4WD au­thor Mark Wil­son has a mis­sion – to get those big SUVs off the road and on the trail, where they be­long. Af­ter 20 years of pro­mot­ing safe 4WD tour­ing through his se­ries of South Is­land guide­books, he is now lead­ing con­voys of clients along the best tracks from those books. Wil­son launched his new ven­ture late in 2016. His 4WD South Ex­plor­ers Club of­fers week-long tours that in­clude Nel­son beech for­est, West Coast min­ing trails, and vast Cen­tral Otago land­scapes. Clients drive their own ve­hi­cle, with Wil­son show­ing the way at the head of the con­voy. A col­league fills the cru­cial role of “tail-end Char­lie”, mon­i­tor­ing the safe progress of the con­voy from the rear. Get­ting the con­voy tours un­der way was a long haul that in­cluded a rig­or­ous safety au­dit to sat­isfy WorkSafe’s re­quire­ments for op­er­a­tors of such tours, and to gain ac­cess to the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion land that pro­vides the bulk of the tours’ off-road op­por­tu­ni­ties. He ad­mits to feel­ing like he was drown­ing in paper at times but look­ing back on the process he can see its ben­e­fits. “It re­ally made me stop and think about var­i­ous sce­nar­ios and how we should han­dle them, and prob­a­bly more im­por­tant how to stop them aris­ing in the first place,” he says. As well as driv­ing thou­sands of kilo­me­tres of the South Is­land’s rougher roads and tracks, Wil­son has led many 4WD club trips over the years and it was this ex­pe­ri­ence he drew on in putting the con­voy tours to­gether. “I wanted them to have enough chal­lenge for ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers but also be ‘ do-able’ for a novice in an un­mod­i­fied truck with stan­dard tyres, no snorkel, just ba­sic safety gear,” he says. Feed­back from his first trips sug­gests he has hit the mark there, with clients rat­ing the mix of driv­ing chal­lenge and sight­see­ing, and also the strong fo­cus on min­imis­ing dam­age to the tracks and en­vi­ron­ment. To help make the ex­pe­ri­ence af­ford­able for fam­i­lies, Wil­son charges per truck rather than per person, and al­lows clients to ar­range their own ac­com­mo­da­tion and food, so they can keep their costs down. A high­light for Wil­son is see­ing clients grow in con­fi­dence as the tour pro­gresses and they get to know just how ca­pa­ble their ve­hi­cle is. “We do a cou­ple of river cross­ings for ex­am­ple, and for some of the driv­ers this is a first. But we talk it all through and they get to see me go through first, and then it’s all smiles when they pop out the other side,” he says. For de­tails of 4WD South Ex­plor­ers Club con­voy trips or to or­der copies of 4WD South: 115 Off Road Ad­ven­tures in NZ’s South Is­land, go to 4wd­

Cen­tral Otago’s big skies and vast land­scapes of­fer plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for pho­tos along the way. Photo: Mark Wil­son.

4WD au­thor Mark Wil­son is now of­fer­ing guided con­voy tours of routes from his South Is­land guide­book. Photo: Lee How­den.

De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion huts are among the tours’ ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, as well as mo­tels and camp­grounds. Photo: Mark Wil­son.

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