A trip on some unexplored roads in the Wairarapa provided a few interesting experiences for David Coxon.
Our trip with long-time travelling companions Gillian and Ashley started just north of Masterton when we turned off SH2 to cut across some unexplored roads, heading for Alfredton. The first section was an easy, sealed road with the well-watered hills glowing green in a rare day of sunshine. After a pleasant run we turned onto the unsealed Mangamahoe Rd for a more backroad experience. Everything was scenic, remote and uneventful until I came around a bend to meet a mob of sheep heading towards me. It was quite humorous to watch the chaos as the leading sheep promptly turned round to run in front of us, as they usually did in front of the quad, then met the rest of the sheep and the quad coming towards them.
Confusion reigned as the sheep tried to decide which vehicle to run in front of, before they all stopped waiting for a sheepdog to tell them what to do. We just parked up and Ashley and I took photos while the dogs got the sheep all moving in the same direction and past us. As he came past, we got a friendly wave from the farmer on his quad for our patience. Before long we rejoined SH52 for the run past Alfredton to our next foray into the hills up Pori Rd. This was a good quality unsealed road with spectacular views appearing as we got higher. Near the top we found a good spacious pull-off area with more fantastic views across to the snow-capped Tararuas. An ideal place for lunch we thought – at least until we got out of the cars and realised how penetrating the breeze was. There was snow on the Tararuas for a reason. So, we continued along the ridge, with due care for the narrow road and very severe drop- offs on the left, eventually reaching a plateau with some easier driving where we turned off at Puketoi Rd. Although marked on the topo map as a normal, unsealed road, we soon started seeing signs about the road being unmaintained, and effectively “travel at your own risk”. After a few kilometres we came to a closed gate, but with no indication we couldn’t continue, so we decided to carry on, being very careful of wandering livestock and making sure we didn’t descend something we couldn’t drive back up. We didn’t get far before we found a small mob of cattle that promptly left the grassy verge and started trotting in front of us.
Like the sheep earlier, they had obviously learnt that the correct behaviour was to stay in front of the vehicle and not leave the road. To give them time to forget us and drift back away from the road we decided that the grass verge they had just vacated was a perfect place for lunch, and had a very peaceful and memorable break in total isolation, except that is for the few cows that had stayed back to supervise us. After our leisurely lunch break we continued on, hoping that there would be no more animal encounters. The road was now more of a track that a road, but was in quite adequate condition with only a few ruts and muddy sections to deal with. Then we found our mob of cattle again, had a repeat performance of them moving in front of us. We tried every trick we could to get past without stressing them, but it was impossible – they were too well trained to stay in front of us. We even tried dropping back and letting May try to get past them on foot to guide them off the road, but as soon as she got close they all trotted off ahead of her. May soon found why cowboys have horses. At least she got her exercise for the day. After a kilometre or so of this we decided that the cattle were making such an effective mobile road block that we had better give up before we herded them too far from where they were supposed to be. We turned around, expressing relief to be away from the cows, only to meet the ones that had supervised our lunch now hurrying to catch up with the rest of the mob. Luckily stopping and switching off the engines was enough for them to nervously pass us, giving us an uneventful run back the rest of the way back to Pori Rd.
Best laid plans etc
From Pori Rd we dropped into the Makuri Gorge and went up through Makuri settlement on good sealed roads heading over the ranges back to SH52 for our next explore, a bit further up SH52. My plan was to follow a road that was a through road on the topo map but had a no exit sign at each end. Seeing how far we could follow the road would be a nice end to the day we thought. Unfortunately, when I did my planning, I picked the wrong road on the map to put the way points on, and we ended up on another sealed road that I hadn’t explored. Rather than being a dead end, this took us back across the ranges, rejoining the road to Makuri. Back at Makuri we decided that the fairly main road back to Eketahuna would be the perfect way to finish the day. Despite a few unexpected events it had been another fantastic trip.
Early evening light on Makuri Valley.
Which way? A common sight for Ashley, waiting as I sort out my left from my right.
Lunch. With a couple of cows hiding in the bush behind us.
Where do we go now?
A potential lunch spot, if it had been a little warmer.