Territory Tuff Truck Trek

Swags and mozzie nets were the main form of accommodation on a Top End expedition that was the reward for 30 Ford Light Truck sales managers who achieved incentive targets set by Ford Australia. Two groups of winning sales managers, who came from all over Australia, went on a six-day trek between Darwin and Broome, organised by Darwin's Dalton Logistics, which operates corporate incentive programs and events.

Owner manager Jim Dalton has been heavily involved in outback expeditions for major manufacturers' product launches, outback film shoots and corporate incentive trips with a Territory difference.

"We have found corporate expeditions of this nature can be great for companies looking for a unique program or event to reward their top performers or elite teams.Companies are trying to avoid those predictable trips or retreats these days so we are constantly developing and sourcing new concepts and ideas for inclusion in our itineraries".

It wasn't just a trip away, because there was training in theoretical and practical elements of four-wheel driving and light truck product knowledge, plus a two, half day sales managers conference at Cable Beach Resort.

To ensure the participants on this trek would be able to handle the going, Jim arranged for Gary Pendlebury from 'SMART' (Skilled Motor Vehicle and Rider Training) to deliver a driver training course before they set off and again in Broome for the second group who would do the return trip to Darwin. The course involved skid control, collision avoidance and 4WD recovery techniques. Gary went along on the trip to provide ongoing tuition and Ford Australia sent its training manager to run the sales managers' courses in Broome.

For the first group the experience began with a welcome dinner and drinks at the Carlton Hotel Darwin before departing the next day for Katherine for a gorge cruise, then on to Flora River Nature Park for some fine dining under the stars. This was the first night in a swag for some of the guests. The next day the twelve-vehicle fleet headed off to Kununurra where the team took a scenic flight over Lake Argyle and the Bungle Bungles.

Macca's Barra Camp on Carlton Hill Station just out of Kununurra, run by Andrew and Kate McKeown, was the second overnight stay and the planning area for the following days activities which included fishing for barramundi and a scenic cruise on the mighty Ord River. Apart from the magnificent fishing with experienced guides, the river also offered fantastic croc-spotting and bird-watching opportunities, a photographers dream. Jim Dalton said: "One of the guests, a bloke by the name of Len Slater who runs the dealership in Bega NSW, caught himself a beaut barra. I reckon he'll dine out on that one for years."

The next stop was El Questro, off the famous Gibb River Road, for helicopter scenic flights over the Durack Ranges, and the spectacular gorges of the region. Jim said, "We split the group into two, one group being flown down to the Pentecost River for some more barra fishing, the other did the scenic flight around the ranges and again, we did the changeover. "Most of them said they had never been in a helicopter before and were totally awed by the experience. "A few were adamant they would be back with their wives and families to do it all again."

From El Questro the group drove further into the Kimberley enjoying the challenge of the drive and the awesome scenery. Windjana Gorge was the perfect backdrop for the last camp before heading for the Indian Ocean and the luxurious Cable Beach Resort. Conference activities over the two days included a camel trek, golf, hovercraft flight, a city tour, pearl lugger cruise, tennis, and a tour of Malcolm Douglas's crocodile park.

On the final night in Broome there was a gala dinner held on the ampitheatre lawns just up from the beach. The weather could not have been milder nor the ambience better. Live entertainment was provided and the surprise of the night was guest speaker Ron Barassi joining the team for dinner and a talk on motivation and life values in general.

The following morning, group one departed and group two braced themselves for a trip of a lifetime. Jim Dalton said: "Companies have used these treks to showcase their products to media and potential customers as well as to their own staff and distributors. "The sales managers really enjoyed taking the vehicles through their paces in off-road situations including wading through rivers and rock climbing on hillsides, gaining product knowledge you simply can't get in a classroom situation. "Combining conference and incentive team programs requires careful planning to take into account group size, time available and the location for the event. So while swags and mozzie nets might have been the accommodation for this two-way trek, everything else, especially the details of the planning such as the food, which was accompanied by fine wines and cleansing ales, was certainly top-class. And who knows, down the track, sales might just pay for the whole exercise.

