News & Event Updates:
"The quality of planning, preparation, selection of route and accommodation, and the high degree of support/back-up when needed or appropriate engenders confidence in the support team and therefore enables you to relax and enjoy the trip. The support has been friendly, positive, professional and involved."
Andrew & Shelagh Marshall
"Having travelled round the world on many of these types of events, with various standards of management;
We are pleased to say this event was professional, organised, well sourced and combined with this, so friendly and personal... Well done Jingers Jaunts."
Nick Thake & Debbie Overton
"Amazing and a truly organised trip.
We feel privileged to have experienced New Zealand at it's best - one rainy day only! Just about perfect."
Rolf, Ines, Taina Pritz & Nicholas Hounsell-Smith
"We are thinking about emigrating to New Zealand with our 2CV!
Thank you for all you did."
Annemieke & Pieter van der Horst
"It was a superb event we will never forget."
Do Meeus & Els Meeus-Meulemans
"Excellent event, well planned, well organised, high quality in all aspects.
Scenery spectacular and full of variety."
Sir Terence & Lady English
Event Update to Day 05 - Wellington:
Even before the event started we have found plenty of mechanical conundrums to slow the path to a relaxed “Jaunt.” Firstly, the bio-security officers at the port managed to find “dirt” on two of the spotlessly clean imported vehicles. As one customer pointed out, “What happens to the dirt they wash off? Do they export it before it falls upon hallowed ground?”
The 2cv of Pieter and Annemieke van de Horst failed the roadworthiness test on worn king-pins which entailed the quick dispatch of parts from Holland; this model of Citroen being most unusual at these latitudes. Added to this Jim Carr’s beautiful G4 Range-Rover decided to produce a software gremlin amongst the labyrinth of chips and diodes that control and manage the engine of his outrageously bright orange chariot. The Carrs’ are “making do” with a little Nissan xtrail until parts arrive from Europe in a few days.
"Kapa Haka" welcome at Sign of the Takahe The Haka
Our welcome gathering took us to the “Sign of the Takahe” on Dyers Pass nestled among the Port Hills. We arrived on a cool sunlit evening to a booming “Kapa Haka” (welcome) followed by a delicious choice of western dishes. There was some guest involvement with the Maori party and it’s dancing before we listened to some excellent piano played by a talented Korean boy, while eating and chatting of the adventures to come.
The boys learning the Haka! The bays of Banks Peninsula
To begin, Day 1 saw us all leave the George hotel in Christchurch to meander through the port hills and around the crater rim of the extinct Banks Peninsula volcano dropping down into Akaroa. Bathed in beautiful sunshine we boarded a launch for aperitifs and an excursion out to the harbour entrance to view dolphins and numerous seabirds at close quarters. The return journey to Christchurch took us out towards the southern bays of the peninsula with a steep climb up on to the Bossu road; the little Citroen needing a rope to encourage it over the final crest. Back in Christchurch, everyone talked of their first taste of rural New Zealand; the overall verdict being extremely positive. This made me somewhat happy because the Banks Peninsula is my home, backyard and playground.
Evening drinks in Hanmer Springs There seems to be a problem
Day 2 was an easy start after breakfast, running up the east coast on Highway 1. We all converged on the car park of “Whale-watch Kaikoura” for a two and a half hour trip to visit the “Kaikoura canyon” situated just 3 or 4 nautical miles off-shore; this immense ocean valley plunges to 10 kilometres in depth from the continental shelf. Cool deep currents mixing with warmer water from the north foster an entire marine eco-system to flourish, from plankton at the bottom, through the food chain to the huge and majestic Sperm whale at the top. We gasped at these mighty creatures as well as the visiting Orca (Killer whale); a low flying Albatross also graced the calm waters of the coast as we passed. The drive inland from here was through a rolling pastoral landscape to our overnight halt a few kilometres short of Hanmer Springs. Almost everyone relaxed in the private spa on the balcony of their room before drinks and dinner on a sun-drenched veranda overlooking the peace and silence of the surrounding bush.
Jollies Pass Road A tree down on Molesworth Station Road
The following morning after breakfast it was time to decide on which road to take north? The 2WD’s all went through the Molesworth Station while most of the 4x4s’ opted for the Rainbow. The Rainbow road is in excellent condition and would not stop a saloon car, however, one or two of the river crossings and fords are a little rough. The panorama of this rugged, barren land has a quality of its own; the remote, endless gravel roads, the lack of people, the vast landscapes under azure skies all combine to give a feeling of freedom from the mundane existence we have all left behind. The last crews through the Molesworth Station came across a fallen tree completely blocking their path. A little “grape juice” was consumed while they discussed clearing the road. Having broken a towrope in vain efforts to shift the obstacle they procured a chainsaw from a nearby dwelling and were soon able to continue. The 2cv experiencing battery problems over the Molesworth meant a change of alternator in Blenheim our overnight halt and the provincial hub of this wine-growing region.
