MARK WILSON’S NEW VENTURE
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 4wdsouth.co.nz
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.