It’s one of the countries enduring 4WD Safaris. The Te Awamutu Rotary Clubs 2019 Safari returned to the Waikato West Coast for some familiar Off-Roading, and some all new, never seen before, changes.

Murray Taylor returned to the event and sent us through his experiences, and photos from 2 days in the Waikato.

In late November 2018, confirmation of the event arrived in the form of an email containing all the paperwork to be completed, along with the costs.

Once again, the safari is to be based out of Kawhia. “The availability of fuel, shops, and accommodation makes it an ideal spot”, says long-time organiser David Samuel.

Kawhia proved again it is the ideal base for such isolation

By the time it’s February and the date gets closer, a follow-up email from David, advises that it’s a full muster. He also confirms the safari is for shiny 4WD’s but is “challenging”, so mud tyres are mandatory, any other tyre will not be accepted.

Commenting after the event David said he was surprised how the requirement for mud tyres had bought up the standard of entry vehicle. “there were a lot more very well set up trucks this trip” he said.

The email also gave some information relating to the safari and its history, starting back in 1998 with the planning for the first event. It’s run ever since apart from a couple of years, 2016 and 2017 when it was not held.

Within the handout of material at briefing, there was a complete summary of the Safari’s history along with the usual information pack.

Turning left at the Oparau store, the safari headed north up the Oparau Valley towards Raglan, before leaving the road, aiming towards the infamous nature bush section that has seen its share of drama in previous years.

Native bush early on in day 1
From here we will let Murray Taylor take up a commentary of the days’ adventure.

0815 rolled around as the lead vehicle headed out of the car park to start the day, with approx. 100 vehicles behind. Out of Kawhia, heading for Te Awamutu on the tarseal at not too high a speed, I have a few of the King Country support boys riding with me, they have left their trailered trucks closer to the track.

When we leave the road there is a stop for a group photo, and to allow the rest of the group to catch up. Then it’s across the paddock and around a hillside heading down towards a river flat, a small bit of mud early on and then a patch across the track on the downhill.

Cross axle coming up I thought as the Patrol rolled through, then it’s not long and there’s water in front of the truck. But it’s only a short crossing and we are back on dry land and heading across another paddock to climb a reasonably steep ridge.

We hear on the radio that a vehicle’s crossaxled in the mud crossing and they are digging him out.

Mud hole claims another victim

Stopped up the ridge I was able to look down on the rest of the trucks as they headed into the water and those waiting behind as the blockage was cleared.

It wasn’t long before I had a vehicle behind and proceeded to climb the ridge, slowly catching up with those ahead of me that had stopped when no one was behind them.

Shortly after we are running along an open grass ridge, with bush on the left-hand side, approaching a familiar stand of timber. The leader enters and those following soon vanish into the timber.

The travel is slow, with soft ground under the tyres and trees pushing in on all sides. There’s a detour around a mud hole, which is a harder option for those who have support to pull them out.

Soft ground and tight clearances just added to the days challenges.

Not long after that, it’s all stop! On walking forwards, it’s to find a ‘Jeep’ stuck axle deep in the mud hole. With nothing in sight in front of him, so a quick winch backwards, and he’s on the detour track.

It’s tight with trees on both sides and another above as we return onto the true track.

Stunning native flora

We watch a couple of trucks come through the mud hole, before moving on again. It’s a bit stop-start, with the odd mud patch before we are once again out on the farm. We then wait for more trucks to come through, there’s a bunch so there’s a bit of a delay.

It would seem someone looked to remove their roof-rack while in motion, and then suffered a bit of a problem with traction.  On the whole, they were looking a bit worse for wear when seen exiting the bush.

Then a Land Rover, no names, decided it was going to be a one-wheel drive vehicle unless the rear diff lock was engaged, as the right rear axle had broken.

Not much further along the open farmland the groups had all stopped for morning tea/ lunch, and during that time, with a borrowed magnet the axle shaft was removed, and a replacement fitted to get underway.

Landrover axle repairs completed at lunch break

Not long after, it was out the gate onto Moerangi road past a cross-county motorbike event, heading down through the dust thrown up by those in front.

Once off the gravel road, we pass under a pine tree, for a steep climb up a grass track towards more bush, running along a very nice track. With bush pushing in on both sides we straddle the quad track down the centre.

This is a new addition to the event, not many vehicles have been through in recent years, it’s tight going, but great to drive.

A mudhole caught a truck a few in front of me, but picking the right line was the way to go. Then a bigger mud hole heading uphill almost caught the “whale”, but I did end up pulling the Patrol behind me through.

Then downhill through a narrow tree section, in fact, the track was very narrow in a number of places for my big Patrol, past another mud hole which just needed a good line through it.

Back out into the open on farmland, with views down towards Aotea Harbour and beyond, it was down through the farm heading towards Raglan road, with a small creek crossing in the bottom of a gully.

Spectacular views await

The bridge was not suitable for vehicles!!

As we left the property, truck numbers were checked before a short trip down the road.

Back into the bush for a very pleasant drive down alongside the Waiteika Stream, through a creek and past a self-contained cottage/ bach, before climbing up grassed farm tracks with some off-camber sections and very tight corners.

Onto a ridge top, then heading down again to cross Wairoa Stream before a final off-road part uphill through a farm gate onto Aotea Road to complete the day.

Ready for home

A relaxed drive back to camp, with 50km covered for the day, leaving time for a relaxing drink and break before dinner.

Stay tuned for day 2.

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