Crossing a creek The "Thake Boys" on the Port Underwood Road
Day 4 broke clear and bright, therefore most crews opted for the idyllic but twisty Port Underwood road to Picton; our ferry to the North Island left, on time, at 1pm. The crossing was smooth and calm, with most people enjoying to closeness of the islands and of the Sounds alongside the boat. The comfortable Bolton hotel is just an easy 3km drive from the port terminal. The annual Sevens’ Rugby Tournament meant there was a palpable party air in town with brightly clad groups of relaxed people, young and old, indulging in the merrymaking; the rivalry is very well-natured as well as the banter.
Waiting for the ferry Crossing the Cook Strait
Today, Day 5, is our first rest day and a national holiday (Waitangi Day) with many sights to explore by foot or taxi. Most people have spent the day wandering through the extensive botanical gardens just a short walk up the hill from the hotel, otherwise experiencing the Waitangi celebrations in the park of the same name. Waitangi Day is our national holiday that celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of the New Zealand constitution. Unfortunately, Jim Carr and Helen Peacock have had their second taste of misfortune; their hire vehicle was broken into last night and the opportunist thief stole a bag containing Jim’s camera, various trip-meters, and prescription drugs; police are now on the look-out for a spaced-out, camera toting, individual asking for Carralba instructions.
Event Update to Day 09 - Paihia:
Day 6 dawned dry with some high cloud. Most crews decided to make their way north stopping at Paraparaumu and the Len Southwood motor museum. This huge and interesting collection of cars and automobilia is the pride of the nation, charting the history of motive power since its inception. It contains the oldest car in NZ as well as the boat that Len Southwood himself, built and used to break the New Zealand water speed record in 1954. The museum must hold close to 500 cars plus more than a hundred motorcycles as well as a colossal and fascinating collection of motoring memorabilia.
Most people then headed to Foxton beach for the 20+ kilometre drive northwards up the beach to rejoin the road at the Rangitikei river mouth; the huge and bloated carcass of a cattle beast washed up on the sand made for a sad sight however. The account we all heard from the Thake boys of their adventures on the beach made for plenty of laughs and ribaldry. The township of Bulls has undoubtedly combined its name with some clever marketing…………Believ-a-bull, the Church……..Soci-a-bull, the social club………….Cure-a-bull, the medical centre………Const-a-bull, the police station………….and No Bull, the court house!
Staff enjoying Logan Brown's Restaurant Unbelieve-a-bull!!
From Wanganui our route veered north along the Whanganui river road with its lovely and peaceful Maori pa (villages). Shingle for some stretches but in very good condition, the scenery, the landscape and the pace of life all very soporific. The wonderland which makes up “Smash Palace” at Horopito was a magnet to most of the boys; an extended acreage of scrap cars dating from 1910 - 1970. Jim Carr even finding some rare parts for his Cortina Mk1. Chateau Tongariro was our overnight halt nestled in the foothills and overshadowed by the mighty Mount Ruapehu; supper was enjoyed in the comfortable hotel restaurant.
Wanganui River Road The Marshalls enjoying New Zealand
The following day began with a simple run on secondary roads for two hours to arrive at the Waitomo Caves complex. These limestone caves are said to be over 36 million years old and have been enthralling visitors for more than 100 years. Water leaching through the soft rock over many centuries has sculpted vast caverns along with impressive stalagmites and stalactites throughout the cave system. The tour into the caves has, I am sad to say, become an extremely commercial venture. Too much of your “tour” time is taken up with talks on the formation and history of the cave system and too little with the cave experience itself. The history is interesting but the proportion of ‘talking’ to ‘cave’ time could be reversed; though customers were all happy with the excursion.
The route then continued north on empty secondary roads to the township of Raglan. The area is filled with lovely twisty tarmac roads joined by even more twisty gravel roads. Raglan made a nice lunch stop for anyone who wanted to break the journey. North from here the route again concentrated on small rural roads that gave us a meandering though easy path into Auckland. The hotel was very easy to find with directions given by the calm voice of “Lady Jane” from inside the GPS unit. Our evening meal served in modern surrounding with a modern presentation was tasty and filling, furthermore I am happy to report; the feedback I have received in relation to meals and accommodation has all been very positive. At this stage Jim Carr and myself had been working on ways to get correct, up to date, software loaded into his G4 Range-Rover which the service department at the dealership are still unable to fix. It appears we may have to “cut our loses” and re-load out of date information just so that he can at least use his wonderfully capable vehicle rather than the infinitely dull, if reliable, Japanese shoe-box he is currently steering.
Coming through to Raetihi GPS gremlins
Day 8, the ninth of February, continued north from “The City of Sails” on State Highway 1 until we were clear of the metropolis. Taking to the scenic secondary roads again we travelled to the coast where native bush runs down to meet the waters of the Pacific Ocean. We crossed the heavy bush-covered Ngaiotonga saddle to Waikare Inlet and the protected waters of the Bay of Islands. There is a small car ferry to cross the inlet holding a dozen vehicles and foot passengers which then leads to the township of Paihia. After a refreshing shower we all met for aperitifs followed by dinner, alfresco, overlooking the beach and the bay; the temperature sitting at around 26 deg. Celsius as the sun went down. Of course, Nick Thake regaled us with stories completely unprintable in these pages!
