If we were aeroplanes, we’d be heading towards the end of the runway, so we decided it was time to start taking off.

Since buying a Ford Ranger, my husband has been very keen to do a 4WD safari, and NZ Adventures seemed to have just what he wanted – a tour on the West Coast of the South Island. It didn’t make sense to go all the way from the Far North for just one five-day trip, so we also booked on the six-day High Country Heritage tour which was due to start some 10 days before the West Coast tour began.

Robbie and Connie Crickett have been organising these tours for five years. Robbie says he stopped seeing the scenery years ago. “It’s the people that make the trips special, the people on the trip and those we meet on the way,” he explains. “We do it because we love it, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. We love the rural areas, the rural activities and the farming people, and we love hearing that people from different areas have become friends following our tours. We also love getting emails from people talking about the ‘wow’ factor and the views.”

A road on Lake Heron Station

A large percentage of their clients are farming and farming-related people including truck drivers and small-block owners.

“Maintaining the safety of the clients is paramount,” Robbie adds. “We want people to feel safe, and people’s comfort zones are in different places. The tightrope you walk is that it is a 4WD trip, not a walk in the park, but safety comes first.”

Just a few vines – one of the many Marlborough vineyards

At the briefing the evening before the trip, Robbie explained that although an itinerary had been set, factors such as weather and track conditions meant that plans may change at any time.

“But we have a plan B, and sometimes even C and D,” Robbie pointed out, adding that while snow is a novelty for some, it wears off after the first 25 metres, and when there’s no snow, roads are often dusty and almost always corrugated. After some health and safety information, and the issue of hand-held radios, we’re told where to meet in the morning, fuelled up and ready to go.

First morning tea on the road

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