WEEK­END DRIVE

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS -

With reg­is­tra­tions for the lat­est Moawhango School 4WD Sa­fari start­ing at 8: 00 the best op­tion for me was to drive up ( from Welling­ton) to Tai­hape and stay overnight. Given the run of bad weather be­fore Christ­mas I chose to have an easy drive up SH1, stop­ping at the Man­gaweka do­main for lunch by the Ran­gi­tikei River be­fore an evening chill­ing out at the back­pack­ers in Tai­hape. Ar­riv­ing at the school the next morn­ing, I was pleased to see that there were plenty of ve­hi­cles al­ready lined up for this, the thir­teenth Moawhango School fundraiser. Most ve­hi­cles were newish and shiny, with many on mud tyres, and I was begin­ning to think that my Prado Pur­ple was the old­est ve­hi­cle there be­fore I spot­ted a 1943 Jeep Willys. Some­one was do­ing it hard.

Mm­mmm, home cook­ing!

Reg­is­tra­tion was a quick and pain­less process, which left me free to read the route in­for­ma­tion and sam­ple the wide se­lec­tion of home-cooked good­ies that are a fea­ture of these tag-alongs. Well fed, and af­ter a short brief­ing, we were fol­low­ing the leader out of the gate for our first ad­ven­ture of the day. The first part of the trip was a 600m climb to Kauaekeke at 1104m fol­low­ing a well-main­tained farm road. Ini­tially the drive was quite scenic and gen­tle as we wound our way along a val­ley, but it became steeper and dustier as we climbed. At times the dust was so bad I had to pause to let it set­tle so that I could see the road.

Prob­lem solved

As we neared the top, we moved onto a grassy plateau, which solved the dust prob­lem. The view across to the cen­tral plateau moun­tains was amaz­ing, if a bit murky from the now very strong wind and low­er­ing clouds. Af­ter paus­ing to ad­mire the view we dropped down the other side of the plateau into a more shel­tered val­ley for our morn­ing tea break. The wet and slip­pery ex­its from a cou­ple of small stream cross­ings cause a few peo­ple on road tyres to strug­gle a bit with trac­tion, but we were all soon parked up and en­joy­ing a break. From here the rest of the loop was an­other easy run back down to our start­ing point and a short road trip to our lunch spot in a pad­dock be­side a rather im­pres­sive wa­ter­fall. Our lunch bags and tea-mak­ing fa­cil­i­ties were waiting for us, mak­ing for a very easy pic­nic lunch with most peo­ple sit­ting on the bank watching the wa­ter­fall.

Play time

We had a de­cent break for lunch be­fore we were on the road again for a short drive up Moawhango Val­ley Rd and a few mi­nor side roads be­fore our sec­ond off-road sec­tion, tak­ing us up Tu­tu­papa Rd and then on up farm roads un­til we reached a muddy pad­dock where those who wanted to could have a play in the mud. The mud bog was small and not that dif­fi­cult but a wel­come chance for those who like such things to have a play… as well as pro­vid­ing some good en­ter­tain­ment for the rest of us. It also gave me time to look for some in­ter­est­ing photos. With the en­ter­tain­ment of the mud run ex­hausted it was on­ward and up­wards again to cross the ridge and drop down to Makokomiko Rd. The benched track soon became much nar­rower with some very ex­posed and steep drop offs.

No dra­mas

This is not my favourite type of driv­ing, es­pe­cially when tight turns are added to the mix, how­ever we all suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated the track with no dra­mas. At last we reached Makokomiko Rd and I started to re­lax – un­til we took a sharp left back into a pad­dock to loop back to Moawhango while avoid­ing the main road. Once again this proved to be an easy drive through lush green val­ley be­fore we fi­nally came out at the Moawhango set­tle­ment. Our fi­nal halt for the day was at a beau­ti­ful old church which, ac­cord­ing to the plaque on it, was built in mem­ory of Nel­lie, the el­dest daugh­ter of Robert Thomp­son and Emily Bat­ley, who died in 1902. Wan­der­ing across the road we had a chance to look at an old shed that looked like it had been the Moawhango so­cial cen­tre and pub. There was also an old jail in the area, but that was locked!

Spot the prize!

A short drive of a few hun­dred me­tres took us to the Moawhango marae where there was a very well-pa­tro­n­ised cash bar and the smell of cook­ing din­ner. Af­ter a bit of so­cial­is­ing we had a wel­come and a wa­iata from the school chil­dren be­fore be­ing served a scrump­tious roast din­ner. The raf­fles and spot prizes were drawn, and while I didn’t win any­thing in the draws, I did get a new beanie as a spon­sor’s gift. As I drove the three hours back to Welling­ton I re­flected that we had en­joyed a well-run day of easy tour­ing and spec­tac­u­lar scenery with min­i­mal risk of dam­age. The thir­teenth Moawhango School 4WD Sa­fari had been an­other great suc­cess.

Moawhango hall and bar.

Seat­ing at the Man­gaweka pic­nic area was a nicely carved tree stump.

En­joy­ing lunch by the wa­ter­fall.

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