Giti Tyres Big Test: The Rock in a Hard Place
This story begins at a large rock, located at a quiet junction on a road that's so off the grid it doesn't even appear on Google maps.
Te Awa junction - fondly known as "The Rock" - is deep in the heart of the Kaingaroa Forest, somewhere southeast of Rotorua.
This spot, surrounded by trees (obviously), is a well-known location for those who work within the region's foresty industry and it serves well as the ideal meeting place for us to catch up with JJ Caulfield (alias the Dog Handler) and the Mack Titan 6x4 off-highway logger he drives.
The eerie morning silence is soon punctured by the sound of a big MP10 engine-braking and through the forest gloom we spot the towering orange Titan Timber Mack...and (eventually) its iconic gold bulldog proudly sitting up high on the square bonnet.
This is immediately followed by two Mills-Tui trailers carrying a mighty load of logs - five packets of 'em, with an all-up weight of around 140 tonnes (giving it a payload of 100t or so).
Pirelli Trevor Test
It's over three years since my last outing into the world of off-highway logging in the Kaingaroa Forest.
We catch up with Gibbo Dhanjee's new Mack Titan and driver JJ Caulfield - the dayshift driver on the Titan Timber unit. We couldn't be in better hands, given JJ's years of experience.
Climbing up into this beast is no easy mission as I'm awaiting a knee rebuild and with only two steps between the ground and the cab floor, they're spaced well apart. There are good grabhandles to assist but the spacings are just too much - with what must be close to a 500mm climb from the top step into the cab.