Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Expedition Makairo Road

Probably around a month ago there was some discussion on Adventure Rider about an old road that starts near Mangatainoka and spits you out on Coonoor Road.  Apparently the road was pretty much abandoned in the 70's or 80's (depending on which website you check or who you believe) and has become very overgrown and damaged.  It features on the Adventure Riding NZ website here and the advice there is that it is for intermediate riders on smaller bikes and experienced riders on the big toys.  It's always sounded interesting to me and ideal for an outing on the WR.

And so, plans were hatched and a reasonable number of riders met up in Pahiatua a couple of Saturday's ago for the run through the track.  Some more sensible blokes came along as well but flagged the track for some other gravel and the promise to meet us for lunch in Pongaroa.

Someone was early - and lost his photos of the other bikes...

Leaving Pahiatua we took a few sealed roads out to the start of Makairo Road.  I'd been out here before on a Bush Riders Trail Ride and even before the road goes to gravel it is a tight and narrow little road where you hope there's no big trucks coming the other way.  And then you get to this.

Apparently the bridge is closed...

Anyway, we had a quick regroup to psyche ourselves up before disappearing into the scrub.

The two DR's then launched into it with a little blue blur not far behind them and the big bikes bringing up the rear.  And we rode straight into a muddy and rutted section - such a nice intro to the Makairo Track...

With the smaller bikes making it through pretty easily we thought we should stop and wait for the big boys.  As you'll see later from Night Falcon's video, it wasn't easy.

From that point on we then let the Beemer and Trumpy go first and we were able to help right them and get them through the odd sticky bit a few times.

This first couple of km was probably the worst of the track but basically for the entire distance we had to contend with some quite overgrown sections, decent ruts (often hidden in long grass), the odd slippery bit and some scary drop-offs.  

Eventually we made it to the summit and it was time for a breather and a squizz at the views.

From the summit it was supposed to be just a gentle drop down into the old quarry so after the big Beemer disappeared off down the hill I tagged along behind him while the others followed along behind.

For a decent part of the descent we were in fairly overgrown terrain again and often the track (or rut) was hard to spot.  The big screen on the BMW made it a lot harder for the rider and it was slowly and surely as she goes until we came to the quarry at the end.

We'd not been then long when we were joined by Bassman1.

Unfortunately he was alone and had some bad news.  Our intrepid Tiger rider had gone off the track and down a bank with the bike landing heavily on his leg and he was going to need help to get out and a helicopter to pick him up.

With no cell reception we sent the BMW off with the GPS co-ordinates of the quarry to somewhere with reception so he could make the call for help.  Bassman1 and I headed back up the hill to do what we could for night Falcon.

Here's where the bike ended up (photo: Bassman1).

Yes, it's really down there

The three of us at the site managed to get Night Falcon out of the hole and even though he was in a fair bit of discomfort he managed to crawl/be helped a bit further down the track but we obviously wouldn't be able to get him out without help.

Eventually we had a couple of paramedics arrive on foot after a 15 minute slog up the hill with their gear (luckily one of them new where Makairo Track was as there instructions from base were less than perfect) and they started to make our downed rider more comfortable.  Shortly afterwards we heard the chopper coming in and gave them a good wave to let them know where we were.

Obviously the helicopter couldn't land where we were so they flew up to the top of the hill and landed.  We were then joined by another paramedic from the chopper who quickly started helping the other two make the patient more comfortable and get him ready for extraction.  The two DR riders helped by shuttling gear to and from the Helicopter while I helped out with the patient where I could.

Eventually all was ready and the whirly-bird was called in to winch out Marty.  We got to sit on anything that might get sucked up into the blades.  It was quite a drafty experience:

Excitement over, we had no way of recovering the bike so made our way out of the track and then had an outstanding ride on perfect gravel through to Pongaroa for a pretty late lunch.

Funnily enough, the other guys had been and gone so after downing burgers we then split up with two DR's heading South on 52 and me towing a Beemer back through to Pahiatua and into Palmy.

A real shame about the accident but luckily the injuries have been relatively light (considering a 200kg bike landed on its rider) and the emergency services were typically magnificent - glad to have them on call but hopefully won't be needing them again anytime soon.

Finally, here's Marty's video which does a good job of showing the track conditions and does capture the off.

Oh, and there is another chapter coming...


  1. Excellent report Andrew

    1. Thanks Stephen, missed you at lunch - where were you ;)

  2. Quite the adventure! You're mention of the fact that helicopter couldn't land dredged up an old memory of what the army called the jungle penetrator..... Basically a metal probe that dropped from a helicopter on a cable and then you could fold out a platform for the injured soldier to be lifted out of the jungle. I wonder now if such devices are still in use or do they just not pass modern safety standards. Anyways, good posting!

    1. Yeah, I've heard of those things Dom. You're probably right about the modern safety standards. There was plenty of room for the winching, just no landing at the site.

  3. Wrong bike for that track bro, should have been on dirt bikes or adventure R1's. Hope your mate is ok.