Whenever I make plans to head to Waiouru and Mt Ruapehu the weather always closes in and ensures I don’t get to see the best the area has to offer. This year’s Winter Woollies 4WD run was no exception. After a week or so of good early spring weather the forecast was for heavy rain.
Organised by Kandy Mott and the team from the Desert Defenders Off-Road Club the trip takes in part of Karioi Forest and the western side of Waiouru Army Training Facility (WATF) on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. Funds raised go towards Variety, The Children’s Charity and this year Achilles Radials were a major supporter of the event and as well as the usual sponsors ‘goodie’ bags products, Achilles put up a set of their new Desert Hawk X-MT tyres to further increase the fundraising.
The day starts off at the Karioi Domain with registration and inside the hall (the former school building) a breakfast feast was on offer. After a satisfying breakfast and registration, where we also collected our lunch for the day, we lined up in groups for a vehicle check of safety and recovery items.
Once the paperwork was complete, organiser Kandy welcomed the participants and outlined the day’s proceedings for us. Then Major Pat Hibbs, Camp Commandant WATF and Adam ‘Hoff’ Hoffman, Range Management Officer, gave a briefing on the safety requirements of entering the WATF and the unexploded ‘blinds’ we may come across after nearly 100 years of use as a live firing training ground for both the Army and the Air Force. Major Hibbs had a display board of some of the types of ‘blinds’ that was of particular interest to the younger participants.
Once the formalities were completed we headed off in groups and a short distance down the road came across army soldiers on patrol ready for any encounter although I’m not sure what they made of nearly 100 vehicles driving through their ranks.
We went into Karioi Forest and made our way via forestry tracks through to the training grounds and regrouped at the Aqueduct on the Whangaehu River. It was then following the river upstream deeper into the ‘desert’ through some rather muddy and rutted tracks. A few of the vehicles needed a tow through some of these ruts as they were deep having been made by Army LAV’s.
The weather had certainly closed in and even with lights on at times it was hard to see the vehicle in front, visibility was reduced that much.
By Ashley Lucas
For the full story see the November issue of NZ4WD