For all you 'foodies' out there, here are some examples.Dishes served for dinner included live NT mud crabs cooked to order, natural or Thai style, spit-roasted saltbush lamb basted with blue gum honey and rosemary, abalone and seaweed patties, aged prime T- bone chargrilled and served with a native pepper sauce, wild goat and boar satays, coal-baked barramundi with lime tartare and roasted bunya nuts, poached buffalo silverside with a marmalade glaze and mustard mash, turkey and smoked boar sausages, roast hindquarter of camel with field mushroom sauce. Desserts included emu egg pavlova with NT mangoes and seasonal fruits, summer pudding with local berries topped with King Island cream and Kakadu plum sauce. Lunches weren't boring either, with saltbush lamb, mint jelly and salad pitta breads, smoked goat ham and salad damper sandwiches, buffalo silverside and bush tomato chutney sandwiches.

Cairns to Cape York

During September, 2001, Ford Australia Light Truck Motor Vehicle Dealers tackled the rigorous trip from Cairns to the top of Australia. Co-ordinated by Jim Dalton from Dalton Logistics, SMART-NT's expertise was employed to provide various defensive and 4 wheel drive training exercises throughout the drive north.

The venue for the 'meet and greet' of the Dalton Logistics crew and Ford Aust. Dealers as the Mirage Hotel situated at Port Douglas, Qld (just north of Cairns). Until the Ford Group returned to Port Douglas, the accommodations were the best they would get for the next four days with swags and tents the order of the day. The two groups got together for dinner at the Mirage Golf Links. Introductions were made by all in attendance with SMART-NT instructor, Gary Pendlebury advising his 'victims' what was in store for them throughout the trip. Early the next morning, five near new F250's and four Ford Couriers were assigned to the various driving crews. The group then made it's way north, bypassing the Daintree Ferry and Cape Tribulation area by following the power line access road to Cooktown.The power line track turned out to be a good one, with many good sized creeks and hills to negotiate. The track was an ideal opportunity for the Dealers to test out their product. After a fuel up at Cooktown, it was easy driving (mainly corrugations and lots of dust) before reaching the camp for the night (Kalpowar in Lakefield National Park). Along the way, the convoy was stopped by a guy who needed help in getting his 4x4 back on it's wheels.

Dalton Logistics also called in Gary Ticehurst to provide a heli-fishing service (very popular with the guys) Camp for the second night was at the Moreton Telegraph Station. The group pitched tents on the Wenlock River. The final day's travel to the base camp saw the convoy roll into the banks of the Jardine River. Whilst the Ford Dealers flew back to Cairns, the Dalton Logistics Crew and the two Ford Technicians (March & Sam) cleaned swags and vehicles for the return trip. With all the vehicles waiting at the Injinoo Airport, Bamaga the second Ford Crew arrived for the quick trip to the Jardine River camp. The next day and we all headed south, following the original telegraph line. This track also proved to be a good one, offering good hill inclines, mud and water crossings. On for a swim at Eliot Falls before heading south, following the same track and and staying at the same camps as the trip north The rest of the trip was a pretty good one until we arrived back in the Daintree area.

Unbeknown to us, the area had received some rain whilst we were up north. About 2 hours into the trip, our first vehicles starting getting bogged. Whilst getting the first vehicle out, some locals driving north arrived. The fact that their vehicles had chains fitted to their front wheels gave us some warning as to what was up ahead. The next area we came to took us about 90 minutes to get all the vehicles through. By this time it was getting pretty dark and although we ended up being about 2 hours late for dinner, the Ford Dealers did get to have a 'real play' with their vehicles.

All in all, a great two weeks travelling through some of the best country in Australia. Vehicles used for this trip were the new Ford F-250 4 Wheel Drive powered by either the 7.3 litre V8 Turbo Diesel (it's awesome) or the 4.2 litre 6 Cylinder Turbo Diesel and the Ford Courier 4 Wheel Drive 2.5 Litre 4 Cylinder Turbo Diesel. All the vehicles performed exceptionally well with only one flat tyre thoughout the whole trip.