Tunnels, tunnels, tunnels….

I’be been sitting one this one for over a month, just waiting for a spare moment in which to get it written up in my next installment of Around and About…other things have gotten on top of me and it is only this week that I find myself with a little time on my hands and able to draw it together…

The old saying is ‘Don’t Leave Town Til You’ve Seen the Country’ and I have found myself sadly lacking in my knowledge of the area in which I have lived for the last decade. When an opportunity arose for me to drove over the New Plymouth for a business trip, I opted for the more adventurous route through Taumarunui and over State Highway 43, the Forgotten Highway over the longer but faster routes north or south along SH4 and SH3 (they are kinda like a loop road).


My journey started mid-morning after I put $40 into the mighty Ssangyong to get another 6 cents/litre loaded into my AA Fuelcard (it really does all add up). I crossed the bridge north out of town and took the hard left up past the hospital onto the Forgotten Highway. The first section is just through rolling farm country…DSCF7741

…which slowly gives way to more and more thick native bush…DSCF7743I caught up with this guy and his mate – quite an unusual vehicle to see on a road like this – but I couldn’t wait to get past them both as they were clearly not used to driving a left-hand drive vehicle on such narrow roads and were all over the place. I wanted to get well shot of them before their centreline-hogging habits collected someone coming the other way…DSCF7745…this gives you some idea of the narrowness of the road….DSCF7749…and why staying well left is a really good idea.DSCF7752Navigating one;s one side of the road is also complicated by a reasonably long stretch of unsealed gravel road, where the centreline is not marked at all and where occasional drifts of gravel encourage the inexperienced out over the centreline…DSCF7757I like tunnels…they always seem to be an indication of adventure and times gone by…DSCF7798…and it is just neat bursting out into the sun on the other side.DSCF7765Whangamomona’s main claim to fame is that it used to declare itself a republic for a day as a bit of a tourist gimmick. I’m not sure if it still does that but on this day its claim to fame was clearly hosting…DSCF7769…the annual Americana pageant…Loads of cool heavy metal parked up here and I would have liked to have stopped and had a closer look but I was running a little behind time. I would have to question the wisdom of holding such an activity in a location that can only be accessed via narrow winding country roads – and not a member of the constabulary in sight, of course – when most of the drivers have a real problem staying on their side of the road…DSCF7770Some of the few that were able to stay on their side of the centreline…DSCF7778

A ways on and I’m closing in on Stratford on the Taranaki Plains…that darker patch just to the right of the road in the distance is Mt Taranaki, climbable in summer and ski-able (just) in winter.DSCF7780

My business in New Plymouth done, I headed north on my homeward leg, heading for Ohura and back into Taumarunui from the north…DSCF7789

This part of SH3 is very nice as it winds through another tunnel…DSCF7790

…and bush-covered hills…DSCF7782

…before levelling out again.DSCF7794

This opportunity was just on the turn-off from SH3 onto the Ohura road…I burrowed into the parking meter money and exchanged some coins for two decent sized banks of tangelos…DSCF7795I saw this and figured that I was still sweet for fuel having at least enough for another 200 km in the tank.DSCF7796Yep…another tunnel…DSCF7802

All this winding up and over these roads with some quite long unsealed section ate into my fuel reserves more than I expected…DSCF7803

By the time, I reached this head-hunting bridge at Ohura, I was becoming quite interested in the movement of the little orange needle as the closest fill-up point was Taumarunui. I opted not to carry-on exploring – the are at least three different routes from Ohura to Taumarunui and I took the discretion option and went for what I thought would be the most direct route.DSCF7804This took me back over 40-odd km of the route I had taken in the morning – but repetition beats walking – and after a longish wait at some of the inevitable summer road works, I cruised into the Taumarunui BP with about 50km of fuel left in the tank. That would have just been enough to get me home but would probably have left me with a walk to National park if I had wanted to go any further…Note for next time: toss in another $40 in new Plymouth…

sh43Here’s a map of my journey…south west in the morning to Stratford and north east to Ohura in the afternoon. Ohura is not marked on the map but is where the dark line of my trip cuts the yellow line at the top of the map before I drifted south back onto 43 towards Taumarunui…

If you are on The Central Plateau and looking to head across to Taranaki, and you have the time, take the Forgotten Highway. If you have a good GPS and strong forearms for all the corners, an even better (IMHO) route is the back road through Ohura…go adventuring..!


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