Wild New Zealand 4WD Style

It’s good to be home. Kete has been released from the cattery, so pleased to be back she followed me all over the 110-acre hill paddock to find the horses, give them a hug and some carrots, and find them no worse off for two weeks’ neglect. Taja was collected from her friend Rachel in Greytown, where she loves to stay when we’re away, and where she got into the habit of having toast and honey for breakfast (continued by me now she’s home). We arrived to a stunningly well-kept vineyard, looking forward to a massive harvest. We’re catching up on chores, but looking back at memories of a great holiday. Perusing our photographs, you realise just how much the New Zealand landscape takes your breath away. Honestly, we travel overseas and marvel at the big skies of the US, the jewel-like coves of Positano, the magic of Venice, the green fields of England, and the Scottish Highlands, but as the old Tourism New Zealand slogan used to say so effectively, “Don’t Leave Town Til You’ve Seen The Country”.

Here, then, are some of the highlights of the trip.

When we crossed over to Picton on the ferry, we drove up the Wairau Valley from Blenheim, where every available piece of land is being converted to vineyards. As far as the eye can see, is monoculture. Heaven knows where all this grape juice will end up. I guess by the time the new developments come on stream, the economic squeeze will be over, and people will be buying wine in copious quantities. We can only hope.

We turned off the main road into the Rainbow Valley, past the Rainbow Skifield and up into Rainbow Station. 4x4-014

This is actually very good roading, compared with what we would encounter later on in the trip. The scenery was beautiful.4x4-016

Because I was the passenger and didn’t have to concentrate on driving, I could afford the luxury of examining the wildflowers growing along the way. Pink briars, white daisies, blue wild borage, mullein, foxgloves, delicate yellow snapdragons, marsh plants, spongy snow plants, tussock – somebody, somewhere, must have done a study of this. 4x4-0214x4-020

The Department of Conservation, on behalf of all New Zealanders, owns and looks after this land and in general, they do a pretty good job. The resources required for the future, however, are massive, and I fear for the future if DoC (as it is known) continues with its purist policy of banning grazing. These have been high-and-middle country stations for over 100 years, and if the livestock is abruptly removed, the noxious weeds will take over. But at least DoC keeps the signage to a minimum, and what you do see, is tasteful and brief: 4x4-023

For the first week, we were accompanied by a delightfully eccentric London architect named Keith. Keith travelled with Bill Hohepa and his lovely wife Linda, in their truck. Bill (a famous New Zealand fisherman and fishing guide) and Linda have been organising these treks for several years. Linda videos the trek, together they make a documentary, and sell it to television channels. Or you can buy the dvds direct (fishinghohepa.co.nz). Keith stood two metres tall in his stockinged feet, so when he tried to take a low-angle photo, this is what he looked like: 4x4-025

But then the joke was on me, and I realised why, at school, my appearance was likened to that of a horse, because when I got back into our truck after taking this photo, I accidently clicked the camera and took a photo of myself laughing: 4x4-026

But most of the time is spent in silence, just gazing. Every which way one turns, there is something beautiful to look at. 4x4-027

We ended the first day up at Lake Tennyson, and set up camp. It was freezing cold but – again – beautiful. How lucky are we, that we can drive to such a remote location, turn off the engine, and pitch a tent for the night.4x4-035

And you know what? Out here in this hinterland, with no electricity, radio, television, or stress, there’s even a loo. 4x4-029

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