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Epic Roadie in the Toyota RAV4

If someone offered you a car for a week, with no limits, what would you do?? Well surely, you’d organise an epic adventure roadie with two of your besties – because that’s what I did! From Tauranga to Christchurch (which included Rotorua, Taupo, Tongariro, Wellington, Masterton, Marlborough Sounds, Kaikoura, Arthurs’ Pass and finally, Timaru!) we packed up our mountain bikes and a sense of adventure. The result? An experience that proved to be even more epic than I could have imagined (minus a hospital visit, but more on that later!).

Toyota has just released a new RAV4 Hybrid, the first of its type with self-charging options. Anything better on the environment, not to mention your pocket, is a win-win for me. And I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to put it through its paces. From highways to rural roads, cities to mountains, she was an absolute dream and didn’t miss a beat.

So why me? The campaign, aptly named Re:Define (they have literally rebuilt this bad boy from the ground up) also fits well with my own personal journey. That moment on Outward Bound when I made a pact with myself to change direction, has, in a way, allowed me to redefine my life too. You may look at me and think I have a glamorous life (social media is a beast!) and yes, I go on some AMAZING adventures, but I have worked jolly hard to get here. And when an opportunity pops up to work with Toyota, I’m definitely saying yes!

It turns out the only constant on this roadie was that nothing was constant (except for the wind, damn you spring weather!). Our first mishap – no towbar for our bike rack!! Luckily the RAV4 has been redesigned with a spacious interior because with 3 humans, our luggage and mountain bikes, we needed every inch available! Yes, it was snug, BUT we did manage to fit everything in. Phew! Glad I was the driver!

Our second mishap turned out to be a little more serious. After three flat tyres (I kid you not) we finally got on our bikes at Redwoods in Rotorua, only for Scottie to take a tumble. A quick assessment revealed our mountain biking was done for the day. An ambulance was called, which never turned up (seriously!! but I’ll leave that rant for another day), so we packed her into the RAV4 and headed for Rotorua hospital. Thankfully the RAV4 provided a super smooth ride (as much as can be when you’ve dislocated your shoulder!), definitely an upgrade from the quad which took her off the bike park! No broken bones, phew, but not at all ideal for her (or Jacqs and me; we were now an adventure buddy down!).

Mishap #3 (do you see a theme developing here?!) came as we pulled up to the shuttle which would take us to the start of the Tongariro Crossing, our adventure for the day. The bad news - the shuttle was cancelled due to high winds. The good news – we could still go up and back from the north side. So, as we were already there (and it was only 6:30am), we decided to go for it.

My advice (if it’s possible) is to start early and get a good pace on, because this is a SUPER popular walk, even with cancelled shuttles! We overtook people as we cruised our way up until we managed to hit the snow and make fresh tracks for the final push to the top. As South Islanders, neither of us had done this Great Walk before and were blown away with the views (and the VERY well-kept trail). I don’t think we can tick this off as complete, however, so we will be back, maybe just not in spring!

The extra km’s (we went back to Taupo to pick up our wingman aka Scottie) meant plenty of opportunities to test the functions of the RAV4. And who doesn’t love pressing buttons! I know cruise control is ‘so last year’, but my car doesn’t have it, and I took full advantage (and now I definitely need to upgrade). And you don’t even need to adjust your speed if a car slows in front of you – it does it all itself. Magic. Plus, it keeps getting better – it helps you stay inside your lane (if you wish – surely every tourist needs this car?!).

And then we were two. Sadly, we dropped wingman aka Scottie at the airport in Wellington then jumped on the Ferry to Picton for the second half of our adventure. Not going to lie, it was great to be back in the mighty South! Our initial plan was to head to the West Coast and bike the Old Ghost Road, but with snow forecast for the next two days, and sunshine on the East Coast, we wisely decided to opt for Plan B.

The Marlborough Sounds is a special place for me. At 28, I went on an Outward Bound course. It was a game-changer for so many reasons, you’d almost go so far as saying Re:Defining (see what I did there). As I stood at the end of the trail looking back towards Anakiwa, and the beautiful bays, I was grateful for having the courage to change my path. And here I was doing a gig with Toyota, on my mountain bike with two legends beside me. And even better, I wasn’t in an office. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to realise how far you’ve come.

There are a few places that steal my heart – and one of them for me is my uncle, aunt and cousin's property, Bluff Station. Situated inland from Kekerengu along the Kaikoura Coast, it an adventure playground on steroids. The surrounding mountains envelop you, a tiny speck in a massive landscape – my idea of heaven. Nature’s blue is my favourite colour, and no matter where you look, you can easily find it out there.

