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!!!
The third OR4G Safari was the Maniototo Muster, based in Ranfurly during the last week in February, and attended by just on 60 off-roaders from all around the country, and a pair of friends from Australia.
These trips have gained a massive reputation over the 5 years since the first, and the week of off-roading was booked solid almost before registrations opened.
With the entrants divided into two groups, blue, that’s us, and yellow, we headed out with our leaders and trail crew, Day 3 saw the two groups heading in different directions, as we set out to climb Mount Pisgah in the Kakanui Range and the others headed to Mt Buster, where we had been a couple of days earlier.
The only vehicle access into the Kakanui Conservation Area is via private land, and again the Otago group had organised our access, courtesy of a local land owner, leaving the tarseal close to the start of the ‘Pig Root.’
As with the previous days, we had been promised we would be taken to the highest point around, and in the case of Mt Pisgah, we would be driving to within about 20 metres of its summit, some 1643m above sea level.
Immediately on leaving the main road, we were in 4WD, scrambling up a rocky, and at times, steep track to the DOC reserve boundary.
Once again, the weather really came to the party, a stunning clear Otago morning meant the views stretched forever. As we crossed from the private land into the DOC area, we could see from the Waitaki Valley in the East to the Hawkdun Range in the West.
From the gate into the DOC area, the track immediately got rougher, rockier and steeper as we climbed up to Mt Pisgah itself.
Reaching the highest point of the track near the summit itself required the traverse of an active rock slide and a couple of steep, blind corners that kept drivers focused on the track ahead, and not getting too much of a chance to take in the views.
A well-received coffee break was taken just below the summit of Pisgah, and the majority of our intrepid group made the 50meter scramble through the rocks and scrub to reach the top.
The original Mt Pisgah is mentioned in the bible as the place where God first showed Moses the promised land, and, it is suspected by some scholars that Moses was buried on the slopes of the mountain.
Even if true, what God showed Moses that day can’t have been any more spectacular than what Joe & Marion showed us as we looked down across the Kakanui Range to the Waitaki River, and the Dansey Pass and Road.
“It was pretty breathtaking,” is a major understatement!
From the top we followed the track across the Maerawhenua Spur for most of the day, exiting back onto another private block, and down to Danseys Pass Road.
Again this track picked its way across some very steep rock faces, at times it was so narrow and tight, with huge drop-offs, that a couple of passengers got out and walked.
It was a superb piece of NZ Off-roading, that is unlikely to be opened up very often because of the dangers it presents.
Much of the way down we were looking down into the Livingstone Valley and across to the Waitaki River, and the ranges in the (very) far distance.
After a lunch break, we made the final descent onto Danseys Pass Road, and headed towards Kyeburn Diggings township and the historic Danseys Pass pub and surrounds.
Here we made our first contact with the hundred-odd horses and riders, exploring much of the same countryside as us, on the “Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.”
It was a pleasure to see another group of Kiwis out exploring the inspiring landscape that is the Maniototo. They seemed to be having as much fun as us, but, as Joe stated, “I prefer more than one horsepower on these tracks!”
Not far from the pub, near where we passed the ruins of the Kyeburn Diggings and crossed the Kyeburn River, a local out for a swim in the river with his dogs a couple of years ago, came across the only Moa footprints discovered to date in the South Island.
From a previously unknown species of the extinct bird, the fossilised prints date back millions of years. They appeared to have been uncovered by the previous winter’s floods, and probably would have been obliterated this winter if not for the chance of a quick swim on a hot day.
Leaving the Pub and Cavalcaders behind we had a few dusty kms back, through Naseby, to Ranfurly and the catered dinner supplied by St Johns school.
Naturally, once the day’s adventures had been well and truly thrashed out, over a beer/wine/rum or two, and Mt Buster experiences shared with the group that had gone that way, discussions inevitably turned to the following day.
It was going to have to be pretty special to match up to what we had been presented with so far.
All our trip leaders would say was, expect something very different! Right then, thanks!!
That’s coming soon!
IMAGES THANKS TO JOHNNY MAC & DENA
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF COLIN RICHARDSON
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