Taranaki region 7th Nov 16-21°C, Cloudy, occasional sun.
Left New Plymouth at about 7:30 am, fueled up at Stratford, start of hwy 43, 'The Forgotten World Highway'.
Good views of this stunning, severely crinkled landscape from Strathmore Saddle, 23km from Stratford. Past some roadworks on a twisty bit, optimistic sign states 100kph limit just before the next set of 35kph hairpins.
About 43 km from Stratford a sign decares "Welcome to the Republic of Whangamomona". A kilometre or two further on brings you to Whangamomona township. Once a hardworking rural town, but now little more than a historic village with a well preserved rural pub worth your patronage. Good meals, great coffee, beer of course, even accommodation is available. The walls are covered with historic photos and some amusing signage, there's even a passport office! There's a short walk around the remaining historic buildings and facades which have explanatory placards of past years.
Really enjoyed the stop here.
Another 19km along is the Moki Tunnel, hand cut, one lane, unlit, narrow, but thankfully short. At the Western end a sign above the entrance delares it "Hobbit's Hole". Past the tunnel is 16km of unsealed road through the pretty Tangarakau Gorge. Inconceivably, people drive motorhomes through here.
Stopped at the lovely Lauren's Lavender Farm for coffee and a scone with jam & cream, $10. Very nice gardens and cafe beside the Whanganui river. Reached the end of hwy 43 at Taumarunui at about 2 pm.
Great drive through some seriously wrinkled countryside on a good two lane road. Hazards included: tight bends, steep climbs/descents, a large flock of sheep, a narrow tunnel, unsealed road, scenery entranced drivers, and incessant Toyota lane departure warning beeps.
Continued on hwy 4 to National Park Village, on the edge of the alpine Tongariro National Park. The Northern Explorer train passes through the historic station, now The Station Café, Bar and Restaurant, open 9am-9pm daily. After a really nice light meal, drove on for 22km to Whakapapa in the NP. The Chateau Tongariro Hotel at the foot of Mt Ruapehu is easily seen from a distance. Unfortunately the cloud has covered the mountain and it's raining. I drove on up to the ski fields, but it was almost whiteout conditions. Just as well, couldn't see how far I would fall if I lost control on the hairpins.
Curious NZ fact: Not only are there no snakes, there are also no creeks. (Kiwis call them streams)