After being museumed out at Hawera and a welcome early night it was off for Taumarunui via the Forgotten World Highway (FWH), a narrow twisty wonderland said to be one of the most scenic drives in the world – and also one of the most dangerous in NZ, 149 kilometres (92.58 miles) long, “built on colonial bridle paths formed in the late19th century, the highway is remote and mysterious to the extreme”…. “There’s some extraordinary scenery along here – some of the most unspoiled bush to be seen on any New Zealand roadside” … The road took 50 years to complete from the day it was begun until the day it was opened in 1945.
For more information see
Yielding one lovely vista after another, the FWH was thankfully surfaced up to Whangamomona but there was a long unsurfaced stretch after that. We met few other vehicles and only one motorcycle.
We stopped at the Strathmore Saddle, considered the start of the “back country”, with our last view of Mt. Taranaki and dairy farming land to the east. There were once plans to build a tunnel here. The winding road at times was like a tunnel through lush ferns and at other times offered views of long ripples of mountain ranges, all clad in deep green. It would be a different picture in winter time.
Halfway along we stopped at the famed Whangamomona Pub, enjoying a coffee while observed by a possum hanging from the “chandelier” (!).
Here is a map for motorcyclists which shows how dangerous the road is for them. And we were towing a large heavy caravan!
The Tahora Saddle came next – overlooking mountains, railway tunnels, and three Maori pa sites.
We caught occasional glimpses of the old railway line now the basis for the Twenty Tunnels” railcart adventure. We had thought to repeat this adventure of some eight years ago but the cost deterred us.
Some way further on we stopped to admire the 180 metre long single-lane Moki Tunnel with its cathedral roof. Also known s the Hobbit’s Hole, it was hand-carved with pickaxes.
We also broke the journey to inspect the grave of Joshua Morgan, an early surveyor who blazed the trail for the road through the Tangarakau Gorge, battling incredibly dense bush and mountainous country. His wife is buried there with him.
We finally reached Taumarunui and a welcome cup of tea with friends David and Marion who had looked after our mini foxie Penny when we were touring Australia some six years ago. David, the former Secretary of Clan Johnston/e in NZ, gave the new editor of the Clan’s magazine (me) some very useful information. then on to Otorohanga and another NZNCA camp for the night. Next day was cold and overcast so we decided to forego another visit to the famed NZ bird sanctuary and its white kiwis. Perhaps on our way back south?
Bypassing Hamilton, we arrived at the NZMCA camp at Ardmore Aerodrome near Papakura in good time. We will make our home here for a few days. The camp is now strictly dog-free after some incredibly errant member took his dog for a walk not only out of the restricted NZMCA area but right on the main runway a few years ago! The NZMCA was lucky to retain permission for the camp which is a very useful resting place for caravans and motorhomes on their way north before tackling the Auckland spaghetti jungle of main roads.
Unfortunately I managed to catch a gastro bug and need to lie low for a few days, but recovered enough to visit the Papakura Library with Dave and do some much-needed computer work.
Two corrections to earlier travel blog postings:
(First blog) we drove through the Waipara vineyards (thanks to Lesley, who was a little puzzled as to how we had apparently got so far north so quickly).
(Last blog) – we were welcomed to the Tawhiti Museum by a Moa, not just a disosaur!