On a foggy Autumn Sunday morning at 9am, 42 vehicles, the oldest over 90 years, descended upon the Southern Trust Events Centre carpark at Morgans Road for our 49th Mystery ramble, organized by Joan Paul and Colin Lyon. The theme for 2017 was ‘Transport’.

With Joan handing out instructions upon leaving the grounds, we were headed due north-east to reach our first stop, the Mountain View Village retirement village.

With a drive around the park-like surroundings of houses – 95 in total – that resembled palatial full-size ones at 2/3 the scale, we were soon hosted by residents at the village’s recreation centre.

Over cups of tea, coffee and biscuits, we were given a talk about the village by resident Robin Harrison, particurly covering the history, the facilities and the costs to live there.

Residents took quite an interest in our vehicles – Bruce Washington’s globe-trotting Chrysler receiving its share of attention once its engine was fired up in the carpark.

With all other engines fired up, it was soon a trip further east for us, out into the industrial environs of Washdyke, and the large truck filled Hilton Haulage complex on Sheffield Street.

Ushered inside the staffroom (aka the “Hilton Shanty”), with mostly standing room only, we were treated to a lively talk, from Director, Peter McAuley.

Peter gave us a most interesting insight into the beginnings of the freight company in the 1970’s. At that time there was a highly regulated economy, no cellphones, computers, curtain siders and few shipping containers. A big truck was 180 horsepower and could only travel 40 miles without a special permit – often feeling the strain when travelling with full loads gradually uphill between Timaru and Rangitata. To the present day, Hilton Haulage has grown into a large regional transport and logistics company serving most of New Zealand, and their motto ‘Carrying Canterbury’s Future’ is testament to the hard work, straightforward decision making and ‘never saying no’ attitude when doing a good job for their customers.

Inside and outside, we saw first-hand the logistic operations making them tick – a modern open-plan office, and the ‘mobile offices’ outside – lines upon lines of powerful well-presented trucks, a number of which were complete with sleeper-cabs.

By this time the morning’s fog had lifted, and the day was well over 20 degrees in the noon day sun.

It was just before noon that we hit the road – the Barnes’ motorcycle/sidecar combo reaching fair speed at Seadown – due west through Kerrytown and Pleasant Point to reach our lunch venue, the homestead and gardens of Dave and Jenny Howey’s deer farm, nestled high on the hills above the Opihi river.

It was a long climb up, though we all found a space in their immaculate garden, and picnics were soon laid out in shaded areas. Run as a commercial operation, Dave gave us a detailed talk about the farming practices and the occasional rugged encounters he had received when working with deer. Two sets of antlers were displayed, and these were heavy – which begs one to wonder how the animals carry such a weight on their heads? Further taking our interest were the gardens around the property, developed by Dave and family, which included two ponds nestled into the hills.
Several members were further crowded around open bonnets – one of note, Ron Hammer’s newly acquired Australian Leyland Marina gaining attention, owing to having a factory fitted 2.6L 6-cylinder engine shoehorned into its compact engine bay.

While many of us could have stayed for quite awhile, we had literally a further flying visit – several nautical miles east at the private hangars of the South Canterbury Aero Club, at Timaru Airport.

With a large club hangar open, there were several categories and ages of privately owned small planes on site, along with a glider. Aero club members were on site to give us a guided tour of the planes, and answered many questions; Allan Barr telling us what each plane on site was capable of.

Overall, this proved a most interesting Mystery ramble – Thankyou Joan and Colin, we eagerly look forward to the 50th.

Shannon Stevenson – with contributions from Joan Paul