Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Land: How to really see New Zealand. High Country 4WD tours.

I'm starting a new topic series titled My Land. It is going to be about New Zealand as I know it.
We've travelled to many wonderful countries, but that all goes to deepen our appreciation of our own. A lot of friends keep asking why I don't write about our backyard, and that is probably because there are so many sources of info on the usual tourist circuit traipsed by travellers, so in the My Land series we'll try and highlight the less well known.
Make time when visiting New Zealand to get off the well worn tourist tracks and get out in our high country and see the scenery most tourists miss. The exciting way to do it is by 4WD vehicle, whether it's a quad bike, or 4WD vehicle, go where others just dream about. There is a full range of off road tours available at  Offroad Adventures website .

Our Guest Post is from Mike Chaney, a 4WD enthusiast friend of mine from down Christchurch way, who with his son, and other 4WD Club members, relishes nothing better than to explore our high country mountains, valleys and rivers. Staying on established tracks, and out of the stream beds when fish are spawning, or birds are nesting minimises any adverse impact on our eco-systems but brings people into contact with nature for enjoyment and education. And excitement!

Waipara Gorge trip                                 

Sunday21 March

This was never going to be “just a trip up the Wipra” for me. I’ve only had the truck a few months and the only experience driving it has been a bit of play and the Christmas trip up the Clarence. I must have been a bit eager as my son and  I were at the meeting point an hour early! (They did say don’t be late!) A bit closer to the departure time and there were 6 of us. 4 Toyotas, a Land Rover and what looked like a Land Rover but turned out to be a fine example of Kiwi ingenuity, a creation that had bits of most brands, a sort of UN of 4X4! There were 3 newbies and we were led by Linda.

Away we go. We are just under the bridge and someone is stuck in soft gravel! Well I have a brand new rope and some new hook thing on the back so I set a record for getting out, preparing to tow. I would have tackled anyone else coming close! We were soon on the way again. However, there was this gravel bank, just sitting there calling to us so we had to have a bit of a play. A couple of folk gave it a try from different angles, but the decision was made to head off up the gorge.

A nice gentle introduction to the trip through a bit of bush. Seems my angle of entry into a muddy bit was not quite right and the Prado developed a mind of it’s own. It was reminiscent of a Holden Station wagon on a gravel road! Still a little gentle pressure on the accelerator, (can’t remember who told me that) and we were all straight and back under control. This was a very pleasant trip. It had quite a few tests for those of us that had not really been off the road before. I had heard of “bonnet deep water” before and I will admit being nervous about it. Today was the day for my first go at it. You are down the bank and half way across and you notice the line of camera on the opposite bank. Then with what feels like a mighty whoosh and you are up the bank and up the other side.

A little further up the track we had a stop for a cuppa. The conversation was around tyre pressures, tales of successful/unsuccessful modifications etc. Simon was on his first run with this particular club and his most photogenic of Defenders Rovers attracted quite a bit of interest. While we were there a lone Surf caught up and passed. They (one time club members) joined us at the Gorge for the trip back.

There was one more significant river crossing, a trickily rock strewn beast. I got it wrong and suffered a few large “clonks” but most had little trouble. The destination was quite idyllic. The river has cut some amazing patterns out of the limestone. A few degrees warmer and the urge for a swim would have been irresistible. We had 30 or 40 large drops of rain and headed back. We must have hit “rush hour” as we came across a group of 4 racing type quad bikes heading the other way. I could only wonder at the aches and pains a rider would get riding over that sort of territory, you are thrown around enough in a truck seat!

I rode back as a passenger, and it is quite a different experience. If you are free to watch the others you note the different style. You appreciate that these cumbersome trucks are dancing across the rocks in the nimble style of a ballet dancer. You understand why independent suspension is important when you see the truck in front has 4 wheels at 4 heights!

This time we all got the rocky crossing right and all made bigger splashes than the other one. The advice over lunch to give the suspension a chance by going a bit faster was right! A much smoother ride.

All too soon we were back at the start point. We had had a great day. No disasters! Just a really enjoyable day out visiting a place that you cannot normally get to. Good company and a testing drive. I guess that is what the club is all about.

A few suggestions for tour operators.




Anonymous said...

Wow, what a bumpy ride that was, I had to hold tight to my chair and raise my feet so they didn't get wet! (:

I need a little translation here. What is a prado and cuppa?

Jim said...

Hi Wanda, glad you loved the bumpy trip.
Prado is the classy way of 4WD these days-
And a cuppa is slang for cup of tea....did you miss out on yours?
I'm having green tea at the mo.

Cathy Sweeney said...

What a fun and exciting way to see New Zealand. I haven't been to NZ ever and would be glad to see it anyway I can, but via 4WD looks like a very cool experience.The "cuppa" sounds quite nice, too.

Anonymous said...

Someone living in Paris just would not understand this! The open spaces, the solitude etc. Luckily we get to experience both! Cheers.

Jim said...

"..The open spaces, the solitude etc..."
You're right John, and I guess that's why NZ is so great because we do have vast areas with few people around.I prefer travelling in off the beaten areas. You still in India? Quite different hey?

Red Nomad OZ said...

Hey! A Kiwi by birth, I last visited at age 7 -quite a few years ago!! Look foward to discovering more about NZ through this series!

Happy travels!!

PS Lots more vast areas with few people 'over the ditch' here in OZ!!!

Jim said...

I think half NZ is over there already Red :-)
My mate and I were travelling in the Kimberley area last June. Awesome. check out our stories on here under Extraordinary Taxi Ride in my Archives.
And new Tourism Western Australia promotions coming up.If you see a couple of happy faced guys on their ads and video promos, throughout Australia promoting the Gibb River Road, that'll be me and Reg!

Expat in Germany said...

I never would have thought of seeing New Zealand in a 4x4, but it looks like a lot of fun and would definitely get you off the beaten path!