|A typical example of New Zealand's one-way bridges, found near the Taumarunui end of the Forgotten World Highway|
Well thanks to a combination solo travel exhaustion and post solo travel distraction, it has been a little while since my last post. I am back in Melbourne now, but there remain stories to be told about my adventures on the other side of the Tasman. My last post left me in Whakapapa Village in Tongariro National Park. There I spent the best part of a day walking in the park while avoiding gale-force winds at higher altitude. Leaving Whakapapa early the next morning, I set out on what would be my longest driving day of my trip. My destination was Wellington, but after reading an article in Wheels magazine last year I was very keen to drive highway 43, otherwise known as the Forgotten World Highway, which required a slight detour on the way to Wellington.
The Forgotten World Highway seems to have it all: stunning scenery and relics of pioneering past all staged along 150km of winding road. Due to the necessity of reaching Wellington by evening, I drove the highway in reverse compared to the route recommended by the road's tourist brochure. As there are no petrol stations along the route, I filled up in Taumarunui and headed in the direction of Stratford.
|Rolling green hills along the Forgotten World Highway|
After just a short distance, I was confronted with scenery unlike anything I'd seen in New Zealand so far. Rolling, grassy hills lay before me, dotted with sheep and the occasional tree. The road, however was not quite as good as I hoped. While it was well surfaced, the occasional unexpected bump could be found, and the cambering of the corners was not to the standard of roads I had found in Northland. A sign a the beginning of the road stated "This is a public road, not a race track," and so I quickly erased from my mind all images of Sabine Schmitz piloting a Ford Transit around the Nürburgring, and continued with an appropriate degree of caution.
Roughly half-way along the route lies a 15km section of unsealed road through Tangarakau Gorge, but the road was wide and built to a high standard and offerred some of the most enjoyable driving of the day.
|Stopped for a break in the Republic of Whangamomona|
Whangamomona is a quaint little historic township that lies about fifty kilometres from Stratford. As well as its impressive historic buildings, it is famous for having declared independence from New Zealand in 1989. I didn't stop for long enough to discover the history of this event, but to the casual visitor like myself it seems to have little real meaning apart from adding a little more interest to an already interesting town.
|Narrow-gauge railway winds through the region's luscious scenery|
|The road to A Bridge To Somewhere|
The Forgotten World Highway tourist map lists thirty-three points of interest along the route. I stopped for just a few of these, but one that I was keen to visit in fact lied about thirty kilometres off the main road. The Bridge to Somewhere is found at Aotuhia and serves as the only relic to the pioneer settlement that was once there. Had I properly taken into account the amount of time required to get there I may have had second thoughts, but by the time I realised that the detour was both substantial and a little arduous I was already well on my way. To reach the bridge to somewhere I took a small, though appropriately well-maintained gravel road through farmland on a journey that took about fifty minutes in each direction. After driving quite slowly for that amount of time on gravel road, the bridge itself seemed like something of an anticlimax. However, it was quite a unique experience to come around a corner in the middle of nowhere, having driven for what seemed like an eternity through fields and valleys find such a substantial bridge before my eyes. I think the biggest disappointment though was knowing that I had to drive all the way back again on the same road.
|The Bridge to Somewhere|
|Starting to feel a little weary, the Bridge to Somewhere was the perfect place for a lunch stop|
After a brief break for lunch, I returned to the main road to continue my journey. By this point I was starting to tire, and was keen to get to Stratford, know that Wellington was still another 300kms from there. Having left Whakapapa before eight that morning, I arrived at my accommodation in Wellington a little after six thirty in the evening. Having only had a handful of short breaks over the day, I had driven for nearly nine hours straight for the first time in my life and as a result felt completely exhausted.
This was the last day that provided much in the way of driving excitement, but in my next post I will share the rest of my journey, and give my summary thoughts on the van.