Held on the 19th & 20th January 2013, the Mapiu School Family Fun Safari was a two-day event run by the King Country 4WD Club (KC4WDC) for the children attending Mapiu School. The money raised will fund their school trip to Opotiki at the end of February. For those who don’t know, Mapiu School is a rural school situated on S.H.4 between Te Kuiti and Taumarunui.
The Safari start time was set for 9.00am. Upon arrival, all participants were met by the KC4WDC members, who Safety scrutineered their vehicles ready for the day’s trek. Each vehicle was given a window sticker and a topographical map with the day’s route highlighted.
About 20 trucks pulled out of the school and headed a few kilometres down the Ramaroa Road to the picturesque Mokauiti Valley where the convoy pulled into a farmer’s paddock.
Here a couple of the KC4WDC members took their bush trucks off their trailers. Steve Kernot, the trip organiser, called the group together for a short safety briefing and introduced Brett Walker, (BJ) our “tour guide”. Brett is a direct descendant of an early pioneering family who broke in the land (from 1914) that he and his partner now farm.
From Brett’s farm, the safari went onto farm tracks and over paddocks, travelling farm to farm and avoiding roads, with Brett lead the way on his Can-am 4×4 farm bike.
The convoy stopped frequently so Brett could share his extensive knowledge about the history of this area – the Mokauiti, Mapiu, and Tapuiwahine valleys, with its rugged terrain, fertile valleys, native bush, pine-covered hills, and meandering streams. He told us about farming techniques, both past and present, and included stories of his families early days spent breaking in the land. He had his notes ready — but not his glasses!
Saturday was a brilliantly fine day and afforded some awesome views of Mt. Ruapehu, Ngaruahoe, and Tongariro, Mt. Egmont’s shape was also visible. Much of the travel was along the ridge tops which meant fantastic views of the surrounding countryside, especially from the Rangipuanoano trig, 564m above sea level.
Morning tea was produced from the club trucks and consumed while we all enjoyed this vista.
We meandered along the ridge tops and down to the valleys below through native bush covered tracks.
Soon the convoy arrived at Val and Alan Parks’ shearing shed in the Tapuiwahine Valley for a BBQ lunch and a hot drink. During the lunch hour, the KC4WD Club guys had set up a mud hole for those interested in playing, and there were a few!
The afternoon was spent going over farm tracks through the Tapuiwahine Valley and then rising to another ridge into the Ruapehu District descending to a garden, known as Wicky’s Garden.
This 100-acre site was developed by Bob Wickham with ponds and trees to impress even the most non-green fingered person. Unfortunately, Bob has sold the property and moved away so the garden is starting to show the lack of love.
We left through the sprawling gardens and again rose up via farm tracks to the ridge overlooking Wicky’s garden in its entirety. The scale of this was truly impressive and what better place to have afternoon tea and enjoy BJ’s commentary and to have our question answered.
We then returned back to the Tapuiwahine and Mokauiti Valleys via different routes following the Mangataua Stream. We had to ford this stream, at one point dropping down to the papa stream bed crossing it, then rising sharply on the opposite muddy bank where some vehicles found traction a problem and had to be towed.
There was a certain amount of bravado and cheering when vehicles made it and many photos were taken if they didn’t.
Following the stream on the opposite side back to BJ’s house paddock, to load up the club trucks and head back to Mapiu School where the school swimming pool was available to those who were brave enough or thermally insulated enough to go for a dip. Others erected tents if they had not already done so and took a few refreshments settling into the social banter on the day’s events.
Dinner at 7 pm was a feast. Lamb on the spit, an assortment of salads and vegetables, it was heartland farming tucker at its best. Our group was then joined by members of the local community to socialise. Following the meal photos on the day’s activities were shown on the big screen, along with some pictures of BJ’s farm in the early days showing the heavy bush before it was cleared.
We socialised, some of us until late, then went to bed ready for the second day of the trek.
Sunday morning was drizzly but after a cooked breakfast or Wheetbix and fruit salad and a safety briefing we left camp and headed up to the farm behind Mapiu School. In the mist, we headed down another valley then across the highway rising to an airstrip in the clouds with BJ’s Can-am 4×4 leading the way.
The convoy made a stop on the top ridge (400m above sea level) overlooking Mokauiti Valley with Aria Valley in the background. BJ assured us the low cloud or fog cover would burn off within half an hour or so. To fill in time he and another KC4WD helper an “old timer” Dave Mills and club member Ross Sisley (who grew up in Aria – the next valley to the west) kept us entertained with interesting facts and funny stories on the early days in the King Country.
Yep, true to BJ’s word the mist cleared and it became another hot, fine summers day. So once again, we had some awesome views from the snow-capped mountains around to Pirongia and everything else in between.
We enjoyed morning tea on the top of a ridge and then carried on over more picturesque terrain, following fence lines that bordered QE2 Trust Reserves where thousands of acres of virgin native bush are protected and fenced by the owners.
Lunch of country styled filled rolls, fruit and cake, was eaten overlooking the view of the Rangitoto Range and out to the left was the Pomerangi Range.
After lunch it was downhill, heading towards the main road with a stop on a ridge overlooking the Omaru Falls. From here the group made our way down and stopped at the DoC lookout opposite the falls where the Mapiu stream cascades over this multi-segmented 35m tall falls.
A short distance further downstream the water disappears underground in a limestone cave or Tomo only to emerge again out of the ground further on.
Another stop was to stand on top of the Omaru Falls and look across to the tall limestone bluffs where we had first seen the falls.
We continued on to inspect an old traction engine, which has been there since 1936 when it was last used in this district for logging and farming.
The “old timer” Dave Mills has had a steam ticket to drive these and other steam engines (ex-railways) and he told us about the workings and the features of this engine.
Back onto SH4 to Mapiu School to pack up and head for home.
King Country 4WD Club organiser Steve Kernot was really pleased with how the weekend panned out, all of the positive feedback stating that it was an awesome weekend, plenty of food, great tracks and countryside.
Most important, the landowners are happy, and as the KC4WD Club wish to make this an annual weekend event that was a big plus.
The Mapiu School Family Fun Safari raised over $2600 for the Mapiu School Trip to Opotiki at the end of February. This money was raised through the generosity of local farmers, businesses, local community, Safari participants, the King Country 4WD Club, families and friends of Mapiu School.
This article first appeared in issue 101 of 4×4 Action Adventure magazine. See more images in the gallery above.