Waitotara Valley Safari
The weekend following the trials doubleheader near Ohingaiti, the Manawatu 4WD Club hosted the 2020 Charity Safari at Ngamatapouri, in the Waitotara Valley, at the end of the countries longest NO EXIT Road.
In stark contrast to last year’s first running of the event, this year entrants were greeted by hot, sunny weather, and dust, lots of dust, 100mm deep in places, dust!!!
On check-in each entrant was allocated a ‘team’ named after a native tree. A total of 6 teams were formed, each about 15 entrants, with a club leader, trail car, and support vehicle then added.
Leading Kauri group was Les Thomsen and his “Energiser Bunny” daughter Caitlin.
Way back in the 90’s a group from the Manawatu 4WD Club organised and led one of the first major Cross Country 4×4 events held in NZ.
Coast to Coast, we travelled from Foxton Beach to Castle Point. Heading up the organising committee was Les Thomsen. He had also organised and competed in trials and early winch challenge events.
Caitlin is certainly a chip off the old block, not just content to be an active member of the club, she is deeply into Surf Lifesaving NZ (hence the inclusion of the group in the beneficiaries of the Safari), and also is this years NZ4WD Associations young 4Wheeler of the year.
The Safari was divided into 6 ‘sections’ of about the same duration, and each team started out at a different point each morning and completed 3 sections both days.
The small groups, spread about the area, worked very well, with very few hold-ups. Even lunch breaks and coffee stops were factored in.
Although much of the track is typical safari high country, with massive views everywhere, the highlight of the day is very different.
Peats Bush is a 200ha of Virgin Native Bush, with a ‘car and a half’ wide track bulldozed along a ridgeline, right through the middle of it.
It’s an hour or so in, then after a coffee stop, it’s an hour or so out again. And it is simply stunning. And dusty.
Highlight of the coffee stop, apart from the views, is the massive Totara Table in the hut built for the odd groups allowed in to enjoy the area (like us). The table is a single slab from a Totara tree submerged in the river for many years.
From Peats Bush, after passing the next group waiting for their turn, we continued on a loop of the stations ridgeline tracks, lots of climbs and descents, switchback corners and dust.
As the day got hotter, reports had come through of other groups with overheating issues, but we were able to continue uninterrupted on our way back onto Makakaho Road.
From various points on this loop we were treated to views across some very big country to the big 3: Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe just showing through the haze.
Heading back to the camp, we visited the Makakaho Falls, with their own piece of history.
Right next to the falls, which provide a Natural Hydro dam, is the Peats own power station, built by current owner David Peats grandfather in the 1950s.
The power station generates enough power to allow the station to be self-sufficient and sell excess to the National grid.
Not far away is the site of the water wheel powered sawmill, that supplied the timber for the nearby St Hilda In-the-Wood Church, built in 1903-4.
The area is steeped in history, with the initial track into the valley dating from 1893. In 2007 the Peats Mangapapa Station was awarded the NZ Century Farm and Station Award, to mark 100 years of continuous ownership by one family.
Manawatu Club President Philip Law summed up the relationship between the club and the Peats: “Our club feels privileged to have been able to share with everyone the drive through Peats Bush. We wanted to show our appreciation to Dave and will be presenting him with at least two of the latest Goodnature A24 Rat/Stoat traps to assist with control of predators and vermin in the bush.”
As always with these trips, there is always more left unseen than seen when the event is over, and we headed off back down NZs longest no exit road vowing to return, for longer.
Fortunately, the Manawatu Club is planning to return next year. We’ve already booked our place!!