Monday 24 February 2014

Hidden Valley 4WD- Nokomai Station

After a heavy but sort lived burst of rain on Friday night, Saturday morning dawned bright & clear much to our, & I bet the organisers, relief. A sign at the main road pointed us in the direction of Nokomai Station & the start of our 4WD Safari.

A cloud of dust announced each vehicle's approach as we lined up in a paddock beside the Nokomai River. And with each new arrival we (and I know others) gave a sigh of relief, most of us were "shinies", & also newbies to doing 4WD safaris. There were a good mix of people, families with children including toddlers, single guys with friends, a good number of couples, retired couples & groups of older men. Fifty six vehicles in total were taking part, a good turn out for the fundraiser.

Our day started well with the first announcement calling David &  I up to receive a prize (a dozen beer & a bottle of wine) for being the ones to travel the furthest to take part in the event; "all the way from Tauranga!". We felt a bit of a fraud being that we left Tauranga  nearly five months ago, but it's still our mailing address and that was what was on the entry form. And we enjoyed the benefit of people making us feel very welcome during the day; we met some lovely people & had a good number of laughs.

We were welcomed onto Nokomai Station by the station manager, Hamish who also gave us a brief history on the station. The station is approximately 38,000 hectares and has been in the hands of two families (Camerons & Hores) during it's 150 year history. The Station run 20,000 ewes & 900 head of cattle & have 7-8 staff including the cookhouse chef. Much of the back country is under snow for 10 months of the year, the sheep were there at the moment but would be shifted to the front country at the end of March (which will have recovered most of its growth over summer). They will also be meeting the rams at this time.

During our trip we would be climbing to over 5000 feet  (we were already at around 900 feet), following the Nokomai River up the "Hidden Valley" then climbing up onto the Hector Mountain Range, down into the Nevis Valley & back up onto the Garvie Mountain range. The Nokomai Valley has a rich gold mining history & we were told to look out for relics from the small town that used to be situated far up the valley. Late in the 19th century there were over 2000 people living in the town complete with a Bank of New Zealand, hotels & other shops. In fact we failed to see anything. Mind you, the landscape took all our attention.

And with that we were away, in no particular order but with instructions to give the vehicle in front plenty of room so it could carry out any necessary "manoeuvres" & keep the vehicle behind in view at all times. This would stop a line of vehicles heading off on the wrong track.

Remember to click on the photos if you'd like to see a bigger version.

There were three Ford Rangers like ours in the group, we happened to be behind one on the first section.

The Hidden Valley, Nokomai Station

"Brown's cows"

Our first rest stop, a chance to see how everyone has been doing & for a few to make a beeline for the nearest bush.

The first major climb & a back up of vehicles as each one waits for the one in front to clear.

Looking back down the Nokomai Valley, it was climbing up this ridge on the left that we had our first issue. We were number five in the line, the rest had gone through, but we couldn't get over a deep stony rut in the steepest part of this section. After 4-5 attempts I got out to direct & encourage David through it, once he floored it & kept it up, it was up, over & away. He then remembered the "lock the diff" button on the dash & from then on the Ranger drove like a dream. Many of the following vehicles also got caught on it & we know of one couple that had to be towed through.

Out with the shovel to patch a repair to the rut, but it still caused problems.

As each vehicle made it to the top, we pulled up to watch the proceedings.

And then it was away again.

The scenery was starting to get "big"

One final steep winding climb & through a station gate and we popped out onto the infamous Nevis Road at the top of the Hector Mountains.

We headed north down into the Nevis Valley & along the relatively easy Nevis Road for 5-6 kilometres. After the track we'd been on, & other than a few fords, the Nevis felt like a main state highway!

A hut beside the Nevis River.

A few kilometres later we turned onto a large flat expanse of tussock & spear grass, this is where the Nevis River meets the Roaring Lion Creek. We stopped at the junction for lunch.

One of the organisers had towed a trailer, containing the two port-a-loos, all the way in over the lower half of the Nevis Road. I chuckled at what I imagined the look on the faces of people he passed on the way in would have been. Maybe they thought he was afraid of getting "caught short" or he was "travelling in style". Anyway it was a great relief (no pun intended) to have them there, there were no bushes for as far as the eye could see!

See that track running off up the ridge in the background, remember it, we'll be coming down it later in the afternoon.

After lunch it was back down the Nevis Road and through the multitude of fords on this section. This time we were in the middle of the pack & following the other Ranger, our new friends Peter & Leanne!

It was here that we came across our first vehicle coming the other way; a car no less. Back at the beginning of the Nevis Road (or end if you are travelling north to south) there is a sign saying no cars, 4WD only. I guess these people thought they'd manage, & I suppose they did, but probably only because there has been no rain for awhile & the day was hot & sunny. The look of surprise on their faces as we passed made us smile. They must have wondered where on earth all these vehicles had come from, it's single lane & they kept pulling off to let us past. And not much further on another vehicle was heading towards us, this time a 4WD ute, they had the sense to pull over & wait for our convoy to pass.

Once through the valley & before the climb back up the Hector Mountain range we turned in through a gate and back into Nokomai Station. It was here that we had our first taste of deep water, or should that be deep muddy water, a narrow bog! We'd been warned that it was coming up and at lunch many vehicles had taped tarpaulins & black polythene across their grills so water wouldn't enter their air intakes. The Ford Ranger didn't need to though, the intake is the highest in the range of popular utility brands, just a little lower than the windscreen.

As we climbed I was able to lean out the window & shoot others as they came through the bog. I see that there were three motorcyclists waiting to pass our group too. The Nevis was obviously very popular on Saturday.

The guy at the end here is either checking his vehicle hasn't overheated; the covers were on for quite a distance before we got to the bog, or he decided to attach his just before going through.

We're now climbing up onto the Garvie Mountain Range, the views were spectacular in all directions. 

Looking back down the ridge

And looking up the ridge as the line of vehicles snakes it way up, over and through ruts, rocks & a few boulders on the track.

Waiting on top for everyone to arrive safely.

I walked(ran) back up to the top to catch the last of the vehicles coming up the ridge, the wind was cold and blustery, there was no mistaking that we were on top of a mountain range. Looking back down to the Nokomai Valley where our safari started. As I passed a vehicle a guy leaned out & asked me if "Tauranga had views like this?" There was no denying, it most certainly doesn't! :)

Once everyone had caught up, we were away again, many taking up new places in the line. This was great for me as a photographer, my photos have different vehicles in them & the further back we moved the longer the line of vehicles got in my photos.

Amazing landscapes in every direction- that isn't a rock in the photo, that is a boulder the size of a small house!

Snow hardy tussock, bright green mosses & plants with tiny little white flowers covered the land.

Vehicles travelling the Nevis Road. 

And finally we arrived at the top of the ridge that was behind us at lunch. This is the Nevis Valley & far below is Roaring Lion Creek & the Nevis River. The public Nevis Road can be seen running through the centre.

Little bursts of dust can been seen on the road below as the lead vehicles finish the descent.

Two final river crossings and we're back to our lunch area.

But with one more surprise in store for us, & be continued-  Part 2 (click the link to find out what)

More photos from this section of the safari here-  Flickr- Nokomai Station & Nevis Valley

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