NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Richard Soult.

Re­spect it and you can – like Richard Soult from 4X4Ex­ – do the Waikaia Bush Road in a day. Take lib­er­ties though, and it can bite.

On a re­cent route log­ging trip around Otago with my fa­ther, I was keen to have a fresh look at the Waikaia Bush Road to check its con­di­tion. I hadn’t been there for sev­eral years, and not since 38 4WD driv­ers got stuck in a snow storm in May 2016 and needed res­cu­ing, leav­ing their ve­hi­cles be­hind. This is not a track to be taken lightly as the weather can change ex­tremely quickly and rain can make the mud holes deep and an easy trap for the in­ex­pe­ri­enced or solo ex­plorer. In May 2016, over one me­tre of snow fell in a few hours, lead­ing to an overnight and sig­nif­i­cant res­cue. I had heard that the track had been re­cently bull­dozed and was cur­rently in good con­di­tion. Be­ing a solo ex­plorer in my un­mod­i­fied Toy­ota Prado, we waited for a good weather win­dow and gave it a go, quite pre­pared to turn around if we met any­thing that could in­volve us get­ting bogged in.

Prior form

My fa­ther, the pre­vi­ous owner of the Prado but with zero off- road driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, had come along as video/ cam­era man. A cou­ple of days ear­lier we had been on the Ser­pen­tine Road and with my fa­ther driv­ing, things were go­ing well un­til we came across a short boggy sec­tion. We stopped and got out to iden­tify a safe line. Happy that we would get through eas­ily, I set up the video cam­era and start­ing film­ing. My fa­ther on his ap­proach, got the front wheels stuck in a rut and in­stead of stop­ping and back­ing out, gunned it and within sec­onds was at a 45 de­gree an­gle on his side, with both axles spin­ning. This led to a t wo hour walk to get cell­phone cov­er­age, a call to the lo­cal garage 50kms away, a six- hour wait and a very large in­voice... With this freshly in mind, my fa­ther was more than a lit tle bit wary of tack­ling a route with such a rep­u­ta­tion.

To the Obelisk

We left the main road and headed up to the Obelisk on the Old Man Range. The weather was great and the views were stun­ning. From here we headed south to gain the Waikaia Bush Rd. I’ve no idea why its called a bush road as at nearly 1400m, there is no bush at all... The re­ports had been cor­rect and the go­ing was good. The few mud holes that we en­coun­tered were rea­son­ably shal­low and the base was solid. On a ridge­line nearby, we saw what I as­sumed to be a lo­cal 4WD club out for the day. With ten­sion ris­ing, my fa­ther asked me why they needed a con­voy of ten ve­hi­cles and we were on our own. “Just a Sun­day day out for a lo­cal club,” I replied, se­cretly won­der­ing if we would get through. We started our de­scent to­wards Pi­ano Flat and came across the fa­mous Stone Steps. We stopped and walked the steps be­fore my fa­ther was as­signed to pho­to­graphic du­ties and I drove the Prado down with­out dif­fi­culty. From here, the go­ing was an easy gravel road with some steep drop- offs, but noth­ing tech­ni­cally dif­fi­cult.

Pi­ano Flat

We stopped while pass­ing through the lower forested area and gath­ered some fire­wood for the evening. On ar­riv­ing at the Pi­ano Flat camp­site, we were amazed. This camp­site, whilst be­ing eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by car is re­mote! The grass was cut to cricket pitch stan­dard and is right next to the Waikaia River. If it had been warmer and we had ar­rived ear­lier in the day, the swim­ming op­por­tu­ni­ties would have been awe­some. On a fine day in March, we had the camp­site to our­selves and had a very en­joy­able evening around a camp­fire in one of the many fire­places pro­vided.

Cau­tion rec­om­mended

As we sat there with full stom­achs and a glass of wine, we re­flected on what had been an amaz­ing day on the hill and I was again thank­ful to have a 4WD. Whilst the Waikaia Bush Rd gave us a great day out, I would cau­tion ev­ery­one think­ing about at­tempt­ing it to be ex­tremely cau­tious of the weather. In the wet, this route would eas­ily be­come much more dif­fi­cult and would def­i­nitely re­quire sev­eral ve­hi­cles or the abil­ity to self- re­cover. My ad­vice, save this route for a nice sunny day and don’t take any chances. There are nearly 800 routes and mul­ti­day ex­pe­di­tions through­out New Zealand, com­plete with route notes and GPX files avail­able on 4X4Ex­ nz. Join to­day and get out there 4X4Ex­plor­ing!

Join to­day!

If you en­joyed read­ing this ar­ti­cle and want to use your 4WD to get out there and 4X4Ex­plore some amaz­ing places, sub­scribe to 4x4Ex­plorer on the link be­low. There is ev­ery­thing from scenic tar­mac roads to re­mote High Coun­try routes. Ev­ery route comes com­plete with down­load­able GPX files, de­tailed route notes, grades and high qual­ity pho­tos. Take the ef­fort out of route plan­ning, 4x4Ex­plorer has done it all for you! www. 4x4ex­ nz/?aff= 2818

Look­ing south down the Old Man Range from the Obelisk.

Views open­ing up as we ap­proached the Obelisk.

One of the sev­eral mud holes en­coun­tered.

End of a great day 4X4Ex­plor­ing.

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