Jeepers creepers

New Zealand celebrated its 10th anniversary Jeep Jamboree when more than 300 people and 125 Jeep vehicles from all generations gathered in picturesque Queenstown, the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere.

The Jeep Jamboree has become an annual Kiwi 4WD institution since the first event was staged in a woodland valley south of Auckland in 1997, just one year after Jeep was introduced to New Zealand.

It attracted fewer than 50 vehicles and 100 hardy souls who braved heavy rain under canvas in a make-shift camp with few mod-cons.

In 10 years it has grown three-fold and numbers now have to be capped to minimise any effects on the environment and enable the 4WD trips to be conducted safely. And the jamboree has become a little more sophisticated in accommodation and facilities.

But there is one thing the Jeep Jamboree has never strayed from - its aim to provide owners of authentic American Jeep models the opportunity to experience their vehicles in off-road locations not normally open to the general public, and to enjoy the company of other Jeep owners and their families.

At Queenstown two high country properties provided very different driving experiences  one taking Jeep owners into Lord of the Rings country at the end of Lake Wakatipu, where some of the scenes from the trilogy were filmed, and the other traversing the steep, rocky terrain overlooking the Kawerau gorge, where 19th Century miners prospected for gold in the rushing waters.

And no matter what challenges each location delivered, all Jeep vehicles were able to conquer the trails, whether they were 65-year-old veterans of World War 2 or the latest $80,000-plus luxury 7-seat Jeep Commander.

The New Zealand Jeep Jamboree is based on similar events that were started by returning US World War 2 soldiers who bought surplus army Jeeps to use for recreational rather than military purposes.

They were supposed to last only 90 days, but the oldest of the wartime models attending the Jamboree was built in 1942 and was still rated reliable enough to be driven to Queenstown from the owners home in Wellington, a two-day journey, and back again.

Theres a lot of history to the Jeep Jamboree and we have been writing our own chapter in New Zealand for the past ten years, creating an event that is unique to Jeep, says Brett Aspden, general manager of the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler New Zealand.

Its more than just a 4WD event  Jeep owners look forward to meeting up with friends they have made at previous jamborees, enjoying each others company in the social gatherings as much as having fun out on the trails.

The Jeep Jamboree always finishes with an evening dinner for all participants and this year Jeep owners took over the Skyline restaurant high above Queenstown, reached by gondola and with commanding views over the glacier-fed lake and mountain scenery.

Photograph taken on a property which runs along the Gibbston Valley and Crown Range Road

On the way out, near Roaring Meg falls

They celebrated with a 10th anniversary birthday cake created especially for the jamboree and also a sneak preview of the new Jeep Compass, two weeks prior to its local launch.

The jamboree was also structured to enable participants to enjoy many of the activities based in and around Queenstown, including the original AJ Hackett Bungy Jump and jet boating the Shotover River.

The location and format for the next New Zealand Jeep Jamboree is now being evaluated to ensure it remains well supported and enjoyed for the next 10 years..:


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