It’s cold and there is al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of snow... mean­ing Au­gust’s Achilles Ra­dial Win­ter Woolies tag-along has al­ways been one of the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar! This year’s new for­mat two-dayer was no ex­cep­tion

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Ash­ley Lucas.

The Achilles Win­ter Woolies trip was back on the taga­long cal­en­dar this year af­ter a break due to the ill­ness and pass­ing of Craig Mott, one of the main or­gan­is­ers from the Desert De­fend­ers Off Road Club. How­ever, the team in­clud­ing Kandy Mott, Craig’s wife, were back for 2018 and the event was as pop­u­lar as ever. While pre­vi­ous trips have mostly been through Kar­ioi For­est and the western side of the mil­i­tary train­ing grounds at Waiouru, 2018 would be on both sides of the train­ing grounds start­ing off from the Waiouru Sports Club. The Desert De­fend­ers Off Road Club ( DDORC) raises funds to sup­port chil­dren’s char­i­ties through the Tril­lian Trek ( formerly The Va­ri­ety Club Bash). Be­cause it is reg­is­tered un­der the Out­doors and Ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties reg­u­la­tions, the DDORC have to be au­dited ev­ery three years, and an au­di­tor would be present check­ing the pa­per­work and pro­ce­dures on Satur­day. While they may have had a few nerves re­gard­ing the au­dit, there was no need as they passed and are all good for an­other three years. Es­sen­tially a one- day event on the Satur­day, due to de­mand this year the same trip was run again on the Sun­day to cater for the pop­u­lar­ity from par­tic­i­pants although there were sev­eral peo­ple who booked in for both days and were duly re­warded for it with t wo sim­i­lar but very dif­fer­ent days. While Satur­day was a dull cloudy day with the odd scat­ter­ing of snow on the grounds, es­pe­cially up the side of Mt Ruapheu, Sun­day was a re­ally fine cloud­less day. I don’t think I have ever been in the area on such a nice day in all the years I have been go­ing there.

Mm­m­mmm, break­fast!

Satur­day started off with a cooked break­fast for those who or­dered the meal pack­age, it was then line up on the sports field in groups for scru­ti­neer­ing. Ve­hi­cles were checked for re­cov­ery points front and rear and also the re­quired ba­sic equip­ment. Fol­low­ing a wel­come and safety brief­ing, along with the Army’s re­quired brief­ing on un­ex­ploded mu­ni­tions ( known as blinds), we set off in an east­erly di­rec­tion into the train­ing grounds along the Tarn Track and past the Ur­ban Com­bat Vil­lage ( UCV), a vil­lage built out of ship­ping con­tain­ers for mil­i­tary train­ing be­fore de­ploy­ment to places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is also around this area, to­gether with Home Val­ley and Argo ar­eas, that you usu­ally get to see the Kaimanawa Wild Horses, and those to­wards the front of the con­voy weren’t dis­ap­pointed with some good photo op­por­tu­ni­ties. Morn­ing tea stop was at the horse yards on the river flats of the Moawhango River where DoC rounds up a num­ber of the Kaimanawa horses ev­ery cou­ple of years to man­age the num­bers which at one stage reached as many as 1700. From the horse yards it was back on the road and back over the hills and down into an­other val­ley be­fore loop­ing around and down to the shores of Lake Moawhango for lunch. While most had the usual sand­wiches and rolls the en­tre­pre­neur­ial ones teased the rest of us with smells of mut­ton, steak and even veni­son on the BBQ. Dur­ing the lunch break many took the op­por­tu­nity to take a closer look at the dam be­fore we de­parted head­ing along the more muddy tracks as we made our way out to the Desert Road.

Desert cross­ing

Cross­ing the Desert Road it was into the Rangipo Desert head­ing for the western side of Mt Ruapehu. For those on Satur­day as we neared the up­per reaches and the area now known as Mor­dor af­ter it was used in the film­ing of the Lord of the Rings, there was patches of snow still on the ground. The snow was melted by the time Sun­day’s par­tic­i­pants got there but they at least got to see the snow-capped moun­tain peaks which were pre­vi­ously shrouded in heavy cloud. The ter­rain got more chal­leng­ing as the day went on es­pe­cially as we now headed in a southerly di­rec­tion along the base of the moun­tain through gul­lies and bush ar­eas to the big “play bowl” at Ghost Bush. The bowl’s steep sandy type soil area is where driv­ers chal­lenge them­selves and their ve­hi­cles get­ting up and down while oth­ers are con­tent to sit back, en­joy their af­ter­noon tea and watch the ac­tion. The bot­tom of the bowl is very rocky so you also need to pick your lines. On the Sun­day there was a Toy­ota Surf giv­ing a good dis­play in an ef­fort to climb the steep­est and rough­est part which re­sulted in wheel lif ts that even­tu­ally were the demise of a CV joint.

Rocky river

Get­ting later in the day it was back through alpine bush be­fore head­ing out across the ‘ desert’ back to­wards the high­way. There were a cou­ple of rather muddy and churned up ar­eas which saw an odd ve­hi­cle need­ing re­cov­ery as­sis­tance. Once back at the Whangaehu River we crossed the rocky river and fol­lowed some rather rut­ted and muddy tracks on the other side. There were cou­ple of deep rut­ted wa­ter holes on the side of the ‘ track’ and the or­gan­is­ers had marked and taped off the first one to warn peo­ple from go­ing into it. How­ever they didn’t do the same on the sec­ond one which was al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter the first and a cou­ple just had to go in. Usu­ally once the first was stuck in there the rest kept well away as it had a ten­dency to fill the ve­hi­cle with muddy wa­ter be­fore it can be winched out. Care was needed to driv­ing these tracks as in places the ruts were deep and washed out from the Army NZLAV ar­moured ve­hi­cles re­sult­ing in some ve­hi­cles get­ting stuck. There were al­ways al­ter­na­tive es­cape routes but most were up for a chal­lenge, re­sult­ing in many broad smiles across the faces and the rather dirty, mud splat­tered ve­hi­cles af­ter­wards. Back out at the high­way t yres were pumped up and good­byes said while ask­ing at the same time “When is the next one?”

Dee Smith ap­ply­ing a lib­eral coat­ing of Waiouru mud to the Wran­gler.

Kumeu’s Ge­off Cot­tle mak­ing a splash.

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