Nick and Nick pass under a fallen tree Opua vehicle ferry
A beautiful sunrise welcomed us for our rest day and another of the “Jaunt” excursions. After eggs benedict or any other superbly cooked breakfast of your choice we strolled 800m to the wharf boarding a boat taking us on a cruise of the coves, inlets and bays that make up the Bay of Islands. The marine life out there is fascinating, we first came across a pod of bottlenosed dolphin that played and jumped in the waters around our boat. They also put themselves in our ‘bow wave’ using it to surf close under the hull as we increased speed. Indeed, these dolphin have been recorded at speeds of up to 55km/h. Returning to Paihia at around noon left the afternoon for everyone to spend as they wished. Some went for sauna and massage treatments, some for scenic flights, and others for kayaking or water skiing.
The latest update on Jim Carr’s Range-Rover is that software has been reloaded, the alternator and mass airflow meter replaced and a very capable young man has left Christchurch to drive non-stop to the Bay of Islands. We are expecting him here tonight at between 8 and 9pm.
Update to Day 13 – Rotorua:
I am extremely happy to report that Selwyn (the afore mentioned capable young man) arrived in Paihia at 11pm on the 10th of February driving Jim Carr’s now rejuvenated machine of Solihull origin. Jim showed obvious gratitude in having his own vehicle back in working condition. And Selwyn? He took a good and well-earned night’s rest before returning to the South Island and his 9-5 job. The service and knowledge that Jim Carr had received from the Land-Rover agent in Christchurch was well below par; They were obviously guessing, and at considerable cost to the customer. However, in contrast, when approached in Auckland, the agent was clear in what could be done for the customer and the services available; No guessing!
Who's this Gigolo? A beach to oneself!
Most crews made a swift getaway on the morning of Thursday the 11th of February travelling up the coastal highway north through the few small townships scattered along this road amongst soft, rounded hills, which sustain sheep farming. From Awanui began the last 100km hike north towards Cape Reinga; New Zealand’s northern most point and a brief glimpse of the colossal oceans to the North, East & West before starting on the long but fun drive down 90 mile beach. Many crews had immense fun on the endless sand stretched-out before them; It certainly gives one a wonderful feeling of freedom and independence. Vero (photographer) has captured some unique scenes while mixing with the customers and everyone I spoke to enjoyed the experience immensely. Jim Carr played to the camera using his Range-Rover to maximum effect on the dunes and through some of the creeks that cross the beach to the ocean. Terry (doctor) and Myself had been heading south on the beach for an hour when we came across Do & Els Meeus sitting on the sand watching the surf rolling in. We stopped, joining them for a glass of wine, looking across the immeasurable seas, while talking of the universe, the world, life, and our position and interaction with all life; A wonderful moment in what is becoming a memorable trip. The little red Citroen used the beach in an attempt to create a new land speed record reaching a dizzy velocity in excess of 110kph!!
Relaxing among friends Close-up Dolphin
The road south to Rawene is twisty and scenic with heavy native bush crowding in on the road at every opportunity. We then had just a short ferry crossing of Hokianga Harbour to our overnight rest-halt; the Opononi Hotel. This quaint, and still peaceful township became world famous in the summer of 1955-56. Three dolphin came thrusting through the surf of the Hokianga river bar to enjoy the quieter waters of Omepere Bay and the natural harbour of Hokianga itself. After a week two of those dolphin suddenly disappeared; the one remaining was destined to become a legend world-wide. “Opo,” as he became known, played with children and adults, delighting visitors and locals for the entire summer with his unconditional trust and love. The transient population grew to in excess to 3,000 during that summer though it was to have a sad ending when he was found dead wedged in a cleft of rocks, by a local fisherman. Shelagh Marshall and Ines Pritz who wanted to learn more of the amazing story of “Opo” the Opononi dolphin bought a copy of the book (from the fish & chip shop) that tells the tale of the amity between mankind and this wild sea dolphin.
Drinks on the deck outside the hotel as the sun went down, many crews chatting, laughing and enjoying the balmy weather was another great end to a fun day.
Jim Carr at Play The endless beach
Day 11 dawned bright and clear for the jaunt south, passing through the remnants of the vast Kauri forests that once stood here. Reading and learning of the timber that was harvested to build ships, factories and houses gave another insight into this uniquely varied landscape. Added to this some 45-50,000 years prior, a cataclysmic natural disaster destroyed the forests, which then stood here, and those remains have been preserved under a natural blanket of soil, mosses, and lichen. Local craftsmen have exhumed logs to create some amazingly beautiful furniture from some of the oldest timber on earth.
The 2CV surfing the waves Kauri trees in Waipoua Forest
On arriving in Auckland at the end of the day, Rolf & Ines Pritz were looking forward to collecting their daughter, Taina and boyfriend Nick from the airport who are joining us for the remaining 19 days of the “Jaunt.” Tonight we had an evening meal with a difference; a revolving restaurant 620 feet (192m) above the city. It makes one revolution per hour, which gave us one 360-degree view of the city before dark, and another with the lights of the metropolis spread in every direction after dark.
