WRITTEN BY: LIZ CANTOR
It was purely out of courtesy when I casually asked Mum, who lives in Noosa, if she'd like to join me for the day. I didn't really think that a woman who suffers car sickness would jump at the chance to join an Isuzu I-Venture Club trip to Double Island Point, but unbeknownst to me, since retiring Mum has taken on a new life motto: ‘Live the day'.
The next thing I know I'm heading towards the car ferry terminal at Tewantin with a wing woman. Since joining Channel Seven's Creek to Coast as a presenter in 2005, I've been lucky to do my share of off-road driving. On a show that embraces adventuring in the outdoors and all things coastal, I've been fortunate to have opportunities to learn skills in a variety of environments and from some of the best in the industry.
As iconic as it is breathtaking, Double Island Point—part of the Cooloola Recreation Area in Queensland's Great Sandy National Park—is a perfect 4WD destination. With a verdant headland kissed by white sand and emerald blue, postcard-clear water, the view along the beach and the vista out to sea wage a constant battle for your attention. And it's only two-and-a-half hours—including around 20km along the beach itself— from the middle of Brisbane.
No wonder my mum was primed. So was I. Two generations taking to the sand—with a third happily ensconced at home. Perfect.
These days my everyday driving takes place on the roads of South East Queensland. And often with two toddlers in the back. Since our new MU-X became a part of the family in August, I've been able to single out some much-loved features on the bitumen. Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist all compete for favouritism every time my MU-X leaves the garage. This car will teach you to be a better driver. It truly feels like a car that is assisting you.
I'd driven previous MU-X models on the sand; a highlight was the stretch between Hat Head and Crescent Head in New South Wales, where it was a true workhorse. So how would the new model compare? The day starts with a gourmet breakfast and a Powerpoint presentation by Dave from the Australian Offroad Academy, today's I-Venture Club trainer.
I had the privilege of sitting next to a couple from Toowoomba. Paul had bought a D-MAX primarily for towing a campertrailer. He explained he was “used to towing without modern technology”, so initially didn't have a clue what sensors to turn off, “or what all the buttons did”. It got me thinking that to optimise your relationship with your car, these training experiences should almost be a non-negotiable.
“Are you happy with the ute overall?“ I asked Paul.“When it turned up I was so happy,” he said. “The red is a nice deep colour.” Before entering the sand at the third cutting we turn our headlights on and ESC (Electronic Stability Control) off.
Dave's words, “If a light is blinking, the car is thinking,” are at the front of my mind, but there's a warning light that is not blinking. So I flag Dave down to check it.
“That's just the warning light that your tyres are low in pressure,” he explains.“Oh got it!” (Our tyres had been let down to 18PSI before leaving base.) Clearly my MU-X LS-T's senses are always on-task.
We enter through the cutting smoothly and I'm instantly reminded that this car's true home is off the beaten track.
Then we're challenged to try and get bogged. None of us can. So Dave skilfully manages it for us—by turning all the technology off—and we're able to observe a lesson in recovery.
It's here I learn another tip: only open one door at a time on the beach or your car turns into a wind tunnel, and you're off, on foot, chasing loose receipts and the odd bit of footwell food packaging through the dunes. While your mother laughs at you. Next is lunch and a quick check of the surf at Double Island Point, which unfortunately is flat. Oh well, I'll just have to come back and put my newly honed skills to use.
“So, Mum,” I say, as we reach the end. “What have you learned today?”“That almost everything I was taught as a 17-year-old to be a safe driver no longer applies!” she says. “The education part of this day has truly changed how I will drive.”
I don't need to ask if she enjoyed herself, because she hasn't stopped whoopwhooping since we left the blacktop. If there's one thing apparent to all participating in today's I-Venture Club, it's an appreciation for living life to the max— and how much fun it is to do it with a 4WD that's perfect for the Australian lifestyle.
Mum's new life motto was ‘Live the day'. At the end of our trip, it could just as easily have been ‘Go your own way'.