How we find tracks
September 2018 | Words by Daniel
We frequently get asked how we find routes, tracks and campsites to explore, so I thought I’d take a few moments and explain my approach for figuring out where to go and what to see! Obviously we’re into the touring/overlanding side of offroading more than the “getting stuck in the mud” approach, so if you want to find mud, this probably isn’t the post for you.
In New Zealand (and I imagine most other countries, to be fair), people aren’t always willing to share their finds, and sadly, that’s often for good reasons. There have been many issues over the years with spots being shut because people head in and tear them up or cause other issues. Four-wheel drives aren’t looked upon favourably by environmental groups and things quickly get closed off at any sign of trouble. The downside to all of this is that it can be tricky to find cool spots to go visit, but trust me when I say there are still a lot out there.
Now, no one likes seeing the sausage being made, so to speak, so what we publish is carefully curated imagery and video from our trips. We show the fun parts of what we do, the amazing views and the cool campsites. What we don’t show are the hours sitting on the highways, the ‘caravan parks’ we sometimes end staying up at or the frustration at heading down a cool looking road only to find there’s a locked gate and we can’t get to what we wanted to see. Those things are what makes up a trip though; they’re part of doing what we all love - exploring awesome places.
The less glamorous side
Sitting in roadworks on SH1 somewhere south of Auckland...
Getting ready to go in the morning in a fairly bland campsite
When you forget to buy vehicle registration before you leave
Right, that’s the less fun part out of the way, so how do we find cool places to visit? Everything you need is out there. There’s mapping software, books and of course other people’s experiences. Facebook generally isn’t the best place to ask for advice for the reasons mentioned above.
When planning our trips, we pick an area we want to go, we then dive into Google Maps and NZ Topomaps and start clicking around, looking for gravel roads that bypass highways and big climbs into the hills. We then cross reference with Google Street View and Youtube where possible to see if there’s any obvious gates or signs of private property where things start looking interesting. Google Maps is also pretty good at pointing out interesting landmarks and places you might want to stop on the way.
You could use the highway between Auckland and Raglan or you could take the back way
Once we have a list of roads and places we want to go I tend to start Googling them to see if there’s any info out there on the condition of them and their access status. This can be pretty hit and miss, but sometimes reveals a lot of handy information when we’re deciding if it’s worth looking. Lots of 4WD clubs have documented public roads and some of them publish photos which is awesome. When we can’t find much it’s generally a case of chucking it on the list and hoping for the best.
Once we’re out and about the fun starts - using the research we did at home before leaving, we find the roads and start exploring them, taking as many side roads as we can. Lots of them won’t lead anywhere interesting… Other ones will take you through some of the most amazing spots New Zealand has to offer.
What about campsites?
We generally use a mix of DOC and CamperMate campsites. They both offer a range of different sites to stay at, with CamperMate’s usually being a bit more developed, which is sometimes nice on a long trip. The DOC campsites are normally far more remote and picturesque and are by far our favourite places to stay when we can. In terms of cost, we stay at a lot of free sites, but we always make sure we carry small denominations of cash to pay camp fees or leave a donation. A few bucks goes a long way in keeping places open for everyone to enjoy.
Wait… It’s that simple?
Pretty much - it can be a lot of work though. We spend many hours reading maps and researching to find places worth going to. Once on the road we spend a lot of time driving around attempting to find amazing spots and routes and then documenting them to help you plan your next trip!