DEDICATED TO THE LIFE, WORK AND LEGACY OF DAVID SAMUEL

With a tribute to David Samuel (1951 – 2020) who, since the Safari’s inception back in 2004, led the team, the tradition continues.

The opening briefing included a period of reflection for David.

Ngaroma 2021 starts with thanks to those Rotary members and especially Jill Harrison, along with the support from ‘Land Rover Enthusiasts Club Rotorua Region’ members, and for the support and assistance from the Ngaroma local community and landowners, for access across their land.

Putting the Safari together fell to Jill, the daughter of the President of the Te Awamutu Rotary Club, who is the first to admit she had big shoes to fill. “I stepped into the role with three months to put it all together.” She said, “but David had left impeccable notes from the previous events, so I had a very good base to start from.”

The fact that Jill is a Project Management Consultant probably didn’t hurt either!

The Ngaroma School has recently lost its school bus service, and a key part of the Safari was to support the community’s own bus service.

The weather forecast was fine for the weekend ahead, even if it was raining as I departed from Eketahuna in the early hours of the morning for Ngaroma and the Safari weekend.

With a quick trip up the island, and with time on my side a detour was in order, right to the centre of the North Island, which entails a short walk through the bush, then to Mangakino to refuel and a drive down to the lakefront.

I spied a familiar figure walking alongside the road, so the coffee stop and chat took up another hour so, even though we were to meet again at the campsite.

On arrival at Ngaroma Domain, I found an empty paddock with no one in sight, I was earlier than anticipated, so picked a spot and had the tent up in very little time, during which a caravan had arrived, the start of the trickle of vehicles, campers, caravans, pop-tops and even a horse truck (accommodation upfront), along with quite a few tents.

Registration opened, and vehicle checks commenced mid-afternoon, after which I caught up with existing friends and made new ones in camp. As evening arrived the camp quietened down rapidly and all settled in for the night in anticipation of the day ahead.

The morning started with a welcome to all those attending, 54 trucks in total, with a few words about the history of Ngaroma from a long-time local, Mike Williams.

Then it was Ashley’s turn, with a briefing on the day’s programme. Gates was the theme for the day, Gates marked with words or red tape to indicate if no one was behind you then close it. Lost count of the number of times the word “Gates” came up during his brief, but at the end of the day it worked, the gates were closed.

After a brief break, the leaders headed away with the convoy behind. I was running with a group of friends, and we left once the rush was over, out the gate hard left and then a right onto the gravel.

The first section was a loop track, in a forestry block, up the hill for early morning views, then a small wait as vehicles took their time down a damp slippery track in the bush. It was getting better and better with more vehicles over it, safe with the tram tracks down, and plenty of runout at the bottom.

One small group, reading the arrows wrong, got to do it all over again.

The idea was: follow the arrows and therefore take your own time in driving the route and seeing the scenery along the way.

Exiting the loop, a short drive led onto an old track through farmland, and then into a small patch of bush, before returning us to farmland, with lots of interesting views, old bridges and our first creek crossing which had a hard surface and sharp edge on the out, which caught one or two with their approach to the crossing.

Onwards through more farmland with lots of grass, the odd blackberry and did someone mention gates? We found a few of those to open and close.

The day was warming up, with dust starting to rise from the track, as we hit a gravel road for a short section. We spotted a pair of old cleated tractor wheels, used in the days of breaking the land in, decorating the side of an old building, and interesting growth on top of the odd post gives a good indication of how damp the valley can be at times.

Some interesting climbs and descents followed as we moved through the valley, to a tea stop on a flattish spot we found to park upon.

Departing our tea stop. it was uphill all the way to a high point, with a view of Lake Waipapa, out to our left above the pine trees below. Here we met up with the rest of the trucks, as the leader had stopped for lunch, and everyone stopped behind and around him, and enjoy the great views all around, along with chat time.

Optional meals for the whole safari were catered by the Kainga Aroha Community House and the Rosetown Lions Club.

A great selection of vehicles was around, from a very new Land Rover to a few very old ones. There was a mix of other brands, but Land Rover dominated.

The Land Rover enthusiasts group was approached by Jill to provided 4×4 support for the event and enthusiastically took up the challenge. “Jill did a great job picking up the reigns, especially given the time frame,” says club secretary, Ian Forster. “This was the first one of these most of us had been involved in, though a few older members had been part of the first Te Awamutu’s a few years ago.”

“We got involved partly because we don’t get involved in much community stuff really, and we wanted to do our bit to continue the Safari Culture. None of us want to see them dying out.”

Following leads David had left Jill, the club worked with Mike Williams to gain access, then put the route together, as well as provide 4×4 support on the day.

Forster was impressed with the level of support the event received from the local community, with most of the farmers making extra efforts to leave the route as clear of stock as possible.

