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Toy­ota New Zealand knows a thing or two about putting on a mem­o­rable press launches – and the 2018 Hilux/ Prado re­veal proved to be an­other primo two-day test. The first – Hilux – day saw a mixed bag of key com­pany staffers ( in­clud­ing com­pany CEO Alis­tair Davis) and mo­tor­ing writ­ers/ ed­i­tors drive from Christchurch to Tekapo in a fleet of new Hilux mod­els. On the sec­ond day the fo­cus switched to Prado and a mem­o­rable trip through the Oteake Con­ser­va­tion Park from Omarama to St Bathans. Toy­ota be­ing Toy­ota there were a num­ber of di­ver­sions, not to men­tion the odd – semis­cripted – sur­prise. The first ( semi-script­ed­sur­prise) came soon af­ter we left Christchurch. Parked at the side of the road was a pair of old-school Toy­otos, an orig­i­nal SWB FJ-model SWB Land Crusier and an im­mac­u­late early ‘ 80s Hilux cab/chas­sis farm truck.

Full of hot air!

Soon af­ter we were turn­ing into the farm prop­erty of Hot Air Bal­loon afi­cionado Michael Oak­ley. Michael and his fam­ily com­bine run­ning the fam­ily farm, Brook­dale, near Horo­rata, with Can­ter­bury’s pre­mier Hot Air Bal­loon­ing op­er­a­tion, Bal­loon­ing Can­ter­bury, and our stop was ini­tially in­tended to be a short meet’n greet and chance to check out the FJ and ( what turned out to be a pair of) 80’s era Hiluxes. One thing led to an­other of course and a quick demo of ‘ how a hot air bal­loon works’ ended up as a quick hop up into the air for six of us above the lucerne pad­dock we were parked in! One of the Hiluxes was still very much in ‘ work­ing con­di­tion’ and be­longed to the

Oak­ley fam­ily ( the green one in the pho­tos) while the other had re­cently been re­stored by Toy­ota as part of a na­tion­wide promo cam­paign. Thor­ougly en­joy­ing the chance both to drive it, and meet the gath­ered Toy­ota ex­ecs and mo­tor­ing writ­ers was its ‘cus­to­dian,’ Rubecca Sop­erHa­zlett, from Christchurch. Rubecca’s Dad was the orig­i­nal owner and Rubecca learned to drive in it on the fam­ily’s farm near Te Anau in Western South­land. What earned it a ground-up re­build as part of Toy­ota NZ’s ‘Give Your Lux some Luv’ com­pe­ti­tion was what hap­pened next, how­ever. Hav­ing be­ing sold af­ter her fa­ther’s death it went through a num­ber of hands be­fore be­ing parked up in a pad­dock. On hear­ing word of its fate Rubecca’s hus­band stepped in, bought it back and spent four years on and off re­turn­ing it to a road-wor­thy state as a wed­ding an­niver­sary gift for Rubecca ( see full story NZ4WD March 2017).

Mmmm, lunch!

Af­ter spend­ing most of the morn­ing en­joy­ing the im­promptu les­son in hot air bal­loon­ing on the Oak­ley fam­ily farm, it was time to ‘sad­dle up’ and head south- west from Horo­rata, and the evoca­tively-named Wind­whis­tle and past the turnoff to Mount Hutt for a lunch stop at the Red Cot­tages ac­com­mo­da­tion and Wool­shed Event Venue near Stavely ( which you re­ally should check out at www. red­cot­ta­genz.com) Af­ter lunch it was then a straight run through to Geral­dine – for a quick com­fort stop – then a cir­cuitious route via fan­tas­ti­cally-flow­ing, lime­stone-based gravel roads via the his­toric Pioneer Lime Kiln at Kakahu and on down to To­tara be­fore a quick run on more stun­ning al­beit dusty roads up Mid­dle Val­ley ( no won­der Geral­dine lad Hay­den Pad­don is such a good rally driver, I say) to Fair­lie for a quick af­ter­noon tea break ( and one of the best flat whites I swear I have ever en­joyed) at the Fair­lie Bake­house Café!

In the foot­steps of Macken­zie

By this stage we had been driv­ing for at least four hours on seal ( in 4x2 Hi) and gravel ( 4x4 Hi). Our chance to en­gage 4x4 Lo came soon af­ter, as we headed south west from Fair­lie to Crin­kle­wood, then to the place where it all a started, the Macken­zie Pass and the sim­ple windswept cairn ( see pic­ture) which marks the spot the in­fa­mous sheep rustler was fi­nally ap­pre­hended. While a more re­cent bronze statue of Macken­zie and dog Fri­day now draws much of the at­ten­tion to the trav­el­ling pub­lic to Fair­lie’s main street the orig­i­nal me­mo­rial is def­i­nitely worth the de­tour, par­tic­u­larly if, like we were, you are in a 4WD. The ini­tial drop down into Macken­zie Pass Rd off either Rollesby Val­ley or Waratah Rds ( de­pend­ing on which di­rec­tion you come from) re­quires con­cen­tra­tion and is best done in lo-range 4WD). Once in the ‘ pass it­self the road straight­ens it­self out un­til it flat­tens out be­fore meet­ing the Hakataramea Pass Rd and the need to stop and en­gage 2WD Hi again for the fi­nal run up to the left onto the Burke’s Pass-Tekapo Rd and our overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Pep­pers Blue­wa­ter Re­sort over­look­ing the lake. Bright and early the next morn­ing we were up and on the road – this time in Pra­dos – for the sec­ond leg of the launch, from Lake Tekapo to Queen­stown via the Oteake Con­ser­va­tion Park – which we will cover in the March 18 is­sue!

Rubecca Soper-Ha­zlett and her re­stored 1983 Toy­ota Hilux.

Photo op at the James Macken­zie Me­mo­rial on the western side of the Macken­zie Pass.

Bal­loon man Michael Oak­ley’s own 1982 Hilux farm truck – still go­ing strong!

Lunch spot Day 1 was at the beau­ti­ful Red Cot­tages at Stavely.

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