Tractor trekkers are like a secret society. The vintage agricultural machinery buffs, aged up into their 70s and 80s, gather at back-block locations around the country to go "trekking". Of course, the tractors need to operate at slow speeds, so trekking happens where there is little traffic and hence the events are largely out of public view. A Tauranga Vintage Farm Machinery Club’s trek, through the hills behind Welcome Bay on June 7, was typical. Venerable Fordson, Dexta and Ferguson tractors began arriving at Waipuna Park, Kaitemako Road, from about 10am.
They joined David Browns, Holders and an Allis Charlmer — 19 old tractors in all. Drivers and passengers set off in impressive single file, at times reaching 20 km/h or more.
At the end of the tar seal the tractors "took off" overland, crossing ridges and farmland to reach Rowe Road, Ohauiti.
On Bill Flowerday's property they ascended to an altitude of 390 meters, stopping for lunch, coffee and dramatic photos panning across far Tauranga City. The caravan descended, via a valley hidden, onto a metal road and climbed to an airstrip for more glorious views across the Western Bay.
With rain approaching, trekkers descended to a woolshed for a barbecue and hot drinks. “Our 30km road trip created a lot of happy trekkers,” said club secretary Tom Deverall. “Restoring vintage this farm machinery takes place quietly, below the radar, but the machinery we work on is a joy to bring back to life.
As well as being a satisfying hobby, restoring and running the old equipment is a great way to preserve New Zealand's engineering history, he says.
"Let's remember, in its day these old tractors, plus the old motors and farming gear we restore, helped to make New Zealand more productive. They're a big reason why this country became prosperous."
And while the enthusiasts' old tractors were made for hard work, Tom says they're a lot of fun to operate. “If you think your Harley has power come along on a trek — we’ll show you some machines with real torque.”