October 29, 2013

2. Southern Safari: tracks with a view

The world's most scenic driver's briefing, at Lake Rotoiti
The two main user groups of the Porika track, an old stock route that runs for nearly 17km from near St Arnaud, where the Southern Safari overnighted, are power pylon maintenance workers and gold fossickers, but today it’s being travelled by our group, made up mainly of Clay Nomads, in more than 30 4WDs, wending their way to the bottom of the South Island. Porika is a favourite among 4WD clubs and tag-along organisers. It’s not too hard, not too easy and its scenery always interesting. A 2WD car could do much of the track, most of the time, and it even shows up on the TomTom mounted on the Rubicon’s windscreen. But two thirds of the way in, TomTom gives up and shows only uncharted territory, like a map of Africa from 1840. This is where the cars stop. The track becomes twisty, steep and rutted, calling for attention on the way ahead, rather than on the scenery either side. The track descends steeply in zig-zags to near Lake Rotoroa, which is in flood. Swans and their signets cruise over what is usually lawn and the 4WDs get to do a water crossing of the parking lot. Flooded or not, it’s still its gorgeous scenic self.

Trip leader Ian Hanford
tells us what to do,
In fact, we’re spoilt for scenery on the second day of the safari. Driver briefing was at the lakefront of Lake Rotoiti, the most stunning backdrop to any event 4wdNewz has been on. Then, after Porika with its beech-forest magnificence and views, it’s off to the top of Mt Murchison, almost 1500m above sea level and up a steep track that tests the cooling system of the vehicles. Pretty, but more of a road than a track, the Braeburn Track heads the convoy into Murchison. It’s high-range 2WD all the way, and there’s even an open highway sign at the start, although you’d need an Impreza WRX, not a 4WD, to take advantage. Plus nerves of steel.

Rating the day (out of 5)

Porika Track
As a driving experience 2.5
As a scenic track 3

Braeburn Track
As a driving experience 1
As a scenic track 2

Atop Mt Murchison: sweeping views every which way and plenty of time to enjoy while the transmissions and cooling systems cool after the climb.

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