Back in 1983 when I travelled from Stratford in Taranaki through to Taumarunui it really was like passing through a forgotten world, a torturous and in places dangerous drive. They know a thing or two about marketing in this part of the world and now travelling the Forgotten World Highway, New Zealand oldest Heritage Trail, is something of a tourist attraction. I think "highway" is a stretch of the imagination. It's a pretty narrow and winding road that wriggles its way over four mountain saddles and through very beautiful scenery. If you are in a hurry you can drive the whole route in three hours, but then, if you are in a hurry don’t drive there at all since it will be just a waste of your time. You have to take your time in order to truly feel and experience the “Forgotten” part of it. It took me about three hours just to reach Whangamomona.
From the top of this ragged saddle, on a clear day, I'd be able to see the three volcanoes of Tongariro National Park to the east and the snow-topped cone of Mount Taranaki to the west. I went on the wrong day but will be back another time, on a day the weather is better and I get out of bed earlier so I can do the entire route.
From another saddle, a good view of the railway line. The road is off to the left a bit.
I only went as far as this bridge on the far side of Whangamomona.
In the township I'd visited the two churches (and the pub for a cup of coffee). The first was locked but a friendly local informed me (by shouting from his passing utility) that the other wasn't. The timber lining the walls of St Johns Anglican church was kauri, I think, gave a lovely warm feeling which the red around the windows enhanced. I'm one of those tourists who doesn't like sharing my experiences with other tourists. I wanted to tell the bunch of Australians who were there at the same time to go away.
There was a mechanical workshop next to the church. Two men, dressed in identical blue check shirts and jeans (same as the guy in the ute, I guessed they were part of the town's tourist attractions) were busy inspecting this van. Yeah, really!
The residents of this tiny settlement declared it a republic in 1989 after disapproving of local government plans to shift the area’s district boundaries. Since that time every two years, in January Whangamomona celebrate its Republic Day. Thousands of visitors gather there to receive their Whangamomona passport. The main event of this day is town’s new president election! … among former presidents were a poodle and a goat.
Taking what they call a rail cart along decommissioned railway lines, through tunnels, over bridges and rivers is an alternative way to travel this route. I had to go like the clappers to get ahead of these three to find a spot to photograph them coming towards me. There were two passengers in each and they waved happily, obviously enjoying themselves. I think they were the Australians I'd seen at the church.