The dawn promised a far kinder sort of day but despite this encouragement the Austin Champ’s Rolls Royce engine point blank refused to get out of bed and demanded to be tow started. We know how that feels – pass the coffee please!
We formed up in some semblance of order outside the front gate with breakers crashing on the beach behind us. The convoy created our own bit of gridlock as other unlucky campers tried to break through our lines and escape into the wild.
No-one with any information felt compelled to give a briefing about how the day would unfold so we lurched off on an unknown mission to the dulcet tones of Kenny the Trail Officer.
The convoy rocketed down the highway for possibly 10 seconds before a comfort stop in Hokitika. This got extended to something like an hour while we indulged in coffees, sightseeing and visiting the local museum in the Carnegie Building.
Grinding gears took us out of town to the freedom of the highway with sun on our face and wind in our hair. Roadworks demanded that we drive across a railway bridge. You gotta do what you gotta do.
10 seconds later we were at the Mainland cheese advert pub at Mahiniapua. Despite being morning tea time, we piled into the bar for well-earned beers. The pub has successfully morphed into a backpacker establishment and the Kiwi Experience bus vacuumed up all the nubile young things to transport them to their next destination. Posters around the pub advertised “work” for young tourists which would become a theme as we travelled. There must be a lot of businesses running on cheap labour.
The convoy started engines and shot straight across the State Highway into a reserve bordering Lake Mahiniapua. This section was possibly two seconds long. We stopped at this beautiful lake for a group photo while photographing cheeky wekas in the carpark.
We joined State Highway 6 again for a further 12 seconds and found ourselves in Ross. Being lunchtime by now, the convoy crowd hit the pie shop which took the workers off guard. We negotiated among ourselves over the remaining pies and everyone got lunch.
The convoy pulled out of town and did a flash past the local school so that the kids could see the convoy. That bit was a trifle underwhelming, but we rolled on to a secret surprise location on the outskirts of Ross, where a couple of tanks lay in wait. The first tank arrived as a surprise 50th birthday present for Edwin Birchfield from his wife. Wives like that are quite rare. Edwin fired up the tank and the boys were mesmerised with the sound as the exhaust fumes from the huge exhausts filled the shed.
The convoy blew through to Franz Joseph where it felt it would be rude not to stop at such an attraction. After winding down the narrow track lined with tourists’ cars and numerous over-done riverstone speed bumps, many convoyers set off for the intrepid 1.5 hour return walk to the glacier with an hour to do it in. However, some of the vehicles could smell home and peeled off in favour of chillaxing at camp, a mere 27 kms and some humungous hills and steep winding roads away. Won’t be doubling back anytime soon unless it’s a national emergency.
We wearily trundled into Fox and our magic Top 10 camp. A Spa Pool with a view! Most enjoyed a lovely dinner in town before another convoy movie and bedtime.