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Lions Safari – Lauder to Cluden over the Dunstan Mountains: January 6, 2024

Trip Report: Kevin Marlow


The annual Wanaka and Districts Lions Club ‘Safari’  to raise funds for the Wanaka Search and Rescue organisation was held on 6th January 2024.   As in previous years, the Club provided several trucks and experienced drivers to provide trip officials / safety vehicles for the event.  Trip participants were put into two convoys departing 1 hour apart.





We acknowledge support of the Department of Conservation who issued a single-event concession permit for the Club to run a guided 4WD experience over the Lauder Basin Conservation Area on behalf of Lions.  Consequently, this year the Club undertook trip leader and convoy management roles.  Thanks to our members who assisted on the day to make sure this was a safe and successful event – Kevin Marlow, Colin Goldthorpe, Murray Gibson, Derek Jones, Harry Compton and Jake Gregory (Convoy 1) and Rod Corbett, Colin Walkington, Raymond Keys and Dave Phipps (Convoy 2).


Participants assembled at the Becks Memorial Hall then headed to the track start at Lauder Station then headed up into the Dunstan Mountains, crossing into the Lauder Basin Conservation Area.  Convoys moved up the tracks without incident to the lunch stop.  In Convoy 1 Jake noted a Range Rover slipped into some tussocks to the side of the track above a drop-off – fortunately the driver recovered and got back on track on his own, losing a couple of mud flaps in the process.


At the lunch stop all went well until it was time to head off and make way for the second convoy -only to discover Derek’s trusty Safari had a sidewall leak and only had air at the top of the tyre!  Tyre and ego a bit deflated!  After a wheel change we moved off and Rod’s very patient second convoy moved on to the lunch spot.


We travelled over many more sections of track with sharp rocks without any more punctures and headed to the next stop for photos at some impressive rock formations amongst alpine tussocks.  Great views and numerous comments from the Safari participants on the ‘amazing landscape.’  


From here we moved along the ridges and some off-camber corners over firm dry tracks until the last photo stop at the boundary of the conservation area and Cluden Station.  Many more ‘amazing’ comments from happy participants before we headed down into Cluden Station for the last section of the trip.


After 6 hours elapsed time we arrived at the end where the Wanaka and Districts Lions Club caravan provided hot dogs and chips for the hungry passengers.  Initially we noted the queue for the porta loos was longer than the queue for the hot food!


Overall a great day travelling about 58 kms and climbing to 1663 m at the highest point.  We were extremely luck with hot sunny and calm weather all the way – none of the chilly mountain winds on this trip.


Our thanks go to Ian Sawers and his team from Wanaka and Districts Lions Club for the opportunity to work with them again to raise funds for Wanaka SAR.   Ian advises it was a successful fundraiser with 73 paying vehicles carrying 191 adults and 13 children.  


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