Helping keep two wheels turning
Recently I attended one of the largest off road events in the Southern Hemisphere but while I was there in my four-wheeldrive ( along with many others) the event was a two wheel one in the form of the annual Tussock Buster. Held on the Army training grounds at Waiouru, Tussock Buster is the largest trail bike event in New Zealand and is regarded by many as being the best event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
Tussock Buster is a 2.5 day motorcycle trail ride through 63,000 hectares of training grounds and covers 300 kilometres of tracks with over 1500 riders, marshals and helpers out there rain, hail, snow or in the case of this year’s event, mostly sunshine. Most participants camped on the sports field at Waiouru or if you an old bugger like me and chanced upon a bed in the rather cosy army barracks for the weekend, you took it.
Considering the distance that the bikes would be traveling out to the back of the grounds, the fuel tanks on the bikes are obviously lacking in capacity so fuel becomes a problem for them. This is where a dedicated team, of which I was a small part of, were stationed. Here there was a refuelling area cordoned off with mini fuel tankers positioned to fuel the bikes as they came through on a prepaid token basis.
We were stationed at approximately the half way point at the Westlawn hut area and riders would come in for a break and top up of fuel using a pre-paid token basis. The bikes had to have their engines turned off and the riders pushed the bikes through a taped off refuelling area getting three litres at a time. Some would request a split with their mate so we would be metering even small amounts like a litre or 1.5 into the tanks.
Not easy trying to read a meter and yet pump into some of those bike tanks making sure it wasn’t too full, especially for those with two-strokes who then had to calculate and add their own oil. However, having three nozzles going at once meant that queues were kept to a minimum.
That said, it was astonishing how some thought that because they hadn’t used that much fuel so far, they didn’t need to top up their tank. They were probably some of the ones that the recovery teams spent until 8.30pm Saturday recovering after they ran out of fuel in the worst possible places. In the real hard to get to places for the recovery quads ( with towing dollies), Barry was sent in with his helicopter to airlift the bike out to an accessible location, one being the Westlawn area.
The helicopter was also used to recover injured riders back to the on-site medical team and there were a few injuries, some serious requiring the rescue helicopter service to airlift to hospital. Most were treated on site but those like the guy who broke his leg in two places were dispatched to hospital.
Getting fuel out to Westlawn is not an easy task and the 1200 and 1600 litre tankers certainly weigh a few tonne when full, so a good four-wheel- drive vehicle was essential to tow them out there. Just as well Mike Dransfield’s new Toyota 79 Series V8 diesel Land Cruiser Ute was up to the task. And my own LR Discovery V8 was put to work and got the job of towing the empty tanker back to base.
Over the weekend over 3,000 litres of fuel was pumped. The Z Service Station at Waiouru was a bit taken back when Mike pulled in with said tankers and said “Fill ‘er up”!
As to the claim to be the largest trail bike event in the Southern Hemisphere, event director, Warrick Funnell got onto the phone leading up to the weekend and spoke to organisers of similar events in Australia. When asked details Warrick told them 300kms and 1000 riders to which they replied with two words; “You Win”.
Offlimits is a Charitable Trust and funds raised are put to good use, especially for those with connections or former connections to the defence force. Over the past year Offlimits have handed out over $ 180,000.
There haven’t been a lot of 4WD events over the first few months of this year and Offlimits are now planning for their Ice Buster 4WD event in late July. Keep an eye out on their website or Facebook page for when registrations open as numbers are strictly limited.
Motorcycle riders enjoying this year’ Tussock Buster event.
Volunteers Ian and Pete on refuelling duty.