Wairarapa back­road day trip

This month David Coxon puts his reg­u­lar ex­plor­ing to good use by run­ning a back­road tour­ing trip for his club.

NZ4WD - - WEEKEND DRIVE - Story and pho­tos by David Coxon.

After an early ren­dezvous at Master­ton, the con­voy of nine ve­hi­cles headed out to the small set­tle­ment of Bide­ford, where the seal ended and our first true back­road sec­tion started. It was a fine, crisp, sunny morn­ing with green grass and re­flec­tions from ponds and small lakes left from the last few weeks of in­ter­mit­tent rain. In keep­ing with the theme of the trip, there were plenty of photo stops as we worked our way through the hills north of Bide­ford, head­ing for SH52. Although the good roads meant se­ri­ous 4WDs were not re­ally needed, set­ting off after a photo stop when the left hand wheels were on the soft shoul­der was a lit­tle chal­leng­ing at times, with trac­tion con­trol a very use­ful ac­ces­sory for those who had it. Reach­ing SH52 after a scenic but un­event­ful run, morn­ing tea was at the Al­fred­ton Re­serve, al­ways a pleas­ant place to park up away from the road, with plenty of space and even some wel­come toi­lets.

Mob rule

Leav­ing the Re­serve I was plan­ning a quick run up SH52 to our turnoff for Pori Rd, how­ever this was not to be. Our run came to a brisk halt when I came round a corner to meet on­com­ing sheep on both sides of the road. Luck­ily the sheep, or ac­tu­ally the dogs con­trol­ling them, had the sense to drive the sheep into their lane, let­ting us idle slowly past the mob as they all ‘fol­lowed the leader’ to the left. Look­ing in my mir­ror I could see plenty of cam­eras and phones out win­dows as peo­ple pho­tographed a sight not com­mon to those from the city. Once past the sheep we were soon turn­ing off for Pori Rd and start­ing to climb to the ridge line. This was an­other well main­tained gravel road, although a num­ber of washouts on the downhill side and newly-cleared slips still slump­ing threat­en­ingly across the road showed that the re­cent wet weather had the hills on the move. Also on the move were the clouds, that had now swept in, turn­ing the bright sun­shine of half an hour ago into a drab cool day. At the end of the ridge I had orig­i­nally planned to take Puke­toi Rd back to SH52, but although the topo map showed this as a through road, I had luck­ily spot­ted that

there was a gate marked, which usu­ally means that it only ac­cesses a farm or two. Not want­ing to end up at a locked gate, or in a farm­yard, with a con­vey of ve­hi­cles, we con­tin­ued on Pori Rd. I will ex­plore Puke­toi Rd from the SH52 end an­other time when I am on my own. Fol­low­ing Pori Rd we had a short sec­tion of seal as we dropped down into Makuri Gorge and fol­lowed the Makuri River up the gorge and past the set­tle­ment of, you guessed it, Makuri. Stay­ing with the name theme we fol­lowed what was now the Makuri Stream along Coonoor Rd. This soon turned to gravel again and was a very pleas­ant run, although once again I man­aged to miss the sign for Pip­inui Falls. Luck­ily a per­son in the con­voy did spot the sign, and although we didn’t stop, I now have a bet­ter idea of where they are for next time.

Don’t have a cow, man!

One of the fea­tures of this part of the trip was the num­ber of an­i­mals that ran into the con­voy. Firstly I came across a cow in the mid­dle of the road that started run­ning when it saw me. Ev­ery time I stopped so did the cow, but stood in the mid­dle of the road, re­fus­ing to move onto the nice grassy verge. Ev­ery time I set off it started run­ning again, veer­ing in front of me if I tried to get past it to move it to the side. It ran a few kilo­me­tres be­fore fi­nally get­ting tired and swerv­ing onto the grass. Then a cou­ple of sheep ly­ing on a grassy bank heard me com­ing and ran in front of me – once again re­fus­ing to pull over. After this hap­pened for the third time I was won­der­ing if we would ever get to our turnoff into Towai Rd, when round­ing a bend I saw the rear end of a very large mob of sheep go­ing the same way as us. After a quick chat to the peo­ple mov­ing the sheep I found that we were nearly at Towai Rd, and that the mob were not go­ing that way, so we just fol­lowed them to the turnoff. Towai Rd took us up and over the Puke­toi Range, with the rather des­o­late quarry near the top an in­ter­est­ing stop­ping place for some slightly dif­fer­ent pho­to­graphs. In­ter­est­ingly, the road ran through the quarry it­self although be­ing a Sun­day, there was no ac­tiv­ity.

Good choice

Towai Rd took us al­most all the way to our lunch stop at Waihi Falls, the car park and roofed pic­nic ta­ble be­ing a good choice with rain threat­en­ing. Luck­ily the rain held off long enough for those who were keen to walk down to the base of the falls, which were rather spec­tac­u­lar after all the re­cent rain. After lunch we took Waihi Val­ley Rd as an easy gravel road back to SH52 for the long run back to­wards Master­ton. Once again the num­ber of slips block­ing one lane kept us on our toes, and at one point we had to ne­go­ti­ate ma­jor road­works where the whole road had been washed away and a tem­po­rary track built as a short de­tour up the val­ley. This was sign­posted as not suit­able for trucks, and I would say not re­ally suit­able for lower-slung cars ei­ther. Reach­ing Al­fred­ton I had planned to de­tour across to Castle­point but with time get­ting on the group de­cided that it was bet­ter to just head for home, leav­ing that trip for an­other day.

A ru­ral road­block.

In­ter­est­ing ma­chin­ery perched on a hill­top.

A photo stop was also a chance to so­cialise in the sun, and it was some­times hard to get the con­voy mov­ing again.

One of many DIY de­lights we saw on the trip.

A fast-flow­ing Waihi Falls.

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