Alastair's Blog

New Zealand Haka Rally - Nov/Dec 2016

- Tuesday, February 14, 2017

At the end of October 2016, and having only just finished the Classic Persia rally, I flew over to New Zealand to start the Haka Classic Rally. This was going to be a special trip because my 98-year old mother Dorothy would be navigating for me again. The trip would be a spectacular 26-day, 5,354km competition across the North and South Islands of New Zealand, from Auckland to Christchurch. For this trip I was taking my 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.

The route

We had a busy few days before the start. I picked up the Rolls, which seemed ok at first, but rapidly went downhill and then stopped dead in the worst place in NZ to choose, the Harbour Bridge at rush hour!!! Very fraught time with police, huge traffic jam etc. Got rescued by old McLaren type John Storr who used to be Bruce McLaren's brother-in-law. He spotted us and very kindly towed us off the bridge to his business, the Bolt Shop, where I was able to eventually get the car going. The ignition had been damaged by the shippers by wrongly jump starting the car. 

New Zealand Herald interview

Meanwhile we had organised a meeting with the NZ Herald for pics etc but they had to come to us in the end. Mum looking and going great, note the matching outfit, now having to wear glasses reluctantly at 98. Better day today, next problem is my Escort which is also in the Rally, but more on this anon. You can read the New Zealand Herald article here.

Mum and I at the start

Towing the Rolls....

First day of the rally

Well, we had a big breakthrough - the Rolls ran all day! Badly, but it did not stop. All went well, a few little glitches with the organisation but nothing serious. Lovely weather and NZ looking great, lots of cows and grass and good roads. 

The Escort

The Escort does exist! Mother thought it was a myth but Tim has arrived from Nelson in it today after an epic drive, the old girl is looking good.


The weather was fantastic, nice roads and a lot of nostalgia for Mother and me. We overnighted in Hamilton, where we lived as teenagers, saw old friends from schooldays and then drove to Matmata through Cambridge and Lemington where we had a small farm and I went to primary school. It's all built over now. We went to the Hobbinton set and had lunch and a tour, mum and I dodged the tour which was a good move. We ended up in Rotorua with all the smells and steam. Pouring down this morning, Mum and I outside a hobbit house.

We had fun visiting and running round the track at Towpaw, now called the Bruce Mclaren Motorsport Park. Went to the buried village and a random shot of an urban Pukeko in downtown Rotorua. 

The next day was a good one, it started out looking miserable but soon perked up and stayed nice all day. We had a good drive and three average speed regularities which we were best at, what a navigator! Here's the Rolls posing with a logging truck.

The two mountains Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe were visible in the morning over the beautiful and huge lake Taupo. 

A scary tunnel on the road, rough and unlit, reminded me of Iran! 

Picture of Mother below getting her time card stamped at the day start in Taupo. 

The sign at the self styled republic of Whangamomona were we had lunch in the very interesting old pub, and picture of the Rolls outside the pub.

Escort outside the pub. Note the old Space Station logo in the window.


Another island

More busy days. More rushing round race tracks and regularities, we spent the night in Palmerston North before heading to Wellington and a day of taking in some culture and Mother getting to see her Grandson James and her great grandchildren. Went to see her old family home in Feilding on the way and visited Te Papa, the fantastic museum in Wellington, visited the Britten motorbike there. On Sunday we took the ferry to the South Island and got served the NZ delight, scones with jam and whipped cream! Rainbow over Wellington Harbour. 

Another photo of Mother, the Guinness World Record holder as oldest active navigator.

And here we are, having a well-deserved rest after a long driving day.

The wild west coast

We arrived at Punakaiki Pancake Rocks after a good day's rallying on dirt roads. We came to the wild West coast, all good. Had a bonfire on the beach, mum good, tucked up in bed now. Here's a short video showing this wild west coast, with some surfers taking their chances.

Another three more days went by and mother was doing marvellously, she is an amazing woman! It was bad weather for two days so we missed seeing Golden Bay etc in the mist and rain but we got to the west coast last evening in sunshine and the ocean and coast is great. We stayed on the ocean last night with huge waves and a  big sunset. The pic is of a cafe sign which needs translation: Sammy is a sandwich and whitebait are tiny fish which they make into an omelette, FOD is fish of the day.

Queenstown to Te Anau

We then had a short day's drive from Queenstown to Te Anau. Once again there was a beautiful lake. Foul weather at times and I managed to make a completely unforced error on the only competition section, so our rally results will suffer. 

Helicopter trip over Fiordland

Luckily, the weather allowed us to take a fantastic helicopter trip round the Sounds, this lasted 3.5 hours. We saw magnificent fiords, mountains and lakes, had a picnic by the plane and landed on a glacier. That's the only bit Mother didn't like much, she covered her head for that, but soon cheered up when we got down again.

Teratonga Race Track

After the excitement of the helicopter trip, we had a busy two days rallying. We went to Teratonga race track for some competition, this is where my brother Bill died racing 50 years ago. We went to see the fastest Indian Burt Munro motorbike in Invercargill and ended up at Gore for the night. The next day we were off to Dunedin, where we had a welcome rest day. Managed to get some work done on the Rolls and had a lovely lunch by the sea with Mother at St Clair beach which is right in the city. 

Radio New Zealand Interview

We did a radio interview with Kathryn Ryan of Radio New Zealand which was broadcast during the rally, on a program called "9 to Noon". Lots of weather of all kinds everything apart from snow. You can listen to the programme here:

Now a couple more videos, wild lupins on the Lewis Pass - it was very windy!

And a video of Mount Cook, with Mum, Hayden, Tracey and the Escort. Sadly it was cloudy so you can't see the top of Mount Cook.

We went on a fixed wing flight into the southern Alps, no trip to Mount Cook possible as there was too much cloud but we got fantastic views of mountains and glaciers, lots of Lord of the Rings stuff!

Special award for Mother

All of a sudden it was the end of the rally and Mother received a special award. She got a very nice speech of thanks and got a standing ovation from the whole rally. On the last evening, Mother made a celebrity appearance at dinner. She normally retires early - as you are entitled to do when you're 98 years old - but this evening, as the rally sat down to dinner, she decided to come and wave goodnight, completing a high-speed lap of the dining room in her wheelchair, with me pushing behind. An inspiration to us all, she received universal applause.

At the finish

We made it to the end, finishing 7th overall! Mother was terrific as always, always alert, always interested and never napping. We set off the next day on another trip back north to catch the ferry and have to go via the west coast as the east side is still closed because of the earthquake and will be for some time. The Rolls was running well so the 224 year old team is doing well. Car 53, me 73, mother 98.

The next day was another big day for Mother, we set off North to get Mother home to Hamilton and Tracy and Hayden back to Auckland in the Escort to fly home and deliver the Escort to its new home in Devonport. Once again we had a great trip, took Arthur's pass over to the west coast, not the most direct road but it's a fantastic drive through huge weather, mountains and views. You have to go via the west as the east coast road is still closed because of the quake damage and will be for some time. Got to Picton after a long but beautiful drive to catch the ferry tomorrow morning. 

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