58 Days on the Road
Sand dunes, forest and beach: we’re going to be hitting it all today in our most favourite vehicle, a 4 wheel drive. Kiwis love these machines that can go just about anywhere! We’ve raced along mountain tops on a farm in the Forgotten World Highway and we’ve dropped down unexpected hills in a Taranaki dairy farm. Now, we’re about to up it to the next level in Wanganui.
Robin’s pharmaceutical morning mission
Our first full day in Wanganui doesn’t start that extreme though. After hearing Laura snorting and sniffling her way through the night, Robin is on a mission to make her better. (Some might say it’s because he’s a nice guy, others would know that it’s because he can’t write this whole website by himself). He’s literally clawing at pharmacy windows before opening in the city centre of Wanganui, yet a lovely pharmacist opens up early to help him out. (We have to say we are really impressed by the customer service we have encountered so far in Wanganui, what with yesterday’s efficient tyre-fitting session).
By the time Laura wakes up from her flu-filled slumber, Robin has done all her work on top of all his own work, and is now pumping her with pills and getting ready to make a vitamin-heavy breakfast. What a machine!
It works out great, because now both Robin and Laura are pumped to get back in a 4×4 vehicle and see what gnarly terrain we are heading onto today.
Meeting Warrick and his beasty 4×4
The base of Fun Offroad Adventure Tours is just a 10-minute drive from the centre of Wanganui and the 42b College House Hostel where we are staying. When pulling into the driveway of Fun Offroad Adventures, we know we are in for some pretty crazy stuff when we see a beast of a 4 wheel drive parked up. Warrick, our driver, welcomes us and introduces us to his Cam-Am Maverick, a 4-seater 4 wheel drive with 115 horse power. With Warrick’s enthusiasm for these vehicles and the trip we are about to go on coupled with the fact that the guy used to race these vehicles, we are stoked for the trip ahead.
Wanganui South Beach
Today, we’re heading to Wanganui’s South Beach. This is more than just a flat beach, but a long stretch of sand backed with bumpy sand dunes and forest. The beach along the Wanganui River mouth also has a fascinating history of the Maori iwi (tribe) called the Ngati Tupoho and the early European settlers, from human head trading to frozen meat trading. Warrick tells us the local legends along the way.
As we are heading down a gravel road to our entry point to the sand dunes, Warrick asks us: Are you Ok with speed?
Ok with speed? We welcome it!
Warrick put the foot down and we are flying! Potholes mean nothing to this vehicle! We are hurtling towards the beach with an awesome view of the Wanganui River on one side. Where there is a corner to cut, Warrick takes it, even if it is a short drop down the side of the gravel road.
Now, we are on the sand dunes. We can tell people, but probably mostly Warrick, have had a lot of fun carving out these tracks along the sandy and grassy hills, no matter how many lumps and bumps there are. We can’t stop laughing as we’re bobbing up and down over these dirt tracks. We are going along the side of dune hills and back down again, speeding up on the flats, slowing down for the technical bits that Warrick just cruises through.
We have to say that although we are doing much rougher terrain than what we experienced in our farm 4×4 sessions, this Can-Am Maverick is so much more comfortable with well-cushioned seats. Admittedly, Laura’s ass was afraid of seeing another 4 wheel drive after last time.
time flies when you’re Flying through the forest
Next, we are navigating through a beautiful pine forest. Streaks of golden sunlight are bursting through the trees. We have been swapping who sits in the front passenger seat throughout the trip, but now Laura is in stitches in the back seat as she watches Robin flinching at every overgrown bush growing across the track and almost whipping him across the face.
Time has no meaning on this tour. We want to tell you how long we are driving in each section of terrain, but honestly, we can’t. You know what they say about time flies.
Driftwood and beach donuts
We emerge on the beach, a whole stretch of untouched sand lies ahead. Driftwood separated us from the sand dunes now. With no technical and rough terrain for Warrick to navigate, we can now catch some serious speed. Sand flicking up behind us, we are off! Now, Laura is in the front passenger seat getting black sand speckling her face. We feel like 90 Mile Beach near Cape Reinga has nothing on this stretch of sand. It’s a lot of fun doing spins (or donuts) and flicking up water in the streams running down to the sea.
Before we get back to the entry of the beach again, Warrick asks us which terrain we would rather go through for the final section: the beach or the dunes. The dunes! There’s an opening in the driftwood, and we are back going down drops and casually flying around everywhere! Laura’s nose has definitely cleared up now.
Wow, that is how you spend an afternoon in Wanganui.
How Warrick is winning at life (and we are just baking cookies)
When we get back to base, we have a beer (and a tea for Laura) with Warrick and his wife. We find out that Warrick is 70 years old! After that adventure he just took us on, we can’t believe it! He’s officially the coolest pensioner we know.
Actually, he’s a lot cooler than us as we spend the night in the 42b College House hostel baking cookies from the cookie mix we bought from the Bread Capital yesterday for our fellow hostel dwellers and playing Tumbling Monkeys before Laura goes to bed early for more sickness recovery.
Meanwhile, inside the Can-am Maverick
Then give these articles a cheeky read:
- Manawatu – Guide for Backpackers
- Whanganui National Park – Guide for Backpackers
- Taranaki – Guide for Backpackers
Remember, like us on Facebook for daily New Zealand travel tips, join our Facebook group to connect with other backpackers in New Zealand, and follow our pins on HerePin to discover our local recommendations!
See you tomorrow, where we are going to explore the city of Wanganui!