By Tony Orman

Here’s a terrific book by Ray Stone or I should say two books, for one deals with some backcountry drives in the North Island and its twin with selected South Island back country drives. 

Familiar references to the Tararua Range

And of particular interest to those on the Kapiti Coast is that one of the drives features the Otaki Gorge. Several decades ago, I used to holiday as a schoolboy with my parents at the family bach at Otaki beach. My father and I trout fished the Otaki River and into the start of the Gorge. I fished at times by going through the Arcus farm.

There in the book are several paragraphs entitled “The Arcus family of The Gorge”. In my late teens and early twenties I went deerstalking in the Otaki watershed, climbing to Field and Kime Huts or traversing through the bush to the Waitewaewae Hut by the upper reaches of the Otaki River.

At one stage the bridge was out at the Roaring Meg so we had to hoof it up the road to the Otaki Forks.

At the time of my fishing and hunting forays into the Otaki Gorge, I never realised the rich and intriguing history. Now thanks to author Ray Stone I do. The historical insights are an excellent feature of this twin set of books, really enhancing the information on driving back country roads and/or 4WD tracks.

Heading up the side roads …

The author gives excellent advice on the grade of difficulty on various treks. Some routes should only be attempted in good weather. Others are for only very experienced four wheel drive enthusiasts. The book gives very good advice in this respect.

I’m very inclined on holiday with an hour or two to spare, to poke up side roads, a sort of inquisitive tendency to explore.  If you tend in this direction “Stories from our Backroads” is a must.

It’s recommended that a reader considers getting not only the North Island volume but the South Island one too – for a holiday across Cook Strait. 

Maps of the routes feature and in the text there’s invaluable advice on the state of the routes relative to avoiding getting stuck! Plus those absorbing historical backgrounds really stand out. Very highly recommended.

 (Stories from Our Back Roads by Ray Stone is published by Bateman Books. Two volumes at $49.99 each, one covering the North Island and the other the South Island.)