The Manawatu 4WD Club is one of the latest to recognise the rewards to be gained from hosting a safari weekend. Over the weekend of March 9th and 10th, the club hosted the Canteen Safari in the Waitotara Valley, north-west of Wanganui.

Unfortunately, the event was dogged — eventually shortened — by rain. Manawatu club president Phillip Law shares his experiences from the organisation of the 2019 safari.

The roots for this event go back two or three years to when the club first discussed hosting a fundraising event. The goal was to host a weekend event in the lower North Island because we saw that there was an opening for a well-run interesting tag-along family,-friendly trip in this area, and we wanted to own it. To raise the bar and set a new standard.

Last year was our first. During the organising of the weekend, Greg Booth requested that we support Canteen NZ. His connection to this was through a work colleague who had lost his daughter to cancer, and no one could argue with supporting such a worthwhile charity.

So, Canteen Safari 2019 was our second go at it.

Waitotara Valley was chosen as the location because it gave the scale we needed to host an event with lots of trucks. We spoke with one farm owner up the valley and started the ball rolling. We set a goal and a limit of 80 trucks and ended up turning trucks away when we reached 100. Club members spent time up the valley speaking with landowners and next minute we had the support of the local community and access to tracks and stations with nearly 200 km of track to drive over for the weekend.

A month before the Canteen Safari, a weekend was spent mapping and grading the difficulty of the tracks and working out how we could divide the trucks into smaller manageable groups. It was all on, and we were getting closer to the pointy end. A live band was booked for Saturday night, the toilets were booked for camping, and the countdown was on. What could go wrong? After all, it hadn’t rained for months.

Making new friends.

Then the rains came. I’m pretty sure over the past eight months it is the only wet weekend we have had.

But nothing was going to dampen our spirits! We had over 100 trucks camping with all types of tents, campers and caravans.

Sign in and vehicle inspection was held on Friday night in the rain. The trucks recovery points got inspected in the rain. Everything was wet and Saturday morning was going to be a late start because of the rain.

We put in time by taking all the trucks to visit Dave Peats’ hydropower station before lunch. Then we had our picnic lunch at the hall, my partner Megan only saw the photos of this the other day with everyone sitting around on camp chairs or blankets chatting and enjoying the food. The atmosphere was amazing.

After lunch, we made the decision to only do the one track that we thought was safe after the rain, and take all in one convoy. Massive.

Being at the front, I probably didn’t get to see just how massive it was. We stopped a few times to regroup, but never long enough for all the trucks to catch up. What a spectacle with everyone enjoying the scenery and the track.

Back to camp for dinner, put on by the local community, and great music from Three Screws Loose.

We were looking forward to Sunday morning but woke up again to more rain. By around 10 am, the decision was made to call it. Many drivers thanked me for making the right decision, feeling they had been pushed to their limit the day before.

But what a great weekend, plus our club raised well over $15,000 for Canteen NZ. We should all be very proud of our achievement. And as a bonus, since we didn’t get to go on most of the track we had planned to use, we can run the same event next year. Roll on 2020!

Thanks to all club members who came on the recce, helped with chopping back branches and marking tracks, and to those who gave up their weekend to lead groups or help with catering and making lunches for the Canteen Safari. What a great team to work with, we are really hoping that you will all help again next year when we run the trip again. We are looking forward to it.

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