The Gumboot Rally has been running every six months since 2013 and I first became aware of it in 2014 after the second event. It usually starts around Hamilton, though it is moving further North for the next event. The location made it a bit more of a mission for us to attend as we’re Wellington based and have a young daughter, and the timing was never quite right, but thanks to this event being shifted from February to May 2015 we were able to attend.
The event theme of “racecar” was announced in late 2014, giving participants plenty of time to think of a theme for their teams. The previous theme was “zombie apocalypse”. Earlier events didn’t have an overall theme so teams were free to come up with whatever ideas they wanted. As I drive a red car I decided Lightning McQueen was my best option and set about creating my car’s look. I scoured Ebay for Rust-Eze stickers, found some suitably tacky fake side exhausts and bought some yellow vinyl to make the lightning bolts and race numbers, then spent many happy hours sorting out the details with spray paint, permanent markers and tyre pens.
A week before the event the Gumboot sticker pack arrived with the event sponsor stickers and car numbers. I’m quite fond of stickers so I couldn’t resist stickering up the car as soon as I had them. The theme was coming together and there was still a week to go!
Included in the email briefing was a list of items that we had to take, including insulating tape, marker pens and a dress that fit one of the team members.
Eventually the day came to head up to Raglan for the start of the event. We got the house/child/animal sitter organised then headed North. After a leisurely drive up State Highway 1 past at least six speed camera vans we arrived in Raglan that evening. After a good night’s sleep at a local B&B we headed to the start location at a reserve near the coast.
We were pretty early but there were already about a dozen cars there out of the 48 who had signed up. The atmosphere was friendly with some excitement about the day ahead. we were handed our rally numbers, Gumboot T-shirt and mission pack. The mission pack was an A4 booklet about 20 pages long containing the event rules, organiser contact details, route directions, missions and questions.
We wandered around, checking out the cars, chatting to people and watching the others roll in. There was quite a variety of cars, including a group of old-school Fords, a Lotus, supercharged Merc, a couple of M3s, a slammed Audi A3, Toyota Starlet, even a Nissan Probox wagon!
There was a wide range of themes and extremes, some all-out like the Mario Kart Suzuki Swift which took the best theme prize, some with just the Gumboot stickers. There were race themed details all over the place. Pool noodle and bamboo roll-cages, ridiculous spoilers, professional looking, or just drawn-on race decals. The Stig’s Capri constantly played the Crazy Frog music as it drove along, the Mario car played Mario tunes and sound effects from speakers in its huge fake exhausts!
There were costumes too – the aforementioned Stig, animal suits, superheroes, Mario and Luigi. We were definitely going to get some attention!!
The Gumboot team of Andy, Gator, Mikey and Duncan gave a short safety briefing where we were reminded that this was a rally on public roads, and all road rules must be followed at all times. If anyone got a speeding ticket they would be excluded from all prizes, and of course safety was paramount.
The drivers were led down to the bottom of the hill and we did a Le Mans style start back to our cars! Not being accustomed to running up hills I was somewhat out of breath as we set off out of the gate.
Our first mission was to head back to Raglan and take a photo with a fisherman! After a mad dash along the dock and talking to some rather bemused locals, we headed off out of town. A quick stop to count some windmills and we headed off the state highway and on to the back roads. The directions given were sparse but adequate. No distances mentioned, just “take the next left onto xxx Road”. Sometimes it was a couple of kilometers, sometimes 30. We decided to leave the GPS and map alone and trust the directions, which meant a couple of overshot junctions throughout the weekend and one wrong turn where the directions said right but should have said left! But we didn’t get lost.
After a spirited drive of about 75km and a short tunnel (where we were reminded to drop a cog and open her up!) we pulled up in a reserve car park for our next challenge. Points were awarded for an optional pit crew mission – remove a wheel, roll it around the car and re-fit. A safety check was compulsory before leaving the car park.
A series of awesome roads followed, with a couple of missions along the way, eventually putting us in Morrinsville just in time for lunch. This was an opportunity to take a short break, find some refreshments, and complete a bonus mission by buying a toy replica of our car.
There was some sort of local festival going on and the main highway was closed, so we had to improvise a little to get back on the planned route. We caused a bit of a stir with the locals with our stickered-up cars!
Back onto the back roads, through some farmland, with the occasional small child waiting by the road to wave at us, we headed off towards our next stop for more missions. An exhilarating climb up Maungakawa Road led us to another reserve. We crawled up the gravel track, rocks scraping along the underside of the car, right to the top for a photo opportunity and a couple of small missions, then we eased back down the road and were off!
