The Motu School Safari

Across the bridge and onto the gravel, high ratio 4WD, then a right into and onto our first farm property and track for the day, up and around in the mist and wet underfoot, ending as we turned right onto Motu Road just below Mount Taumataokaretu at 796m.

The day moved along as we soon headed off road again with a stretch alongside the Motu River before heading back up onto high ground, then dropping into Jackson’s Stream for lunch in the sunshine.

After lunch it was uphill again before a stop at Okaihau, to take in the views and look at the abandoned homestead and woolshed before crossing Te Apiti road to continue heading across country to Mangatahu Station and our run down the Mangatahu River, hauling out at Mangamaia Station for the short road trip to our campsite for the first night.

Arriving at Whatatutu we expecting to turn right, but no the arrow pointed left, so left it was. Not long afterwards, we were on the river plain and heading down alongside a line of trees to a paddock set alongside the Waipaoa River.

Camps were then set up and it was time to observe what was happening around the place.

The next morning and first up it was into the Waipaoa River for a run upstream, avoiding the very low bridge along the way, before hauling out just past Waipaoa Station. We then joined up with Te Weraraoa Road for the 700m climb, joining up to Tarndale road.

At 1439m Mt Arowhana dominates the surrounding area. We passed underneath heading down the forestry road, still at height and the dust was slowly starting to filter into the vehicle, the temperature already in the high 20s so a warm day was in front of us.

Exiting the forest it was onto a gravel road with lots of dust, but excellent views as we headed towards lunch after which we continued for some distance along Ihungia Road before turning off and  heading down then alongside and up the Makarika Stream through logged land before a sharp left turn out of the creek bed.

It was then a 300m climb up through bush and then onto farmland as we headed to the high point at 500 metres. Good going, albeit dusty and slow due to the track and the good drop-offs alongside. 

Stopping was not possible till the top as there was no room to park off the track till then. We then headed along the ridge which goes around the head of Orua Stream, before the final downhill of the day brought us out at the camping paddock on Makarika Station, a site with trees on two sides and the farm buildings on the other.

Day 3 came around all too quickly and when our time came we turned left for Mt Aria at 880 metres some 650m higher than the camp site, and with some local telecom repeaters on top.

With that box ticked it was then down the road and into Waingakea Station and the long climb to the top of Aria. Up through the pine forest the pace was nice and slow, as it is reasonable steep in places till one clears the pines back on to farm land, through the late Sir Peter Tapsell’s Taoroa Station.

Not too long later we hit the Mata River, with some groups already stopped for lunch or late morning tea. Heading  on down through the station and over the slip on the road, the instructions said no stopping on the bluffs.

Once through and back on the road, the decision was lunch in Te Araroa on the beach, so a quick refuel at the Farmlands truck site on the way and it was a short road trip to Te Araroa, arrived just before the 4 Square closed, so an ice cream it was and then lunch watching the waves roll in.

Lunch over, there was a quick backtrack over the saddle to the Awatere River and it was not long before I was in the river bed.

Once in it was all go up the river with a few splashes and deep puddles along the way, before a right hand down into the Kopuapounamu River for a short distance before existing onto Kopuapounamu Road.

It was then back into the bush heading for Mt Kokomuka at 762m high along an old track which had native bush on the sides for a considerable distance. It was a really great track but with very little in the way of views until we were back on farmland heading down towards Waikura Station.

Being such a warm day, and not sure how large the stream at the station would be of course, we stopped at the first decent sized stream and found a hole to both cool off in and free ourselves of the day’s dust…

Understandably, then, it was a very slow trip back to camp where we set up for the night, being the last in as Tail End Charlie passed us while we reclined in the stream!

This was our big night and dinner together with the results of the various competitions and raffles announced, sponsors thanked, and general prizes given out. Organisers Paul  and Shelly opened the evening with thanks to all for attending, before handing it over to John Reid, who was instrumental in the first Safari and still has the T-shirt to prove it, 20 years ago, back in 1997.

John gave a brief talk and thanked those present along with a few who had been on that first trip before awarding the prizes and giveaways etc.

All to soon it was time to head for bed as we still had the next day’s run in front of us.

And so to Day four, a day which dawned with low cloud/mist hanging over the campsite as the sun slowly rose above the ridge lines.

The run in the morning was a couple of long loops around the station, through farmland to pine plantation to river to pine again and back into the river around midday. Some had stopped along the way, as we headed back past our camp site, heading over the hill to drop into Makahikatoa stream for lunch.

After lunch it was then a short trip downstream to the Te Araroa Road and after goodbyes, the team separated, all heading for home, having had a great four days catching up with friends made on past Safaris and making new ones on this one.

My thanks also to Paul, Shelly and Motu School for putting another great Safari together, and to the Geyserland 4WD club and their members who provided the support crews to ensure it all went in the correct direction.

To all the land owners, pine plantation owners and any I have missed, an extra special thanks, for allowing us all access to a very special part of New Zealand which we would not otherwise get to both see and enjoy.

To read every story in the April 2017 issue of NZ4WD go to (March 17) or purchase your own hard copy at the Adrenalin store.

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