SPOT CHECK - TONGARIRO WITH JOEL MCDOWELL
The undeniable attraction of life on the road was enough to get both Joel and I up and loaded by 5am. Armed with a kitted out Ford Ranger and Feldon Shelter mounted over the tray, we started the morning to the warm glow of sunrise as we headed south, drawn to the rugged Mountains and rivers of Tongariro.
For us this was the first time experiencing rooftop living and we were rather excited to try it out. Joel studied maps of the areas we were heading to, keeping an eye on the weather forecast to avoid the storm rolling over our country that week.
After spending the day exploring the southern route, we settled in for the night off track from The Forgotten Highway. As far as first nights go, this couldn't have been more perfect. The tent was a breeze, taking minutes to setup and a great meal topped it off.
The following morning we were greeted by the sun glistening through a layer of fog which set the scene for our morning coffee and soon after packing up we hit the road.
It wasn't long after setting off we found out next camp for the night, right next to the Whanganui River where we spend the day enjoying the peaceful scenery and swimming.
As night fell Joel began assembling wood and rocks to start a fire, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity as there wasn’t a fire ban in the area. I began cooking dinner and soon enough we found ourselves huddled up by the fire watching a pollution free sky of stars. The moment was pure, untouched peace. As our roaring flames died out and fizzled to soft embers we crawled into bed and floated off to sleep surrounded by the soft and constant sound of the river flowing next to us and the trees softly swaying. This was by far my favourite night of the trip.
The third morning I woke up to the smell of coffee. However instead of a glistening sun through morning fog, the sun was already well up. With breakfast finished, a quick morning walk along the rocks, and an unintentional morning swim by Joel, we set off once more for a day filled with exploring.
For our last day we decided to test the Fords capabilities and took it off road for a number of 4x4 tracks. It’s safe to say that after a full days worth of bouncing around, the car handled itself perfectly, doing exactly what it was made to do. Muddy and dust covered, it looked like a beast.
We were able to see some breath taking scenery up Ruapehu.
Around 6 o’ clock we managed to find our theirs and final spot to set up camp. Right on the rocks next to the river, Joel’s dream spot. We cooked our final meal, ate our last snacks and appreciated our last moments in our little rooftop home.
This was by far an experience like no other.
A big thanks to Beth and Joel at Feldon Shelter and the team at Ford NZ for letting us take this amazing setup and explore our breathtaking country. It’s not an experience we’ll forget soon. I know for a fact Joel was more than sour to hand back the keys.
Photos by Joel McDowell
Words by Nakita Kotze