From the top, the group passed Moetahanga before sidling around the head of the valley, down onto another gravel road, and onto another property. Crossing the Te Hui Stream tracking across the property, we entered a section of the Pureora Forest Park on what must have been an old logging road.

Very pleasant and relaxing to travel through regenerating bush, it was far too short, but great all the same.

Back on farmland, we continued back towards Wairehi Road, passing a large part of the Safari parked up at Ngaroma Station. A very short distance later it’s back on gravel/grass as we climb again, the tracks dry and dusty through 180’s, with the truck ahead almost directly above at times.

Concentration and low gear is the order of the day.  Once on top, there is time for a few more photos before heading on. Looking down we can see trucks far ahead, as they head into another property with another climb ahead of them.

We pass the remains of an old tractor to start the climb, we find a delay on the track and wait awhile before commencing the climb. At the top of that hill, a 180 turn through a gate leads to a further climb, with great views back down the track. At the top we were looking at the campsite from above, with the steep downhill ahead, to reach camp for the conclusion of the days driving.

Time to relax, unwind, shake the dust off, and a cold drink. By the time the sunset, and darkness had fallen the camp was quiet with most lights out.

Sunday, it’s overcast as the first cup of coffee is made, and the camp moves to the hall for breakfast, and the morning briefing commences. “Gates” are only mentioned 3 times.

A smaller group lines up for the commencement of the day, a few were only booked for one day. We climb up onto a flat area, where it’s group photo time, with all the vehicles in lines. This takes a little while to organize. In the line-up all together are 7 Rubicon jeeps, that’s a photo in itself.

Off again, through some trees to a track over the ridge and down to where the day’s about to really start. It’s a dusty track, which takes us down to the road, onto another property, and up and over another hill. This track’s a little rougher and we make our way down to a ford, which is not that deep, and then a cup of tea ( there have been signs all along on the gates reading “cup of tea stop”).

It’s a great spot fenced all around, Pureora Forest park behind, and a small stream on the other side.

Departing the ‘tea’ stop, we head over a short hill, and into the bush on “mill road”, which was one of the original logging routes. The bush is secondary growth, with lots of punga ferns. As we enter the bush, it’s like driving a tunnel, and the pace slows as all enjoy the surroundings.

The footing underneath is changing, with the odd patch of mud, and slippery uphill sections, to add to the enjoyment, with a dip into a creek where the old log bridge had failed, adding to the driving experience.

Back on farmland, climbing out of a small valley and over another ridge, with views all around. Mt Titiraupenga, down to the south, has been visible throughout the Safari as we have crested ridges and hilltops. Also in view is the small group of trees on a hilltop in the distance, which was indicated as the last high point of the trip. It’s still a long way off.

Our tea stop was on top of a small knoll, watching the trucks passing, slowly going down a steep section ahead.

On the move again it’s down the hill to a sidling, before a steep 3 point uphill turn, to start climbing again. When we reach the top there are trucks stopped all along the ridge. Lunch stop seems to have been called.

The sun’s out, and the view’s great, so lunch it is. Looking down the hill we could see a group parked in and around a gate, and we heard that a jeep had gone into a hole and was off the track.

Once we started moving again, and we headed down the hill, the track got steep and narrow in places, not a place to take a corner wide or not follow the tracks.

Past the Jeep’s parking spot it was uphill again, and then down, through a set of yards and a very short road section before a sharp left onto a centre race road, which brought us to the remains of the Marshall portable engine which had been used at the mill (long gone now).

Leaving the engine remains, we passed the only waterfall I saw all trip.

Past the “Rusty Roost,” it was all downhill, very steep with a nice sharp corner or two approaching the bottom, we continued along the track which had the stream on the left. This was another old bench track with even a Taranaki gate to make the day. And old and regrowth trees along the way. The bush area on our left was in fact Tironui Scenic Reserve.

Out of the bush, it was downhill to a concrete bridge, still on farmland following the stream and the climb to the last high point. I was carefully watching the truck in front going over the blind ridges, to get a line of what the track was doing as the Patrol has a large blind spot straight ahead, when the ground is going downhill, and the truck’s still going up.

Before long we had arrived at the small blockage on top of the hill. Time to rest take in the views, including where we had been during the day. The local owner was on hand to chat, although he did take a lot of interest in one of the Toyotas in our small group.

With the camp in sight and the day well past lunchtime, it was down the hill and the short road trip back to camp, in time to break the camp down and repack the truck for my next trip, before departing. I reached Ruapehu to a red sunset over Mt Egmont to complete the day and weekend.

To all that assisted, thank you for a great and enjoyable weekend, look forward to attending another Safari in the future….

And on that note, Jill has advised that she is keen to run the event again next year, which is very good news indeed.

WORDS AND IMAGES THANKS TO MURRAY TAYLOR!

 

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