MOTU 4X4 SAFARI
The Motu Safari has been weaving its special brand of magic on the 4x4 community for 20 years now. Murray Taylor tells the story of this year’s event.
It was ten years ago that I took an almost new Nissan Patrol (Whale) on its first long distance Safari, the Motu.
Back then it was very, very, standard. Ten years later that’s no longer the case thanks to a 2” lift, lockers, a front bar winch and additional power outlets plus a collection of radios, not to mention some 280,000 km under the belt.
The Motu School East Cape 4WD Safari is now well established on the local tagalong calendar and this year I left Eke (tahuna, Ed) the Thursday morning before all packed, with a fully serviced Whale headed out into the wet morning (yes, it's always raining in Eke!)
The first stop was for some additional supplies then it was a pleasant drive with very little traffic all the way to Motu School, arriving late afternoon, having stopped before Otoko to watch a couple of helicopters fighting a bush fire on a hill in the distance.
Once at the school it was time to stop and check in with Shelly to advise that I had got this far, and after a brief chat I headed across the road to the paddock where I found a flattish site, parked-up and set up camp.
Seeing as how (see article in the March ’17 mag) I had to avoid any lifting this trip, I was going back to the old days, with a tent fly hanging between Whale and the fence, and a camp stretcher underneath.
Before hitting the hay I spent a good part of the evening wandering around talking with those that had arrived and were arriving, before light rain set in. The rain slowly got
heavier heading towards morning and it was steady as we awoke.
After breakfast it was time to check in at the school, complete the paper work and meet the others in my group... at which point I thought poor old Whale was going to have a heart attack as the other vehicles in our group belonged to the Land Rover family!
Before we knew it, however, we were on our way. Across the bridge and onto the gravel, high ratio 4WD, then a right into and onto our first farm property and track for the day, up and around in the mist and wet underfoot, ending as we turned right onto Motu Road just below Mount Taumataokaretu at 796m.
Heading down hill and back towards Motu, the call was made over the radio, oncoming logging truck, time to find a place to get off
the road as it passed heading further down the Motu Road.
The day moved along as we soon headed off road again with a stretch alongside the Motu River before heading back up onto high ground, then dropping into Jackson’s Stream for lunch in the sunshine.
After lunch it was uphill again before a stop at Okaihau, to take in the views and look at the abandoned homestead and woolshed before crossing Te Apiti road to continue heading across country to Mangatahu Station and our run down the Mangatahu River, hauling out at Mangamaia Station for the short road trip to our campsite for the first night.
Arriving at Whatatutu we expecting to turn right, but no, the arrow pointed left, so left it was. Not long afterwards, we were on the river plain and heading down alongside a line of trees to a paddock set alongside the Waipaoa River.
Camps were then set up and it was time to observe what was happening around the place. I spotted a Jeep arrive under its own power, but then it was under tow across the paddock to its campsite, but that’s a complete story in itself!
The next morning was brisk just before sunrise, with the diesel water pump still running in the background. I actually awoke to the sound of a drone flying at around 6.30am, though it took me a while to register what the noise was and I suspect a few could have done without that style of alarm clock!
With such an early start there was
obviously plenty of time to have breakfast, pack up camp, and check Whale over before cranking the engine to really start the day. First up it was into the Waipaoa River for a run upstream, avoiding the very low bridge along the way, before hauling out just past Waipaoa Station having gone under their access bridge. We then joined up with Te Weraraoa Road for the 700m climb, joining up to Tarndale road. Just past the junction most trucks came to a halt, now at just over 900m in altitude, so everyone could get a good look at the countryside around. It’s a great view and showed the area of forestry we were about to head into. At 1439m Mt Arowhana dominates the surrounding area. We pass underneath heading down the forestry road, still at height and the dust is slowly starting to filter into the vehicle. The temperature is already in the high 20s so a warm day is in front of us. Exiting the forest it’s onto a gravel road with lots of dust, but excellent views as we head towards lunch. This time we park up on the side of the road, under trees and in the shade. After lunch we continued for some distance along Ihungia Road before turning off, missing the arrow for the turn-off as there was a vehicle parked in the way. Not a problem for us, though, the tail picked it up because by the time he arrived the truck in question had moved. A quick radio call and all was resolved, we headed down and then travelled alongside and up the Makarika Stream through logged land before a sharp left turn out of the creek bed. It was then on to a reasonably fresh track that looked like it climbed straight up. It was a 300m climb up through bush and then onto farmland as we headed to the high point at 500 metres. Good going, albeit dusty and slow due to the track and the good dropoffs alongside. Stopping was not possible till the top as there was no room to park off the track till then. We then headed along the ridge which goes around the head of Orua Stream, before the final downhill of the day brought us out at the camping paddock on Makarika Station, a site with trees on two sides and the farm buildings on the other. While the rest of the crew headed to Ruatoria for fuel and supplies I set up the camp stretcher