17 Feb 2017
A forgotten world – Taumaranui to New Plymouth
We got up, and had a big cooked breakfast and a large cup of coffee each. We hit the road, heading for the start of the Forgotten World Highway, to take an interesting scenic route through to New Plymouth. The route starts at Taumaranui, which is about an hour and a half’s drive from where we stayed in Taupo. The name ‘Forgotten World Highway’ is accurate for this stretch - with tiny towns and minimal traffic, it’s almost eery how quiet this part of the country is. While the whole road stretches for 150 kms, some parts are quite windy and the road was rough in parts, so the going was rather slow. One of the first places we stopped was the Strathmore Saddle - one of four saddles the road passes over on the highway. We stopped and after taking a few photos of what we considered an average view (the visitor’s booklet had bragged of stunning panoramic views across the central North Island), we realised we hadn't summited the saddle itself. We climbed the sheep-gate, and wandered up to the top of the hill, avoiding large clumps of cow pats on our way. The view from the top more than met the map’s description! We were spoiled with a view over snow-capped mountains, rolling green pastures and dramatic scenery all around. It was sunny and hot, and we were satisfied with our shots so we continued along the road.
Whangamomona was an interesting little town, with a quaint old hotel and a flock of tourists drinking beer in the early afternoon sun. We didn't stop but if I were to come by the highway again, I’d love to check out the hotel and stay a bit longer. We did, however, stop at Moki Tunnel - a hand-carved hole made by pick-axes, which continues for 500 meters. Moki Tunnel is nicknamed by locals as “hobbit’s hole” - with a hand painted sign above as evidence - and it is not hard to see why.
At some point, the road turned to gravel. Only in New Zealand would you find a highway with one lane and parts reduced to gravel! The scenery all around was beautiful: at parts, there were rolling green hills with clusters of sheep, whilst at others there were steep ravines with a river rushing below. Green bush shrouded us on either side at many points, and every so often we’d catch another glimpse of mountains as we rode over hilltops.
At the end of the highway, we reached Stratford. By this point, we could see the iconic Mt Taranaki in the distance. Using the mount as a beacon, we drove on to New Plymouth, where we had booked into another Top 10 Holiday Park there. We had found by this point that Top 10s are great if you’re travelling in non self-contained vans, like we were. They’re affordable, have all the facilities required, and are often located in great spots. The staff at the Top 10 Park in New Plymouth were especially friendly, offering useful knowledge about the town, and allowing us to use their spa pool. We had a quick bite to eat, and then drove out to the coast for some sunset photography with Mt Taranaki, the Cape Egmont Lighthouse, and the Tasman Sea. The spot at Cape Egmont was popular that night for photographers and travellers, and we got chatting to some tourists and shared a beer as we watched the sun go down. Akhil stayed on to shoot some more night photography, and since we had separate vans, Morgan and I drove back to the Holiday park for a well-deserved rest.