Off-road adventures across the ditch!

The other night at a long overdue catch-up with friends, I was getting a good ribbing about my “jetsetter” lifestyle; travelling from one state to another most weeks promoting Club 4X4, talking at club meets and working on new partnerships. I’m lucky enough to get the old GU’s feet wet and muddy here and there, but not nearly enough. Hopefully this will change with time, but travel currently involves two wings, early mornings, late nights and a healthy dose of aviation fuel through the nostrils. I’m still thankful to be combining my work with a passion, so this is not a complaint by any means. But, to those reading this who do travel for business, you’ll appreciate when I say the glamour wears off very quickly, particularly when you’ve been doing it for over 10 years!
Glancing over the Jet Boat ride, Bungee Jumping and Wine Tasting I saw the last option – a 4WD Safari
Late last year however, I was invited over to Queenstown with one of our partners for a conference. Having travelled the South Island by RV many moons ago with my then girlfriend, now wife, I was excited at getting back over to the land of the long white cloud. As part of the conference, a number of complimentary activities were planned during some free time. Glancing over the Jet Boat ride, Bungee Jumping and Wine Tasting I saw the last option – a 4WD Safari. A quick Google search showed it was a guided tour by professional drivers, which was an initial but expected let down – but I signed up to see what our mates over the ditch have to offer.

I have to say it was quite impressive watching 4 110 Defender wagons show up at the hotel, all dark green and emblazoned with Nomad Safari’s logo. The trucks ranged in age and engine configuration and remained as the factory intended them, other than snorkels and All Terrains. Jumping in with our driver David; a local who also owns a gaggle of his own defenders in various states of repair, we head off through town. Passing over the Shotover Jet I remembered why I loved this part of the world so much; New Zealand has some of the most magnificent touring roads anywhere in the world, with incredible scenery regardless of the window you choose to look out of.
We stopped for a short break at a lookout at the foothills of the Coronet Peak Ski Fields, where the guides gave us a rundown of the incredible view across Wakatipu basin. Movie buffs in the group were entertained by the fact that various areas viewable from this lookout were used in the filming of Lord Of The Rings, but everyone was amazed that this prehistoric landscape was in fact submerged under 400 meters of water many millions of years ago.
Back down the Skipper Road we headed into Arrowtown, a quaint town established in 1862 during the gold rush. Much of the facade and layout of Arrowtown remains as it was, which has maintained the tremendous history of the region. Today, it’s very much a boutique little place with many cafes, restaurants and specialty retailers – definitely worth a quick walk around. After a quick stop, it was time to explore the Arrow River and its various crossings. The river is made up of glacial water, which means you get the beautifully blue-tinged but incredibly clear water; almost too nice to disturb with 2 tonnes of metal and rubber. The crossings ranged from mild to over-bonnet depth and the Defenders handle them with ease, albeit our 110 experiencing a bit of water ingress, much to the excitement of the other passengers on board!

Our final stop was by the river for some gold panning and a light lunch. One of the group did in fact find a small spec, but no luck for this tourer unfortunately.

So, it was a great few hours with Nomad Safari’s. Knowledgeable guides, a well serviced and maintained fleet and a truly entertaining journey. Not as good as wheeling your own setup, but worth it to check out some amazing scenery and history. If you’re ever over the ditch and have a few hours spare, definitely check them out.

Comments 7

  1. Kathryn Martin

    Great report! How about some details on the old Defenders? How do they stack up for capability against the newer “plastic” 4wds?

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      Hi Kathryn,

      Unfortunately i didn’t get to drive them on the day, but having driven both an older Defender and newer Land Rovers of varying model i have to say there is a simplicity in the older units that makes them more rugged. Being able to wrench on the side of the road if something goes wrong is a definite benefit, rather than having to get the scan-gauge out.

      These units took everything that was thrown at them on the day, even though it wasn’t super hardcore stuff.



  2. Mick

    Been through all those river crossings on the arrow in a FWD Mitsubishi Tredia! That is not a 4×4 experience in a defender! Too touristy and safe! Beautiful scenery as you say, however they should have taken you south west of Qtown through the firebreaks and pine plantations for a real workout!
    FYI from around that way, been over just about all the rivers and passes etc in my old Hilux Surf in Otago/Canterbury

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  3. Ron

    Hi. Great experience, hope to be able to do one day. Brought up on old series 1 landies in the 60’s. Could you please report in single line not columns easier to read. Thanks

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