By Barry Green
“What are your plans for today?” the waitress at The Wildman Wilderness Lodge asked at breakfast. “Aah, a little off-road driving – and a spot of fishing,” I replied. “Well, I’d better tell the chef you’ll be bringing in a barra for dinner,” she said with a slightly concerning air of confidence.
As it turned out, the barra was off – off the menu, that is. Or, put another way, the fish at The Rockhole in the Mary River National Park weren’t biting; so too, luckily, the mozzies and crocs that proliferate the place.
Welcome to Mitsubishi Motors Australia’s recent Outback Drive for motoring media, a chance to not only experience the natural wonders of iconic Kakadu, but reacquaint with the company’s all-wheel-drive SUV and LCV ranges in extreme conditions.
At our disposal were the ASX (small), Outlander (medium), Pajero and Pajero Sport (Large) SUVs and Triton pick-up. Making a cameo appearance was Mitsubishi’s forthcoming compact contender, the Eclipse, complete with mandatory black-and-white camouflage. Understandably, given its pre-production phase of development, the Eclipse was spared any bush bashing, so it remains a story for another day.
Not so the others. All were given a thorough interrogation in a five-hour drive that took in 130km/h signposted stretches of the Stuart and Arnhem highways, km after km of blinding dust down the unsealed Old Jim Road and along barely recognisable tracks through the scrub, to places like Kunkamoula and Bucket Billabong.
At times, low range came in handy to traverse dry creek beds and other rugged going, but even the on-demand 4WD system of the ASX coped well; its road-biased clearance being the only inhibitor.
The various cabins remained a place of comfort, thanks to effective airconditioning and dust sealing and suspensions that soaked up all that Kakadu could throw in the way.
In fact, all vehicles never missed a beat. Now, if only the barra had been biting.