By AMANDA BOWES
Three tractors, which had trekked hundreds of kilometres, pulled up at the Hawarden Tavern on Sunday.
It was not a case of thirsty farmers, but the team from Expedition South, who are now two-thirds of the way through their 2012km journey aimed at raising funds to restore Sir Edmond Hillary’s ‘A Hut’ in the Antarctic.
The drivers were taking a breather after travelling from Hanmer Springs, where they had spent Saturday night, and chatted with the locals about their trek which left Piha on August 28.
Their mantra, “Give a fiver to the driver” is a reflection of the New Zealand five dollar note on which Sir Edmond is displayed – along with a tractor on the old note.
Expedition leader, Al Fastier, says the two small Massey Ferguson TE20 tractors are the same that Sir Ed used on his famous trip across the South Pole in 1957/58.
Along with the two Fergies, there is a modern large tractor, the Antarctica 2, the same model used in 2014 to cross the South Pole by a young Norwegian woman.
Expedition South aims to raise $1 million to restore the hut, which is leaking, needs asbestos removing and new piles. It is the only remaining building from Sir Ed’s camp and was used as the mess and kitchen.
Al has been accompanied on the long journey by Brian Blyth, who keeps the tractors going and Lydia McLean who works out the route and where camp will be for the night. The big tractor was driven by Peter Scott, from Massey Ferguson for this leg of the journey.
Having driven through Molesworth Station in snow, the drivers had a slight idea of what it must have been like for Sir Ed. Al says the manager kindly snow ploughed the track for them and offered accommodation, providing fuel for the fires and thawing the pipes. There were still a few hairy moments for the two TE20 tractors, but the big tractor got them out of trouble.
After leaving Hawarden, the team trekked through McDonald Downs to Lees Valley where another kind farmer offered them the use of a lodge for the night – the most luxurious accommodation on the whole trip.
Al says the highlight of the trip has been the enthusiasm and kindness of people where ever they have been – even Aucklanders were cheering them on as they struggled to get out of the big city.
Having raised over half a million so far, the Antarctic Heritage Trust is hopeful they will reach their one million mark.
The trek will finish at Mt Cook/Aoraki where Sir Ed stayed and tested his tractors on the slopes to help in preparation for his trip from Scott Base to the South Pole. It also marks the end of the 2012km trip, which was the same distance Sir Ed travelled.