Views from the revolving restaurant A meal with friends
Leaving Auckland we used the motorway to get clear of the city then turned east to amble across the Hauraki Gulf. Stopping beside the ocean we met Andy & Shelagh Marshall while sitting on plastic chairs drinking good coffee from a little caravan offering delightful local seafood; I couldn’t avoid the mussel fritters! Further on, the Karangahake Gorge has a long history of gold mining, and most people stopped to learn more from the interesting information and relics of those days. The road from Tauranga to Rotorua has been closed for many months but to our good fortune it is now clear again, therefore the simple run into the “sulphur” capital was easy and pleasant.
Day 13 is a rest day to allow everyone to explore the parts they wish of this intensely active geo-thermal area; Indeed, there are too many options with just one day to discover the entire region. Wai-o-tapu is probably one of the best areas to visit and almost everyone drove out to this centre. Undoubtedly commercial, it still wins my vote, allowing you to get close to the vents, mud pools and thermal activity.
Vivid colours of the champagne pool Two crews on the coast
Jean Steinhauser has been trying to locate an errant rumble in the suspension of his Mustang; we drove out of town to diagnose the problem but decided it will need to become more verbal become we can trace it.
During the evening we paid a visit to a reconstructed Maori village and experienced a cultural show followed by a meal cooked in the traditional Maori fashion.
Update to Day 18-Raetihi:
Most crews left Rotorua before 9am wanting to take a last look at the geo-thermal activity before leaving this intensely active volcanic area. The route lead us south-east through Kaiangaroa; New Zealand’s largest man-made forest producing 1½ million cubic metres of timber annually. From here the road narrows and becomes gravel for approximately 100km. Nick Thake spent a wonderful afternoon flicking his Landcruiser left and right through the bends and curves around Lake Waikaremoana. The Mohaka and Tutira ranges from Wairoa south to the Bay of Plenty were bathed in a weak and watery sunshine for our drive south; an ideal road for Jean in his Mustang to get to grips with the open and empty roads of NZ.
Our overnight stop, Napier was largely destroyed by an earthquake with an associated fire in 1931, the town being rebuilt in the art-deco style of the period. Accommodation tonight was in the fine and refurbished County hotel. Napier holds an art-deco week once a year, starting this week. The whole community and indeed enthusiasts from further afield converge to celebrate this architectural phase; even dressing in period costume. Do Meeus met and made friends with an American visitor who keeps his immaculate 1938 Auburn in town especially for the festival.
Enjoying the sights and sounds of Waikaremoana Which is the possum?
During the evening we invited David & Patsy Mitchell, of Inca Trail fame, to join us. They have done many HERO events over the previous decade; it made an ideal opportunity for them to meet friends from the past. There is a waypoint on their considerable apple orchard just 15km south of the town so that customers could also ‘call-in’ on the journey south to Martinborough.
Unfortunately, the weather is acting extremely unseasonably with not only poor temperatures but also a dense high cloud that is letting us glimpse the sun only spasmodically. The dense native bush we are passing through is wonderful in its intensity but would be more fulfilling if bathed in sunshine.
Sunrise over the Rimutakas Lunch halt in the Marlborough Sounds
Our route south to Martinborough kept us on secondary roads for the majority of the day passing through some classic rural NZ towns. I had mentioned the Pongaroa pub in the roadbook as the perfect stop to taste true “Kiwi hospitality” in it’s proper setting, away from the hype and bustle of the tourism machine. We arrived to find the Pritz family, the Carrs’ and others eating on tables outside the local store because the pub didn’t open for another hour!
More classic winding secondary roads brought us to Parehua Lodge, our billet for the night. We dined at one long table in grand style, the food was yet again outstanding and not one person could have been pleased when next peering, bleary eyed at the bathroom scales!
The Doctor says, "would make a lovely rug!" The view from our Lodge
Someone, who will remain anonymous, found and left a dead possum on the windscreen of Nick Thakes 4x4? Some suggested it maybe simply be his driving style and that he hadn’t seen the terrified creature?
We all had an early start on Day 16 (17 February) to board the ferry back to Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island) and this time a pod of dolphin were spotted escorting our boat through the Marlborough Sounds; a sight not uncommon to the captain and his crew. The drive to Raetihi Lodge deep amongst the native bush three hours drive from the ferry landing was, for some people, unhealthily long on almost un-used roads. There are sections of gravel amounting to approximately 20km but the 90km drive is twisty and slow taking at least 2½ hours. Some of the more genteel members of our group have opted to hire a water taxi to deliver them to a landing close to more reasonable roads.
We have a rest day in this simple but comfortable spot, our hosts’ are delightfully attentive, we have kayaks & bicycles to enjoy or stroll one of the many tracks leading through the neighbouring hills. The Cicadas (a type of locust) according to Jean & Anne Steinhauser are deafeningly loud as they rub their legs in a form of communication; combined with the tropical bird calls and the warm air, it gives an impression of deep jungle. We have booked the lodge exclusively and have organised a birthday party tonight for Annemieke van de Horst who will, of course, turn 21 again!
