68 Days on the Road
We might be off the beaten track somewhere in the remote Ruahine Ranges, but little do we know that a track is going to start beating us on a 4WD off roading adventure today!
The road to a rough adventure
After some hail and rain storms throughout the night, we are surprised to walk outside the Makoura Lodge to sun! What?! What is this? Who are you, sun? It’s been so long! When our host, Kimberley, organises a 4WD safari for us to make the most of the clear views (and mud), we are stoked! We can’t get enough of these Gators/land buggies/Can-ams or whatever you want to call them. But wait, we are actually going in a Toyota 4WD truck type thing. Whaaaat? We just thought this was a vehicle to get from A to B on the infamous gravel roads of New Zealand! Our perceptions are about to be changed forever…
Hugh, Kimberley’s father who has owned Makoura for many years, pulls up in the Toyota Hilux and takes us for a spin (to say the least). First, we navigate to a purpose-built 4WD training centre hidden behind some hills. On the way up the hills we are getting some amazing views of Makoura and the Ruahine Ranges. Layers and layers of fields, hills and mountains lie before us.
A pit stop just before we take on the 4WD tracks is a thin waterfall cascading over a cliff edge. This is the sort of thing people from all over the world pull up for on a road trip around New Zealand, and Hue just has an epic waterfall like this in his back yard!
A bumpy ride!
Now, Hue opens the gate to the 4WD playground. We have multiple tracks to get down the hillside in front of us, each track looking more treacherous than the last. A signpost at the beginning of every track gives it a name, such as The Axle Twister, The Waterslide, and countless others we are too scared to remember. The set up is very similar to downhill mountain biking or skiing, where there are named tracks of varying difficulty. Can this vehicle, a vehicle we are sure we’ve seen Kiwi mum’s take their kids to school in, really handle all this gnarly terrain?!
Yep, we’re driving on, like, a 50 degree angle along the sides of the tracks here, no problem. It feels just like a warm up before we are swinging from side-to-side on a track meant to throw the steering wheel way off course, testing the driver’s skills. (Good job Hue actually has some skills). The next thing we know, we are flying down a “steep as” hill, then immediately up a steep as hill, with the wheels digging deep into the muddy tracks.
4WD turns Spider-Man
There’s a rocky near vertical track that has been teasing us for the entire thrill ride, no, mocking us it is!
“We’re going up that, aren’t we?” Robin asks Hue, half eager, half concerned.
Of course we are. Hue backs up to get a run up and is not even sure we’ll make it up there in these slippery conditions, but, hell, he’ll try anyway. Apparently, that’s normal!
Somehow, we make it. These vehicles are like freakin’ Spider-Man, climbing walls! Just as we congratulate Hue on getting us up alive, he reverses down the thing!
The final test of the day is tackling The Waterslide. It is as it sounds: a stream of running water over flat rocks (and not so flat rocks in between). Wow, it’s a struggle, but this vehicle is actually making it up a water slide.
Life by the fireside
If we have learnt anything today, it’s that Kiwis know how to have some epic fun time, but they also know how to relax. The rest of the afternoon is spent centralised at the Makoura Lodge’s fireplace. We work on our computers doing our travel writery thing, by the fire. Our hosts, Kimberley and Chris, go out to work on the farm, then return to the fire. Hugh only leaves the fire to pour us all some cider multiple times (oh, the benefits of having a bar).
Meet Chef Robin
There is also the benefit of having a big commercial kitchen at Makoura Lodge: to make some darn good food. When Kimberley reveals that they have some venison burgers that need to be eaten.
“Do you have camembert?!” Robin exclaims in a demanding Frenchy way. The answer is a yes, so: “I am making you all food!”
Chef Robin and kitchenhand Laura get back to our backpacker job routes by cooking up a storm with the big commercial ovens and deep fat fryer. (Robin used to make burgers on his working holiday in the US, while Laura used to make airline food in Queenstown). Together we are making a French twist on local burgers:
Venison burgers topped up with star anise infused camembert
Garden salad with roasted nuts
Yum! Food by the fire, playing card games: this is a great way to end another great day in New Zealand.
Drag this image around to feel as dizzy as we felt! Theta 360 Loading...
Hell yeah! Have a read of these articles:
- 12 Free and Cheap Things to do in Manawatu
- Tararua – Guide for Backpackers
- Manawatu – Guide for Backpackers
Until next time, keep up with our New Zealand travel tips on Facebook.
See you tomorrow!