Submitted on: 21 Oct 11
Category: 2011 Updates
Started with a georgous sunrise over the beach, beautifully caught by Stephen Gyde, our own professional team photographer.
Breakfast included bacon, eggs, toast and tomatoes galore, Thanks Camp Mum! This was going to be our longest day in km’s so the team needed the big start.
A photo op on the beach included a Le Mans start, before heading inland for a refuel and the long climb up to ‘High Peak’ a private farm run by a real life ‘Horse Whisperer’.
With un-interupted 360 degree views, no neighbors within 2km, surrounded by beautiful countryside and doing what he loved, the owner has life pretty well sorted.
We had the opportunity to relax and enjoy his back yard and wonderful company while one of the Nelson 4WD back-up crew and photographer transport was ‘geographically challenged’ for a short while, but once we all re-grouped, it was back on the Scooters for the ride down though some overgrown grass tracks and out onto a grass airstrip for the second days challenge… Scooter Soccer. Oh dear.
Scooter Soccer Rules:
Two teams riding scooters, a Swiss ball, two 20l fuel containers set 50m apart as targets, no deliberate crashing. Just need to hit the target to score using any means available to transport the ball (I love simplicity).
I chose to sit this one out and act as Ref.
Both teams lined up facing each other 50m apart, engines were revved, clouds of smoke were produced, eyes became steely, “thank god I’m only reffing” I thought as I dropped my arm and 9 tiny pistons went berserk, charging each other in an attempt to be the first to the Swiss ball (an exercise aid developed in 1963 by Aquilino Casani).
No idea how there was no mass pile up then, or at any stage of the game, but with plenty of close calls, the odd fall over, and plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, the game seemed to progress in some sort of fashion.
We started off with first to three goals wins, but after 5 mins that was cut to ‘first goal wins’.
Eventually, with a heroic dive (crash), Ponch headed the ball against the target and the game was over. Everyone was very keen to continue, but taking the role of game grinch, I announced that we had a long day ahead and needed to keep moving in order to make sure we could still get to our final destination before dark.
By now, the 4WD back-up crew were well aware of just how fast these scooters can traverse rough dirt tracks and the fun descent through the little used farm tracks was highlighted by watching the lead 4WD getting air between terra firma and the rear tyres, as Lex tried to keep from holding up the buzzing pack.
Once we re-grouped, it was a 47km jaunt on tarseal to Tapawera where we re-fuelled before turning off onto the ‘Dry weather road’ through to Kawatiri / Howard Junction for Lunch.
The second half of this road is gravel and passes through an area recently devastated by Forest fire, creating a unique environment of dust, gravel and burnt tree trunks.
During the tarseal stage, John ‘Spider’s’ lack of top end speed was highlighted and his scooter was Swapped for Neil ‘Sacka’s’ spare Scooter being faithfully transported in the back of his 4WD and driven around by his ‘eager to ride’ wife, Ann.
Once on the gravel, the huge increase in power from 3hp to 5hp obviously made itself felt as Spider managed to crash three times on the loose gravel before making it to the safety of State Highway 1 just before lunch.
Lunch at Kawatiri Junction was a chance to refuel bodies and scoots alike and also a chance for Leah to catch up with her husband, Darryl and two awesome boys, Blake and Logan, who would be joining the back-up crew for the rest of the trip and to see Mum ‘dirt bike a scooter’.
From Kawatiri Junction the convoy turned left for 4-5km before the turn-off for the major challenge of the day, the Porika Track.
After heading up the valley through farmland, the track became a proper dirt track, climbing up through beautiful native forest.
After earlier discussion with the 4WD crew about a ‘tricky’ side track, sometimes used by the hard-core 4WDer’s as a difficult alternative, we had decided that it would be too tough on the scooters, but once we pulled up to the turn-off, I couldn’t help announcing the ‘planed route’ or the ‘fun’ route!
No surprise that nearly everyone followed the ‘fun’ route, and fun was certainly had, with Caroline completely burying the front of her Scooter into the soft clay and requiring assistance from California’s finest.
The climb out was also a challenge due to the steep, dusty track and the fact that there was usually only one narrow option between the half meter deep ruts. This ensured there was plenty of pushing, spinning wheels, dust, smoke and sweat.
A little further on we reached the bush covered summit, but any relief from the riders was about to be short lived.
The hair-raising descent to the shore of Lake Rotoroa, was a long, very steep and rocky ride, and for many was probably the toughest part of the whole challenge. A Photo opportunity half way down overlooking the lake was also an opportunity to demonstrate how steep the going was.
Despite this, everyone managed to get down safely, and the shore of Lake Rotora was a fantastic spot to take a break and breath a sigh of relief.
Some time was taken out to fix the throttle on James ‘Mordor’’s Scooter Which meant he no longer had to battle on at ½ throttle (which, on a scooter is very nearly nothing at all). At the same time, Caroline ‘Whippet’ managed to break off her key in the ignition. Other keys were tried (it’s worked before!) to no avail, so off came the front cover for some ‘creative re-wiring’. The new wiring worked for starting the scooter, but as there is no kill switch, a piece of wiring had to be fashioned to ‘short’ the scooter whenever the scooter had to be turned off.
After feeding ourselves and the local sandfly population, it was off onto more gravel roads for the final leg through to Murchison. By this stage, everyone had become quite proficient at riding scooters on loose gravel roads and the challenge was no longer getting from A to B, but seeing how fast it could be achieved despite up’s and down’s, corner’s and bridges. One bridge in particular seemed to have a special attraction for Joseph who managed to over-cook the approach, slide into the spotless white barrier, and instead of bouncing back, managed to slide along the entire length of the barrier, leaving a long black mark. All this without letting up on the throttle… legend (although Joseph does seem to be getting more mention than most).
We arrived into Murchison under a dark, brooding sky in time to hit up the Caravan and Motor Home association rally for donations. Over 200 Caravans, Campers and Busses parked up in a field created quite a maze, but it was a great time to spread the word about what Project KPH are achieving.
Camp Mum Adrienne secured some great cabins at the local campground and it was a time for most to unwind, the rest to get to repairing scooters. Caroline was found virtually underneath her’s where she discovered the source of the growing noise was the exhaust attempting to abandon ship.
The main exhaust mount had completely broken off the engine and was only held on by two loose bolts. a makeshift repair was made but it was a matter of fingers crossed from here on in.
Dinner in the local Pub preceded the Australia – Wales semi-final on the big screen, with Wales not quite up to the task despite a supportive local crowd.