and lay down for a late afternoon nap, must be the age showing! Dinner time arrived all too soon, and the day slowly came to an end... Day 3 came around all too quickly with yours truly parked by the exit gate to took a few pics of those leaving before the team. When our time came we turned left heading for Mt Aria, at 880 metres some 650m higher than the campsite, and with some local telecom repeaters on top. With that box ticked it was then down the road and into Waingakea station and the long climb to the top of Aria. Up through the pine forest the pace was nice and slow, as it is reasonably steep in places till one clears the pines back on to farm land, through the late Sir Peter Tapsell’s Taoroa Station. Once there it’s not long before you are stopping at the Repeater Station for a walk around and photos from the top with views of Hore Hore Station, Mts Aorangi and Hikurangi and out towards the coast. You can also watch those ahead as they proceed at a slow pace down through the farmland heading towards the Mata River. Before long we were underway again, with first gear getting a lot of work to save the brakes as it was reasonably steep and loose under the tyres in places. There were lots of great views along the way with some interesting sections of track such that one definitely needed to keep an eye on the track when driving. Not too long later we hit the Mata River, with some groups already stopped for lunch or late morning tea. Heading on down through the station and over the slip on the road, the instructions were no stopping on the bluffs as there was falling debris. It was
still a great view, even better if vehicles are on it. Once through and back on the road, the decision was lunch in Te Araroa on the beach, so a quick refuel at the Farmlands truck site on the way and it was a short road trip to Te Araroa, arrived just before the 4 Square closed, so an ice cream it was and then lunch watching the waves roll in. Lunch over, there was a quick backtrack over the saddle to the Awatere River and it was not long before I was in the river bed... Oops, where’s the rest of the team? A quick call and they are just around the corner from where I have stopped, all stopped as well, as the Discovery is at an odd angle heading for the river but not actually going there... After sorting out a winch and then another winch truck the Discovery is pulled a very short distance backwards, such that the front can turn down into the river. There was then a slow release of one winch and disconnection, with correction of the direction of the front wheels, then the load was released from the second winch and disconnected. At this point it was time to drive forwards into the river... except for a nervous driver who needed a while to come back down to earth while all the gear was put away and a new entrance to the river found and taken. Once in it was all go up the river with a few splashes and deep puddles along the way, before a right hand down into the Kopuapounamu River for a short distance before existing onto Kopuapounamu Road. It was then back into the bush heading for Mt Kokomuka at 762m high along an old track which had native bush on the sides for a considerable distance. It was a really great track but with very little in the way of views until we were back on farmland heading down towards Waikura Station. It was here where we passed a new logging setup getting ready to haul logs with a cableway from across a gully, before it was back on to a very dry gravel road for the short trip to the station. Being such a warm day, and not sure how large the stream at the station would be of course, we stopped at the first decent sized stream and found a hole to both cool off in and free ourselves of the day’s dust… Understandably, then, it was a very slow trip back to camp where we set up for the night, being the last in as Tail End Charlie passed us while we reclined in the stream! This was our big night and dinner together with the results of the various competitions and raffles announced, sponsors thanked, and general prizes given out. Organisers Paul and Shelly opened the evening with thanks to all for attending, before handing it over to John Reid, who was instrumental in the first Safari and still has the T-shirt to prove it, 20 years ago, back in 1997. John gave a brief talk and thanked those present along with a few who had been on that first trip before awarding the prizes and giveaways, etc. All too soon it was time to head for bed as we still had the next day’s run in front of us. And so to Day four, a day which dawned with low cloud/mist hanging over the campsite as the sun slowly rose above the ridge lines. The run in the morning was a couple of long loops around the station, through farmland to pine plantation to river to pine again and back into the river around midday. Some had stopped along the way, as we headed back past our camp site, heading over the hill to drop into Makahikatoa stream for lunch. After lunch it was then a short trip downstream to the Te Araroa Road and after goodbyes, the team separated, all heading for home, having had a great four days catching up with friends made on past Safaris and making new ones on this one. Thanks to all on the Safari, especially those I travelled with, for all the times I stopped and for the thousands of photos I have taken along with the opportunity given to move through the crowd at times. My thanks also to Paul, Shelly and Motu School for putting another great Safari together, and to the Geyserland 4WD club and their members who provided the support crews to ensure it all went in the correct direction. To all the land owners, pine plantation owners and any I have missed, an extra special thanks, for allowing us all access to a very special part of New Zealand which we would not otherwise get to both see and enjoy. Till it all happens again. Regards, Murray.
Disco up Jackson’s Creek, Day 1.
In the Kopuapounamu River x 1.
In the Kopuapounamu River.
Follow the leader.