Update to Day 23-Queenstown:
I should mention that during our rest day yesterday the Pritz family had been out with a local guide exploring the bays and inlets of Kenepuru Sound and returned to the lodge bearing a swag of Green Lipped Mussels. These were left with our accomplished chef to prepare an entrée for Annemieke’s birthday party; truly delicious!
Those who had opted for a water taxi to Havelock had the chance for a last swim or massage, while the remaining ‘Jaunters’ left Raetihi one by one between 8-9am for 2½ hours of twisty and sick-making roads to collect their respective spouse or lover from the wharf in Havelock. Some lingered here for ‘smoko’ (coffee) while others were more interested in getting back ’on the road.’ We had planned to use the 4x4 Maungatapu track across the Bryant Hills; however, the council have temporarily closed this section because of exposed underground cables. All crews were informed of the closure although this didn’t stop most of them sneaking passed the junction, ignoring the council order, to enjoy this fantastic 25km section.
Wish you were here? Captain bird's eye
From Murderer’s Rock the track becomes more rugged in places, enough to damage the extremities of the more bulky vehicles; Jim Carr found his Range-Rover kissing the scenery in a few of the deeper washouts and gullies. In Nelson, at lunchtime, several couples stopped hoping to visit eateries we had recommended, but found almost all of them so inflexible in their timing that it is no wonder they struggle to survive in the current economic climate. From Nelson we continued north passing Rabbit Island and the township of Motueka crossing a river by the same name. Lally had hired a water taxi exclusively for our group so that we could browse the coastline, drinking wine, while making our way to Awaroa Lodge deep inside the Abel Tasman National Park.
God's own land Don't you wonder what the photographer is doing?
The van de Horsts’, Anne Steinhauser, Els Meeus and Myself preferred to walk the last hour to the lodge and were therefore dropped on a perfect, white sandy beach to enjoy the track through heavy native bush with the sights and sounds of nature at work all around us; Beautiful. We had a group dinner in the evening although the vegetarians were left unfed until the carnivores had finished; extremely poor management from a lodge that promotes eco-this, eco-that, and charges like a wounded bull! It is at this stage of my first event that I am becoming acutely aware, in this trade; Suppliers can sell you the world while promising the universe but only delivering a small bankrupt republic in West Africa!
The Pritz negotiating The Maungatapu Thake + water = big splash
For our rest day in Abel Tasman National Park the sun finally put his hat on so we could enjoy the breathtaking surroundings for 24 hours. Jim Carr had wanted to take to the skies to get an aerial appreciation of New Zealand; today was his day! He and five other ‘Jaunters’ hired a helicopter taking advantage of the settled weather to swoop low over the paradise of Aotearoa. Their verdict?……God’s own land. Others walked the bays and beaches that stretch for days in either direction allowing them to work up an appetite for a glorious barbeque. We sat on the deck outside under the stars, the bush encroaching, the food and wine flowing, with laughter and merriment flowing in every direction; A lovely evening.
Jingers needs a rescue Do Meeus tackling a wash out
An early start was needed on Day 20 boarding the water taxi to return us to our vehicles at the road end; dolphin were spotted again as we made our way along the coast in the morning light. The route south used secondary roads through farmed river flats and forest reserves until reaching the Buller district where an optional 4x4 road made for a return to more challenging and indeed interesting country. This district has a long history of gold mining by individuals as well as larger corporations. Some crews’ visited Mitchell’s gully gold mine which is still owned by a fourth generation Mitchell who watches the international gold market to judge when it becomes viable to recommence mining. It is a period mine using a water-wheel to turn the ‘stamper’ (ore crusher) and that water then washes the ore to separate the precious metal. The huge Seal colony at the aptly named Cape Foulwind was a stop for some while others preferred to enjoy the dramatic and intensely beautiful coastline south to Punakaiki. Here, the Pancake Rocks make a good stop to stroll between the interesting geological formations evolved between land and sea over many millennia. Tonight’s hotel in Greymouth just scraped into the three star category through everyone was happy to escape the constant attention of the mosquitoes and sand-flies.
Traversing the gold mines The photographer's imminent shower
Day 21 (February 22) dawned clear and bright with the perfect cloudless sky. I have a mate on this coast whose station (farm) encompasses extensive gold mines of more than 120 years ago. I had previously made contact with the neighbouring station to the south and devised a route across both properties for those with a spirit of adventure to enjoy a truly unique experience.
Off-road on the west coast Rugged country
Four vehicles made their way through the tracks, tunnels and creeks that make up the mines, Jim Carr was in his element using his winch to rescue my utility wedged across a gully. Of course, nothing would stop Nick Thake playing to the camera; our petite & beautiful photographer came home resembling a drowned possum more than a vivacious South American.