Another long and spirited drive took us to via a couple of stops all the way to Rotorua!
This section of the rally rewarded us with the perfect mission to go with our car theme – we needed to find a rusty tow truck by the side of the road. Perfect!
After stopping briefly near Rotorua we headed North towards Tauranga, our final destination for the day. Near Tauranga, as the sun started to settle towards the horizon we turned off the main highway onto a narrow road through a gorge. The last thing we expected to come face to face with was a cattle truck and trailer! The driver was having a good laugh at us as we pulled halfway into the ditch to let him past.
With over 375km covered, we finally pulled up at Mount Maunganui Beach as the sun set to carry out our final mission for the day, heading up to the lookout point and counting the number of steps!
We went and checked into our motel then wandered around the corner to the pub for our pre-booked evening meal and a couple of well-earned drinks. This was a chance to socialise, have a few laughs and and get to know a few of our fellow Gumbooters a bit better.
The next morning we headed out to the day’s starting point, via a petrol station for fuel and breakfast. We parked up then wandered around chatting to people as the rest of the cars gradually arrived. Several bemused locals passed by, they obviously didn’t quite know what to make of the stickered-up cars and crowd of people. We found out that a few cars didn’t make it to the second day due to mechanical failures, but most of us were there. There was a short briefing for the day followed by us all singing happy birthday to one of the Gumbooters, much to her embarrassment. Then it was time to set off.
We headed North and stayed on the main road for a while before heading off onto the back roads. At one point on a winding, bumpy road, much to my surprise, we were overtaken at great speed by a white van with a mattress on the roof! Shortly after that we pulled up in a small reserve car park for a series of missions, the first of which was a “drag race”. Suddenly the reason for the dress was clear! What followed was a mildly disturbing and highly amusing series of foot races involving lots of blokes in dresses. Some even decided to keep them on for the rest of the day.
After a quick photo mission we headed up the hill to drop off the mini version of our car we’d bought the previous day, then it was back on the road, through a gorge, a cruise through Paeroa and we headed out onto some of the longest, straightest roads I’ve seen in New Zealand. After an exhilarating drive we eventually came back to the main road.
We headed towards Auckland for a while then turned off again onto some fantastic driving roads. Quiet, with sweeping bends climbing up and down hills but with good visibility for taking racing lines, and good surfaces. We met up with everyone briefly for a quick photo mission then headed off again.
The roads were just as fun to drive as we carried on but not as well maintained as the ones we’d just come from. After a few incidents where my car made contact with the road surface I eased off and took it easy for a while, pulling over to let others with more ground clearance pass. The was one little moment where I pulled over into a layby a little bit too fast and slid along the gravel for a while, ABS going mad, handbrake also engaged. It was slightly too exciting!!
We soon reached our lunch stop at Mercer Services, with half an hour to eat and chill out.
We headed out of Mercer on a series of small country roads, looking for and missing several of the things we needed to spot along the way to answer mission questions, and eventually stopping in the small town of Te Kowhai where we had to choose our new race car from the, er, limited selection of cars at the local second-hand car dealer.
The rest of the way was a bit of a cooldown on the state highways into central Hamilton, where our final destination was Joe’s Garage.
With just under 700km covered, the Gumboot Rally was over. As the team totalled up the scores (according to a top secret and ever-changing formula) we had some excellent pizza, shared a few laughs with our fellow Gumbooters and waited for the results. The team handed out some excellent prizes for best theme, highest mission score, and several others.
Eventually people started to head home, so we packed up and headed up the street to our motel for a well-earned rest before we headed back to Wellington the following day.
The Gumboot Rally is a great event. It’s well organised and the team obviously have a lot of fun planning and taking part in it. It’s very much about the driving with the missions being less important, but still a big part of the fun. It’s also about the socialising. A lot of time is spent driving but at the stops it tends to be the same people who you bump into and interact with. It’s a serious workout for your car, and yourself.
In total we covered 1867km over four days My car gained a few new scrapes underneath and probably some new stone chips but performed really well. It certainly got some attention with all of the stickers! Oh and my lovely wife managed to do the whole thing including navigating without getting car sick!
The next event – Pirates of Gumboot Cove – is September 5th and 6th from Orewa to Paihia to Orewa. Entry fee is $120 per car, plus the cost of meals and accommodation. If you like to actually drive your car and see some of the most remote roads in New zealand I highly recommend it!
Details, ticket sales etc at gumbootrally.com