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.
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.
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.
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.