Steep river exit Toyota copes well
We spent a happy half-day getting stuck, building ramps and fording deep rivers returning to the main rally route after an impromptu picnic on the banks of the river having successfully made our final crossing. Do & Els Meeus are the masters of happiness and even through some extremely tricky bush country requiring close concentration their facial expressions never looked uncertain. The main route down the coast was a simple 2½ hours to allow customers to book excursions ranging from scenic flights to glacier hikes and thus everyone arrived at the hotel exhausted from one activity or another.
Land Rover heaven Meeus crew off-roading
Jim Carr enjoying himself Entering the mine tunnels
From Franz Josef and our luxury hotel the “Jaunters” continued south on the morning of February 23, some having taken scenic flights over the glaciers in the clear morning air. I met Do & Els Meeus when walking through the swamp forests of Ship Creek; we spent time in awe of the shear beauty and perfect balance of nature prior to crossing the mighty Haast River and our final passage over the Southern Alps. The Pritz entourage made a halt in Wanaka to throw Terry (doctor) out of an aeroplane at 12,000 feet for 60 seconds of free-fall; a video capturing the changing expressions on the doctor’s face tell the most wonderful tale!
The tunnels cut by hand 150 years ago Lally at work
We have a rest day in Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand with many couples taking a wide variety of excursions including; Bungy jumping, Sky diving, or Jet-boating. However, those with a modicum of self-preservation have chosen a horse-trekking safari over localities used in the filming of “Lord of the Rings.”
Update to Day 27 - Dunedin:
I am happy to report the bra fence on the road to Haast still exists and to prove to the sceptics how crazy Kiwis can be, I have included a photograph of this questionable pre-occupation.
Our rest day in Queenstown was a busy and fun-filled day for all crews booking excursions through Lally, who has proved herself to be the consummate organiser. Late in the afternoon, I received a message from Jim Carr enquiring as to the whereabouts of the doctor (Terry)? My mind lurched into frantic action Jim informing me Anne Collard had come to grief on the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump (43 metres) and now has two black eyes! Amid my thoughts I blurted, “My God…….No….What’s happened?” As a cold sweat reached my brow he calmly replied, “She should have worn a sports-bra!” Nicholas Hounsell-Smith jumped from the 134m Nevis Bridge having already made several jumps at different locations around the world. Several people took to the water for a Jetboat ride down the Shotover River although for some it didn’t give the expected adrenalin rush, I must say when I had a Jetboat ride a decade ago; I felt the same! Five people climbed on horse-back for a peaceful afternoon through the surrounding hills, covering places little used except by Peter Jackson (film-maker) and a handful of local Sheppards’. The following morning it was obvious to us all, those who had been galloping recklessly across the countryside the previous day? From the gentle seating at breakfast!
The beloved bra fence Walter Peak Station
Jim Carr has not had the most trouble-free run on this event and when returning to Queenstown having spent the day at various attractions, he waited in traffic approaching a junction only to receive a heavy thwack behind from a little Daihatsu Fourtrak. We received a message, went to his aid finding a badly damaged not drivable Daihatsu and the big G4 Range-Rover with a small dent in one exhaust tail-pipe! Details were exchanged with good manners whereupon it transpired the guilty party was the chef at our evening function that night. In his defence, we’d had a long period of hot dry weather and the first heavy shower for some time, making the roads extremely slick.
In the early evening Lally herded us together in the hotel lobby to make a short walk to the wharf just 5 minutes away, where we boarded the TSS Earnslaw; This vessel has a fascinating history of livestock and merchandise haulage spanning the last century. It is a fully operational twin-engined steam-ship, totally original and patinated, with the sounds and smells of a bygone age. For any of the boys who had tinkered with methylated spirits, 3 in 1 oil, and a Mammod steam engine as a child, it was pure delight. We could walk on platforms above the engine room, watching stokers shovel coal into the two furnaces, the bell telegraph from the bridge giving instructions to the engineer for each of the engines speed and direction. After 30 minutes we arrived at Walter Peak Station on the southern shore of Lake Wakatipu where our group sat in the old library of the homestead for an evening meal with plenty of wine and laughter. The marvellous steamer returned us to our plush hotel while allowing us to digest the meal as well as the experience.
Preparing to Sky dive Anne on the elastic! Le petit canard rouge
Day 24, the 25th February, was a relatively easy driving day in terms of distance, however the route was extremely isolated passing through the largest sheep stations in Central Otago. The road over the Bannockburn and Nevis stations is only accessible to 4x4s in the summer months with over 25 rivers crossings and several rugged sections to traverse. Terry (doctor) and myself had been rumbling through this barren landscape, fording swollen rivers, sweeping the route, for an hour or more when a small red dot appeared on the horizon. As we closed the distance it soon became clear the intrepid Dutch crew of Pieter and Annemieke van de Horst in their little red deux chevaux had decided to prove how capable they and their car really were? A fantastic effort from car and crew; now referred to as “Le petit canard rouge” You will also see a photograph of Nick Thake crossing one of the creeks on this road; a good test for his Toyota!
