I was told to stand in the middle of the Ranfurly Motor Camp and turn through 360degrees.
“See all those Peaks and Ranges” said Greg Carroll from the Otago Recreational 4WD Group, “well we are going to get you to the top of all of them by the end of the week!”
And they did!!!
These trips have gained a massive reputation over the 5 years since the first, and the week of offroading was booked solid almost before registrations opened.
For Joe and Marion Thomas, our Tour Leaders on the Muster, the morning of the last day held a special significance as Marion shared some of her own families experiences as we travelled through the Waipiata area of the Maniototo.
Instead of dividing into our two groups as we had on the previous days, we were to spend the day in a single convoy, with opportunities along the way for some members to break away, for an early start, and a short cut, to the trip home.
For those of us that stayed the distance, the history of the area was about to get personal.
From Ranfurly, it was just a quick trip along the Tarseal through Patearoa to Hamiltons Road, and Hamiltons Cemetery. Well, a quick trip slowed briefly by an encounter with a group also exploring the region by horseback as part of the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.
At the cemetery, Marion took us to visit the grave of her Great Aunt Ada Tregonning (nee Hore), the daughter of Elizabeth, one of the very early English settlers in the region.
Marion told us of a historic biographical speech entitled Elizabeths Story written by a cousin of her Dads, that documented Elizabeths life, and was presented to a Toastmistresses group. The cassette tape of which has now vanished into antiquity.
Part of the story Marion particularly remembers is that Elizabeth had brought with her some fineries from home, (England) and whenever a letter arrived (a very special occasion) she would bathe especially, get dressed up in one of the beautiful gowns she had stored away, and sit at the table to read.
She had also brought with her a special writing case that she would bring out to pen her reply home, then pack it all carefully away till the next time.
Elizabeth and her family lived in a tent with mud-brick walls in the 1800s. This in an area that saw winter temperatures drop as low as -20 degrees, and summer reach +35.
Marion herself grew up just up the road at Waipiata, which is a short distance away from our next stop at Orangapai, the old Tuberculosis Sanitorium built in 1914. Again, through Joe and Marion’s contacts in the area, we were given a guided tour of the facility, and its past, by Margaret Bradfield, one of the current owners of the property.
Among the stories Margaret told was of doctors touring Hospitals around Southland and Otago to visit TB patients to diagnose their recovery chances, and decide if they were to be selected to travel to Waipiata for special treatment in the Sanitorium.
Some of that treatment included things like sleeping in below zero temperatures, with all the windows open, and snow settling on the ward floors and beds.
Nurses were employed to refill hot water bottles overnight to prevent them freezing!
Before the Sanatorium was closed in 1961, a total of 61 patients died from the disease.
It was an intense experience for many of us, just trying to imagine how those patients, many of them children, must have felt, isolated from family, not knowing whether they would ever see them again.
It became even more so, just a couple of months later, when we were all subjected to our own forms of isolation and uncertainty. Covid brought back thoughts of our time in the Maniototo and the misery that those patients there must have gone through.
After the Sanatorium closed in 1961, the buildings were transferred to the Justice Department, and reopened as the Waipiata Youth Centre. It served as a rehabilitation centre for minor offenders. (All the big balconies and windows were boarded over, many of the doors were steel-reinforced, and it became a very bleak place for its young inmates.)
For some, this gave them the opportunity to choose a different “career” pathway!! It also provided local farmers with cheap labour. The centre was closed in 1979.
These days the Bradfields are working hard to develop a Christian Retreat Facility known as En Hakkore.
From En Hakkore we were lead across Gorge Road, a public track where we meet another group of calalcaders, then down to Daisy Bank, and onto State Highway 87 and the Tiaere River.
The day’s lunch stop was just across the impressive stone bridge over the Taiere heading onto the Horseburn Road. After crossing another small bridge onto Mundells Road, a mostly grass, 4WD only track, that leads into Maritanga Station, and can be closed at times during the year, for specific farming activities.
A well-known feature of the track used to be an ancient bulldozer, that had been parked for at least ten years at the intersection with the access track through the station up to the Flat Hill Repeater Tower. It was gone, and Joe gave us a bit of a run-down on an exercise he was part of, getting the machine out a few months earlier.
One of their club members saw it on a reccy trip, and took a fancy to it, bought it, and he and Joe got it back to Dunedin.
Despite the fact the station was re-sowing the paddock we needed to cross to the tower, Joe and Marion had negotiated access for our convoy up to the tower, and we left a set of ruts across this beautifully prepared paddock.
Southern hospitality again!
Back down onto Mundells Road again, our final bit of offroading was across the last of Maritanga Station. After a stop at the station gate to deliver a thank-you pack to the farmhouse, and re-inflate a few sets of tyres, our now much-depleted convoy returned to the Ranfurly Motor Camp, an impromptu BBQ, and final farewells before packing up, and heading off to all points the next morning.
For us that was a short run back to Middlemarch for a solo run up a DOC track climbing the side of The Rock and Pillar Range the following day. We just couldn’t get enough of those rock formations!
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF COLIN RICHARDSON
A recipe for 4WD happiness.
By Marion Thomas
Take approx equal parts of Nissans and Toyotas, add a handful of Jeeps,
a sprinkle of Mitsubishi and Range Rover, and a pinch of Landrover.
Mix all together carefully in a large Maniototo basin.
Gradually, over 5 days, add nuts and raisins, fresh fruit,
crunchy muesli bars, and a bread roll.
Give the mix a good shake up every day while adding dust and fresh river water.
A little diesel smoke adds depth of flavour.
Bake slowly under a hot sun.
Refresh the mix each evening with BBQ and beer and laughter.
Rest quietly overnight.
At the end of the 5 days gently break apart and send to many destinations
all over NZ.
Take photos of the mix at all stages to look at and reflect on at your leisure.
Smother with Southern hospitality and serve daily!