Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

A view over the Rangitikei River

The Rangitikei River Gorge

Gravity Canyon

Anyone for a bungee?

The Flying Fox starts top right

The Rangitikei River Gorge

A plane at Mangaweka

Tonights camp by the Rangitikei River


In order to make better sense of our journeys on the map, we are compiling shorter blogs for the time being.

Onward and upwards, the map that is. Monday found us travelling north east along SH1 away from the coast and firstly through placid scenery for 12 miles. Suddenly we found that the hills were closing in on us and there were multiple hill ranges on the inland side. When we came across signs stating, ‘Beware of Ice and Snow; road may close’ we knew we would be going up some big hills and the terrain would be more interesting; and it was. Above the small town of Utiku we took to the side roads and made our way to Gravity Canyon, a thrills centre. Sylvia now had the opportunity to do the Bungy Jump, Flying Fox and Canyon Swing for £112, a saving on the combo of £22; (I had to hold the camera as this chance was not to be missed). Unfortunately it was missed. Sylvia used the old excuse of preferring to spend her money on wine, fun, and waste the rest.

There are many superb canyons in the area we are now in and the combined filming of three of them made up a part of the River Anduin sequence in the film ‘Lord of The Rings’. We continued on the narrow back roads and at one stretch on a gravel road, until eventually joining the SH1 about 7 miles above Taihape. The hills and mountains of New Zealand do not make it easy to plan a route to see as much of the country as we are able in the time we have, and some back tracking is necessary. Today our turnaround point is Waiouru, a further 18 miles north where the Army Museum from which the Victoria Cross medals were recently stolen from, is located. This part of the drive took us through an area where army trainees do much of their training and there were many warning signs ‘we must not leave the road’. With our heads well down we completed the journey.

Waiouru proved to be just a service depot for passing traffic and the surrounding area, with cafes, petrol, a motel and the Army Museum which had several tanks parked outside. We turned back to enjoy some of the fantastic scenery of today’s journey in reverse. At Taihape we did some food shopping and continued to Mangaweka for tonight’s camp site. As we approached Mangaweka on our upward journey we read a sign stating, ‘hot coffee, cool plane’, and saw as we past through the small town a big aeroplane on our right, decorated with the Cookie Monster.

On our return we first went to inspect the aeroplane and found that clients can purchase coffee and cakes from the shop attached to the petrol station and ascend the wooden stairs to sit and enjoy their coffee inside the plane. The assistant did not know why or when the plane had come to town, but he had worked here for 20 years. The former owner, (who also owned at one time the enterprise now known as Gravity Canyon), was said to be a local farmer who seems to be selling his wilder assets and semi retiring.

Our night’s camp site was a mile out of town in a gorge above the Rangitikei River. Near by was a group of young men and there leaders. It was difficult to tell what age they were and we were unsure if back home they could have been clients of Sylvia or maybe on probation to me. The language used whilst barbecuing their meal led us to believe they enjoyed watching Gordon Ramsay on television; or maybe he trained them. However once we had closed our door we had a quiet night.

It was a nice site to find for our nights repose; tomorrow we will continue our scenic drive.

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