Nevis country Judith closing gates
We used the best hotel in Te Anau for our two night halt and again Lally had arranged a private dinner for us in a separate dining room so that we could celebrate Nick Thake’s birthday in Nick Thake style! We toasted his advancing years and he made an “off the cuff” birthday wish to have all the girls in his bed for a birthday romp? The moment passed almost un-noticed while behind the scenes his wishes were put in place with a little coercion from Debbie, his wife. The ladies all surreptitiously made excuses for an early night while Nick was guided to the bar with the rest of the boys to enjoy a malt whiskey. On queue, Debbie came over all “faint” and asked to be helped to her room; the gallant Nick took the bait without question. On entering the bedroom, finding more than a dozen scantily-clad ladies in his bed was the perfect end to his New Zealand birthday. Lally commented how elegant the elder ladies were in their nightwear compared to more modern girls who have lost the art of “dressing for bed.” I failed to mention, for the initial two weeks of the Jaunt, Nick was accompanied by his son, another Nick, but they had a crew change in Wellington where his wife, Debbie joined us.
Nick Thake tests his Toyota Lonely country
The following day, 26th February, Lally had arranged for us to take a morning cruise on Milford Sound in an effort to avoid the shoving masses. It proved worthwhile and we enjoyed a three-hour, well-informed tour of the Fiord, its formation and history, as well as digesting its stunning beauty on the most perfect cloudless and calm day. On two or three occasions Bottle-nosed Dolphin came alongside surfing in our bow-wave and jumping clear of the water at times. Lonely Planet quotes, “First sight of Milford Sound is stunning: still, dark waters out of which rise sheer rocky cliffs, with forest clinging to every conceivable ledge…” We had a warm and clear afternoon to enjoy bush walks and various nature attractions on the road returning to the hotel, which in itself is a pure delight with the kind of landscape to cause accidents as you gawp entranced by the scenery and veer off the road.
Mitre Peak, Milford Sound Nick's perfect New Zealand birthday!
The subsequent day we started south again to explore the coast eastwards; it was a long but interesting day over secondary roads through rural pastoral New Zealand. There were many options for walks, geological attractions as well as cafes for ‘smoko’ (morning tea) and lunch. Invercargill was a stop for most crews who visited the Hammer Hardware store to get close to Burt Munro’s motorbikes and the tools from his shed where he built so many record breaking ‘bikes. Here also was an engine built by Ernest Hayes (the store proprietor) in 1954, entirely from scrap items; they even started it for us to prove it is not simply a static display. The scrap items included, a bedpan for the exhaust muffler, a half-inch water tap for the carburettor, a stirrup pump as the water pump, and various lumps of wood and fence-wire to operate the valve mechanism which too was made from scrap! It really has to be seen to be believed! Nugget point is a gem on this gorgeous coastline and for us it was bathed in a wonderful soft sunshine for an 800m walk out to the lighthouse past innumerable seals, penguins, cormorants and seabirds on the rocks below. Entering Dunedin in the evening our route took us to the central Dunedin Casino where we will be staying for two nights allowing time to explore both the historic city as well as a visit to the world’s only mainland Albatross colony on the nearby Otago Peninsula.
Update to Day 30 - Christchurch:
Day 27, Sunday 28 February, was a rest day for our group in Dunedin with a multitude of excursions and attractions on offer. We awoke on this morning to news of a heavy earthquake in Chile some 8,000+km to the east and a Tsunami warning for the east coast of the South Island. As you may well be aware, a tsunami crossing 5,000 miles of ocean takes several days to arrive and diminishes as it travels. Many visited the marvellous Royal Albatross Colony on the northern tip of the Otago Peninsula while others took the historic and interesting train journey into Taieri Gorge for the day. Larnach Castle was an attraction for some with its fine buildings, beautiful curtilage, and more recent history, making it more conceivable and therefore more approachable than some of the vastly old castles of Scotland.
We left Dunedin the following morning with an interesting and varied day ahead of us. Many customers have commented on the huge variety of landscapes and climates we pass each day and today was no exception. We left the city, with its Scottish heritage, in a north-westerly direction towards the abandon gold-fields of Central Otago travelling through lovely big rolling hills and barren landscapes.
2CV tackles the Old Dunstan road Nice Tikis
The Dunstan road, Number 1 & 2 were the main route for anyone with four-wheel drive while classic cars could manage the first section before turning south on better gravel roads. We hesitated for lunch in Alexandra with Andy & Shelagh Marshall, also the Englishs’ and the van de Horsts’ who had covered the rugged 4x4 section; nothing stopping the little Citroen, which has become known as “Le petit canard rouge” for its mammoth effort on the Nevis Road four days earlier. We had conflicting weather on this road too, leaving Dunedin in sunshine with clouds to the far west that grew closer as the day wore-on until we became enveloped in a cold afternoon amid horizontal rain blowing across the Hawksburn range; a steep and rugged drive for the 2cv!!
