It sounds silly, but sometimes the stars align and you land your dream gig.
For a punter who constantly chases his passions and a laugh, these types of opportunities only come once in a life time. I’ll be straight with you: I’m no outdoor, living off the land connoisseur, or a classic rural bloke with a “wealth” of experience. I’m a genuine battler (from Auckland) who has just so happens to have a group of down-to-earth kiwi mates that share their passions with me – while in return I provide low-level sub-par chat, and usually a suitcase of cleansing ales for their worries.
While on the blower with Cam Henderson, the bright & intelligent spark behind “The Hunter’s Journal” magazine, he told me he wanted me to join him for a drive from the nose to the toes of the country, in a decked-out Toyota Land Cruiser, gathering off the land with a few special, salt-of-the-earth kiwis. As he laid out details of the plan, I genuinely couldn’t believe what was tickling my ears.
I packed my bags and made a bee-line to Hawkes Bay, where the beastly Toyota had recently been torn apart and reconstructed into one of the prettiest, mud-eating monsters any man or woman has ever laid their eyes on. Brandon Duncan, owner and mastermind behind M2 Overland, greeted me at the door of the workshop while his passionate, work horse team made a few finishing touches to the four-wheeled eyeball-pleasing machine. Then, with a simple turn of the ignition, a grungy, throbbing sound harmonically echoed around the garage. I never thought I’d admit that a car made me weak at the knees – but I just did.
The beautiful 79 series Land Cruiser had been decked out in the new Trek-R aluminium tray system, meaning the truck was essentially a Swiss army knife on wheels. Personally, I got in the habit of calling it the “Kim K on wheels” instead: stunning blinkers, sexy chassis, bolt-ons here and there, and, last but not least, some junk in the trunk. This home-away-from-home also boasted a headboard-mounted 55 Litre water tank, under-mounted tool boxes, Redarc Revision Battery Management System, central locking, a fridge, SMRT tent, and dog box – just to name a few features. To be honest, I was happy with just the dog box, given my previous track record…
I was anxious to take the keys from Brandon’s tight, clammy grip, but he hesitated and looked at me nervously. I think he could sense I couldn’t wait to rip this beast a new one. But he handed them over anyway, and rip it a new one I did…
The mission was simple. Four trips, off the beaten track, with some bloody neat Kiwis. And we’d film the whole thing as a series of episodes (check out “Hunger for Our Roots” on YouTube). I’ve never had so many head turns as I did driving around in that zooped-up Land Cruiser, and boy did I lap it up.
The first stop saw us camping and river-hopping through the Kaimanawa Ranges, where I met up with M2 Overland’s brand ambassadors, Dan and Rosie Tong. Those two live and breathe off-roading, sika hunting, and beer sipping, all while running a successful engineering company. They were my partners in crime in the mountains, and jeez did they deliver the goods. I bathed in their wealth of knowledge and relished the camping experience.
The next stage of the trip was not all hunky dory though. A few hiccups meant that we needed to change plans quickly and make tracks to Christchurch to beat a massive weather bomb. With episode two in ruins, a rescue plan was hatched that would see Dan and fellow M2 Overland ambassador, Tommy Montaperto, try to resurrect our failed plans and attempt to put a Sika on the ground to save the episode. Brandon wasn’t happy with my departure and decided to lay down a challenge: “If my guys get a deer on the deck and successfully pull this episode from the dark, unsalvageable depths, then you are hitchhiking your way down south…naked”.
Now, let’s be honest: I thrive on being nude. Even with my hideous carcass. So, it wasn’t the worst punishment I could imagine. And, with a few shots fired by Dan and Tommy, the stars aligned to keep the punters happy. Watch episode two online to find out how the cookie really crumbled…
East coast up the Rakaia came with no surprises. Swollen rivers, nasty sandstorms, beautiful country, and impressive animals. Jared Hammond, a Kiwi-turned-Yukon guide navigated us through the niggly, jarring terrain. Because of the failing weather encroaching, we had a total of one day out of our proposed five day trip to try and create an opportunity, on foot. Luckily, we hadn’t stumbled more than 500m from camp when we were greeted with the soul-penetrating eyes of an old, beat-up Chamois buck. After 30 minutes of conversing, we set up the shot on a dry, nasty riverbed and let rip from 409m out. The Hardy hybrid rifle was too deadly, and it absolutely poleaxed the old boy on his perch. The king of the hill was no more…
The next session was on the west coast alongside notorious cowboy of the west, Josh James: “The Kiwi Bushman”. And it was wet again. But the boys were not going to let a bit of precipitation rain on their parade. From ripping and tearing up the local river in jet boats and skull-dragging blue nose from 400m deep, to pushing the camping envelope out in luxury, while in the middle of a horrendous storm. It was safe to say, west was wet, but best.
The climax of this series saw our big wheels kiss the tarmac along the road to Lake Hawea station, where the Ross family hosted us on their zero emissions farm. Our goal was to offset the emissions we had created on our journey by planting some trees, then head to the hills for some conservation in the form of slaying a few niggly pigs, and picking ourselves up a yearling for the summer BBQ.
It is every blokes dream to do this roady, and I feel incredibly blessed to have been chosen to tell the story. To see the journey of “Sandy”, using all of your senses, head to M2 Overland’s YouTube channel and feast your eyes! Or even better, if you want a similar deck on the back of your Ute, then just sign it off with the Mrs, sit back, and enjoy the greatest investment of your life.