my time, I’ve had the privilege of exploring the more southern areas of the Apple Isle. Now, courtesy of Isuzu and its increasingly popular I-Venture Club, I’ve seen what may be, the most picturesque part of the gem that lies just south of the mainland.

Isuzu punches above its weight when it comes to sales performance. It owns the third-largest slice of the pie in the segment it plays in with the MU-X. Also, bear in mind that Isuzu sells just two models in Australia, the MU-X and the D-MAX ute, yet regularly outperforms manufacturers with much larger model ranges on the sales charts.

It really demonstrates how ‘fit-for-purpose’ comes into play in the larger SUV segments in Australia. The MU-X doesn’t have much tech at all, however, as I was about to find out, that’s clearly not the reason to why people buy in this segment.

As part of its wider brand strategy, Isuzu manages a pretty vast events calendar dubbed the Isuzu I-Venture Club. This club, full of dedicated Isuzu people and customers, travels the nation on either single-day, or larger, multi-day experiences.

Their mission? To explore some of Australia’s most beautiful tracks and best locations, in showroom spec Isuzus. CarAdvice was invited to attend this latest event alongside nine Isuzu owners who paid $1950 to be part of this trip, completing it in their own trucks.

No other manufacturer offers such a comprehensive program for owners. Attribution of marketing to sales can be hard, but I’d say this has something to do with the absolute love Isuzu's customers have for the product. Over 3500 people have attended these events in the program's five-year history.

Our course started in the north-west in Devonport, taking a turn further west to a little place called Natone. From here, we were to head south, up the Cradle Mountain to explore the surrounding terrain. Then, a quick trip to the west coast town of Strahan, to drive Ocean Beach, Henty Dunes and the infamous Climies track. Quite the itinerary.

Day One

We kick things off in the quaint town of Devonport. Here, we are introduced to Isuzu’s fearless tour leader, David Wilson. A commanding yet gentle soul, who is to guide us through three days of driving. David has amassed a wealth of knowledge of the local Tassie environment and terrain, despite being a South Australian. So, we’re in good hands.

The weather is not in our favour. We are getting absolutely pounded by rain, and we haven't even stepped foot into the wild west yet. I can see the nervousness on our team’s face, as the places we are heading to are known to become much more aggressive in poorer weather. As I said earlier, lucky we’re in good hands.

Natone is a pretty, rural town in the district of Burnie. Sitting amongst the green hills and plentiful dairy cattle, is a very fascinating place called Atkinson Aquaculture.

Run by Leigh Aktinson, a fourth-generation farmer from the area, his interests differed from his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. After studying Aquaculture at university, he returned to the family dairy farm to change things up a little. The family lives on the property, headed up by Leigh’s father. A stern gentleman with a big smile who turned out to be quite a dab hand with a smoker, too.

Father Aktinson had aged and wanted to get off the tools. This is where Leigh used his smarts to use the now-unused irrigation license for other purposes. He constructed a fish farm, using the natural flow of water on their farm to create flowing ponds that house young trout from the hatchery that Leigh also manages.

The water, after flowing through the fish farm, exits back into nature, where it was going to end up anyway, before the quick detour.

“The water is cleaner coming out of the farm, then going in,” says Leigh.

There’s nothing more inspirational than non-invasive methods of produce generation, as in the case with Atkinson Aquaculture.

The Aktinson’s house multiple dams which are open to local fisherman who are interested in catching Trout. This particular type of fish was introduced by the travelling rabble back in the late 1800s, as their ability to go between freshwater and saltwater made for a logical fit. This means Trout can go between the inland as well as ocean sections of Tasmania’s waterways. The Salmon they also introduced swam away and never came back. Can't win 'em all.

We’re told that Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout taste different, depending where they’re from. The same species, caught 20 kilometres apart, can also yield different tastes.

The Tassie way to eat Trout is by smoking it. Leigh’s father, with his grandson eagerly watching, fires up the smoker, adorning it with a blend of Hickory and Apple woods. The result is nothing short of sensational. The flavours of the wood had made their way into the soft, delicate pink flesh of the fish caught earlier that day.

We threw a couple of rods in but didn’t have much luck, other than a handful of catches by the more seasoned fishers. The rain dialled in to 11 out of 10 by this point, so I think a lack of patience is what prevented the catch, not ability.

From here, we head over to Cradle Mountain, to explore some of the surrounding locales. One stunning area worth a stop is the Leven Canyon Lookout.

The land in which the park is situated, initially belonged to local tourism supporter, George Cruickshank, who donated some 28] acres of a property he acquired to form a tourist park in the 1960s.

George was a leading influence on Tasmanian tourism, and during the early years, created bush walks with locals, building steps and making markers as they went. He was an adventurous chap. Apparently, in 1927, he once boarded a whaling vessel for Antarctica with only the clothes he had on his back.

Early settlers had been known to camp and picnic in the surrounds since the late 1920s. Many of these bush walks and locations are still accessible now, which is great to see. Even earlier in the 1850s, the land was known to timber-cutters, who discovered that much of the area had already been mapped through centuries of shared knowledge between indigenous populations who frequented the area.

Seasonal migrations between three of the four northern native tribes meant they had a good grasp of the terrain, and knew which way led to the natural life-giving resources within the Leven Valley. These people of the north had control over the highly prized ochre trade, used to paint the hair, body, and even to draw maps. It’s no wonder these tribes were legendary topographers.

Filled with so much history, Cradle Mountain and the Leven Valley are worth the visit. If you make it there, bear in mind that walks start from an hour-and-a-half but can span as long as seven days, like the Penguin Cradle Trail. Do your research before you come, bring the right gear, and enjoy the view alongside the wildlife.

It’s a fantastic experience, walking among tree ferns that date 150 years, towered over by even-older wet eucalypt forests. You’ll make plenty of friends, as this writer did with a little echidna, who was having some tea from a tree-stump on the walking path.

Once we’d explored enough of the bush, we made our way to the Cradle Mountain Hotel, which was camp for the night. Blending in seamlessly with the terrain, we were welcomed by a pretty large woodfire. A nice way to dry off and cap the day’s play.

In part two, we tackle the wild west.

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