Nick's present to Judith Anne, the acrobat
Upon arriving in Cromwell everyone cleaned & showered prior to boarding a bus that would take us to the Mount Difficulty Vineyards. Robin Dicey, a wine-grower of high repute, and a friend of Terence English, gave us a splendid tour of the vineyards sprinkled with his innate knowledge of grape-growing in this region. We then dined at the Mt Difficulty restaurant with Robin and his wife, Margi. Happen-stance was such that Judith English celebrated a birthday today while dining with friends both old and new; Nick Thake, one of her newer friends, presented her with the most romantic and delectable night-wear! A gift I am sure Sir Terence will enjoy?
Reflections of a Mustang Lunch at Danseys Pass
Dusty Roads Having fun crossing the river
Jim takes-off! Unusual sight...Nick being cautious!
Day 29 was a day heading mainly north with Aoraki/Mount Cook as our ultimate target. Early on we crossed Bendigo station, a property I had gained permission to cross, taking us onto another isolated back-country road through wonderful, lightly wooded, hills with areas populated mainly by sheep! These roads are the epitome of rural New Zealand with numerous gates as obstacles, as well as stock wandering in the road. We then drove through the small community of Oturehua with the Hayes Engineering Works as an interesting pause. This township is where Ernest Hayes (of Invercargill and Burt Munro fame) had his original engineering workshops, which are still intact exactly as left in 1924; complete with all lathes’, drills’, and forges etc. It is like a “time-warp”, viewing an engineering works exactly as it would have been even down to the dirt floor; a feature most modern engineers could not begin to conceive! For the farmers among us, Ernest Hayes invented numerous tools in common use on many farms worldwide today. The parallel wire strainer is probably his best-known product, used to tension fence wire by gripping the strand of wire attached to a length of chain with a pair of claws, which pull the chain tight with each operation of the lever.
Jim making waves again... Vero caught the wave!
Dansey Pass is another splendid gravel road crossing Maerewhenua Spur in the Kakanui Mountains; the hotel offering an oasis of charm and hospitality for lunch which many crews took advantage of even if only for a drink. After lunch the final 4x4 section of the event beckoned, crossing two large stations to the north. I had arranged access to these properties using various tracks and creek-beds to navigate us through a lonely, isolated backdrop of steep hills with blue skies overhead. Jim Carr, in particular, took advantage of the comfortable weather, the rugged scenery, and his capable Range-Rover playing to the camera more than once! Andy & Shelagh Marshall however, in their less able Toyota Highlander found this section a struggle, not wanting to incur damage to a vehicle that is a 4x4 in token only!
Toyota brakes down :( Canterbury sunrise
Once on the public road again we passed the hydroelectric lakes of Aviemore and Benmore before turning northwards alongside the impossibly blue waters of Lake Pukaki to arrive at the very comfortable Hermitage hotel nestled in the shadow of Aoraki/Mt.Cook. Some customers were early enough to enjoy scenic flights in perfect weather although Jim missed-out again arriving when the winds had increased too much for flights. As we approached, the summit of New Zealand’s highest peak showed itself through billowing clouds accompanied by a strong cold mountain wind; nudging one side of Aoraki is the mighty Tasman Glacier, a 30-kilometre giant and one of the longest outside the Himalayas. The previously threatened tsunami hit our east coast today, all the way from Chile but had thankfully weakened, and therefore a wave of little more than two metres in height struck our shores.
Travelling home to Christchurch The youngsters of the Jaunt
The Last of the Mohicans Our transport to the Farewell Dinner
Our final day of the Jaunt was an easy run into Christchurch; our starting point of 30 days previously. The Church of the Good Shepard on the south shore of Lake Tekapo is a charming little spot though tour buses wanting a slice of the paradise spoil it at times. The provincial museum of cars and tractors in Geraldine also slowed one or two crews on their way to the finish. This is where I realised I had made a mistake in the planning; I had made no provision for a finish ceremony on arrival in the city, and indeed, some commented on this oversight. However, for the farewell celebration in the evening we had things better organised with Lally behind the scenes ensuring a happy and fun-filled evening. A short 10-minute coach ride deposited us on the banks of the cities Avon River where with a glass of Champagne thrust into ones hand we climbed aboard a host of punts, to be chauffeured through leafy suburban Christchurch disembarking on lawns of the Mona Vale Homestead.
Terence & Judith re-enacting their first meeting! HAPPY endings :)
As the sun disappeared for another day, a chill descended so we moved inside the homestead for entertainment from popular local performers; The Court Jesters’ from Christchurch’ Court Theatre. Watching a “re-enactment” of Sir Terence & Lady Judith’s first meeting was priceless and set the tone for more ribaldry. Lally had also arranged the outstanding Lisa Tui and Tim Driver to perform Maori and European songs throughout our meal. Lisa’s rendition of Po Karekare Ana, a Maori love song was beyond doubt, touching; earning requests for an encore. Added to this, lurking in the shadows was Miyuki, a caricature artist who spent the evening observing and sketching each one of us with the result to take home as a memory of this gathering. And so ends the inaugural Jingers Jaunt; I hope it has come-up to the expectations of those involved and I hope that New Zealand gave you a taste of the paradise I believe it to be?