Following a 4WD track out the back, it was time to take the RAV4 off-road and see how she handled the real NZ terrain. Is it just me, or does everyone clench their butt checks each time you drive over a slightly-bigger-than-normal rock? You’ll be pleased to know (Toyota probably more so!) that we sailed over everything, thanks to its higher ground clearance – even through the rivers! The only issue was we couldn’t stay for longer.

I love days that have no real plan. A boomer forecast meant an early drive up the hill to watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. I never regret getting up early, and this was no different (even if it was a little cold!). She was spectacular and set us up nicely for a cracker day.

Have you ever worked with bees? Me neither! But after a little convincing from Jacqs (she was full-beans keen) I donned a bee suit, making sure to duct tape any slight hint of a gap (I’m convinced Scott was setting me up to fail!) and headed off with Scott and Tomo to locate the queens. While I can happily say I’m not going to be a beekeeper anytime soon, I did enjoy learning a skill (even if the constant buzz took a bit of getting used to!).

Setting off from Bluff mid-morning, we had the rest of the day to fill in. After a squiz on the Wild Things website (a must for anyone exploring new places), we settled on Mt Fyffe, which overlooks Kaikoura. A good grunt and a decent distance ticked the adventure goal nicely, setting off just after midday. It was a pearler – bluebird skies and views as far as the eye could see (again, a little windy at the top!) but stoked to have explored somewhere new. It comes highly recommended.

As we cruised in the sunshine down the Kaikoura Coast back to Christchurch, waving at the friendly stop-go traffic controllers, we didn’t have a care in the world. Precisely what every real road trip should be. And yes, we tested out the horn through the tunnels (can confirm she sounds grunty), because in my opinion, it’s a crime not to, no matter what your age!

Ah, the legendary ‘nor west – annoying Coast to Coast competitors since forever ago! With rivers slightly higher than usual (but still safe enough) we headed for the Deception Bridge to tick off our first Goats Pass crossing for the summer. Jacqs is giving the 1-Day a crack (yeah, girl) while I am #1 support crew. I am taking my role very seriously, and this means being her buddy on all adventure missions. Dream result.

Every time I run this trail, it still takes me by surprise – it isn’t called Goat’s Pass for nothing! Barely any trails (even less due to some significant flooding) means knowing this track is a huge advantage when it comes to race day. We took our time, checking out options for both sides of the river (and warming up our feet as that snow-melt water is FREEZING!).

It’s always a relief to make it to the hut, but we didn’t stop this time, eating on the go and constantly chatting as we meandered our way out and back to the RAV4 at the end. Now how to shave an hour or more off our time??

With the past week of adventures starting to catch up on my energy levels, it was a nice to get into the RAV4 and drive in comfort all the way back to Christchurch.

I stopped in at my parents’ house on my way to Timaru, only to discover my gorgeous nephews were there too. Such is the nature of children, they have endless amounts of energy, so Mum suggested we head to Peel Forest for a walk to Acland Falls. The boys were raving about it, having done it a few weeks earlier, convinced they would ‘show us the way!’.

Two car seats and three adults fitted like a dream in the RAV4 as we cruised down the familiar roads for the afternoon adventure (albeit slightly less strenuous than the previous days!). Constant chatter from Mr Five with Mr Three a step behind, we made our way through the native bush and beautiful birdsong, before stopping at the Store on our way home for the ultimate kiwi road trip essential – an ice cream!

I always feel privileged to be asked to speak in front of people and share my adventure journey (even if I still get super nervous!). So it was fitting to finish off my gig with Toyota and head to Timaru for the Aoraki Sports Awards. Many moons ago I once sat at these awards (nominated for aerobics!), and I hope that I inspired a few out in the crowd, no matter their age, to pursue what they love.

And just like that – the week was done. I said after getting back from crossing the Greenland ice cap, my ‘next’ mission was to explore my backyard (thanks Toyota, for helping me out!). It’s easy to dream big and head overseas, but have you ventured to the four corners of NZ? This trip highlighted the fact that we are so lucky to live in this part of the world, which has so much to offer (and how much we still have to explore). And what better way to do it than with a couple of besties in one of the best vehicles on the market, ideally suited to my urban/adventure lifestyle.

On that note, Toyota… any chance of an upgrade??

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