WEEK­END DRIVE

A trip on some un­ex­plored roads in the Wairarapa pro­vided a few in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ences for David Coxon.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by 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.

Count­ing sheep

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.

Cow­tow­ing!

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.

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