The Forgotten Highway

NZ | Taupo – Taurumanui – Whongamomona – Hawera – Whanganui | 13th Dec '14 - 17th Dec '14 | 1761km

We were cheered enthusiastically (or perhaps sarcastically) out of Taupo by a large crowd of Ironman supporters, taking it upon ourselves to show them what aerodynamics are really about. From here, the original plan had been to travel down the Whaganui River, partly by jet boat, the combination of the words 'jet' and 'boat' seeming irresistible. Unfortunately, it turned out to be eye-wateringly expensive. Instead, we were advised, 'you could take The Forgotten Highway'.

To us, it sounded like it had all the makings of a low budget horror film. An ancient Maori trade route snaking 180km through the remote countryside of mazy, angular tussocks. We passed a sign that said 'no gas for 150km' which, ultimately, was a bit of an understatement. The road briefly became a gravel track as it wound through the high sided Tangarakau river gorge. Besides the impressive scenery, there wasn't much else, except a single pub halfway in Whongamomona, which turned out to be the self pronounced capital of its own Republic. Whongamomona is also one of few places in the world where animals can, and do, legally hold public office. Electing animals started out as a form of protest but has since become tradition. The current President is known as Murtle the Turtle and is serving his second term.

I'm not entirely sure why it has been ‘forgotten’ as it was some of the best bit of riding we’ve done so far, but it certainly had a relaxing ‘back in time’ feel; quiet now, but once busy, dotted with run down farm buildings, a disused railway and sleepy livestock. As we find our groove and take less time wrestling with tent poles in the morning, we’re thinking ahead and carrying more supplies. Fortunate, as we’re hungry almost all the time and The Forgotten Highway wasn't about to bequeath a Little Chef unto us at any point. But we weren't complaining, with switchbacks galore every time the road is forced up and over a ‘saddle’ and into the next valley.

As the undulations petered out, we crested a final saddle to be rewarded with a clear view of the perfectly triangular Mount Taranaki, one of the mountain warriors banished after the battle mentioned in our last post. We ended with a charge down the first bit of coastline we've seen since the Coromandel, though we're back on the busier roads we’re not as keen on. Murtle's highways and byways legislation was much more preferable.