Ten days in an SUV driving around the north island of New Zealand on a 3000kms trek through the countryside was how I spent the last week and a bit. It was a magical experience, 20 cars as part of a convoy on an epic journey raising money for the Paralympics and other organisations.
It started in Auckland and finished with my liver soaking up the vast majority of New Zealand’s red wine supply. I played the role of navigator mostly but when in the Walker brother’s car you could say I was a tipsy backseat dweller, I blame Scotty mostly. Charity may have been the driver on this trek but fun was the fuel.
When you get 47 people who mostly have done this before on many other desert duels around Australia a certain camaraderie develops, that was evident in the banter between cars on the radio and especially at night during the dinners when awards were announced like ‘dummy of the day’.
The resident dummy did have to wear an orange bowtie the next day, I did win the ‘DD’ award on the first night for a mad scramble to get my passport renewed which required a lot of begging at the passport office the day before my flight just to make it to New Zealand, first class dumb behavior on my part.
One of the best things on this ‘desert duel’ was the car hoping, even though the Walker boys threatened the leave my wheels behind at every pit stop they were a riot, Phil may have aimed for every roadkill we came across but he also waved at every local on the side of the road, Karen made me laugh with her ‘Karenisms’ and to the answer of “Where do those furry Kiwi’s live?”, Tash came out with “we should just look up their address”, hilarious.
Brian was fascinating as a former boss of a major record label, Belinda Green had me riveted when she told me about the night she was crowned Miss World and Lisa and I got into a discussion about Game of Thrones that seemed to last for hours and the ‘back up boys’ had me giggling as they carried on like an old married couple.
Some of the roads were tricky and it rained almost constantly but the places we saw stretching from one end of the top island of New Zealand to the other were magical. From the rocky crashing of the waves at Cape Palliser to the very northern tip at Cape Reinga Lighthouse, our ANZAC neighbors really do have a beautiful country.
The walker boys had The Horse Race down the middle of restaurant row in Rotorua, we flipped coins into a boot at Hobbiton (The Lord of the Rings movie set), the sea lions snorted at us in Cape Palliser, we survived the 100 year flood at Miranda Holiday Park, we became ‘Gangsters and Molls’ in Napier and travelled the ‘Forgotten Highway to the republic of Whangamomona, where we slept in the pub, hung with the locals, sang songs and Karen rode the ‘Sheriff’s’ horse down the main street in the dead of night.
The Desert Duel over the years has raised almost a million dollars for various causes, a wonderful amount of money all through the generosity and spirit of people who want to make a difference. They are truly a great bunch and these last ten days will be an experience I’ll never forget, thank you Desert Duelers.