36 Days on the Road
Waikato, we’ve had our extreme ups, like caving in Waitomo, surfing and canyoning in Raglan, and sipping glorious tea at Zealong, and a few downs, like getting the bad news that we’ve been driving a death trap which we needed to get fixed, to some more awesome ups, like getting a Jucy campervan and going on a magical Hobbit location tour. But now, we must leave you to travel into the Manawatu-Wanganui region: a region surrounding the lost world of the Whanganui National Park, one of our favourite but underrated national parks in New Zealand. We just… can’t… WAIT!
Our first ever stay on a P.O.P
Our day begins in the interesting accommodation which is the Tui St P.O.P (Park Overnight Property) in Piopio. What a P.O.P is is literally explained in the name. It’s more budget than a backpackers, more budget than a holiday park, it’s a property where you can park overnight. The fee is a $2 into the honesty box situated in the men’s toilets, behind a padlocked gate, with no explanation on how to get the keys to unlock the gate. When in doubt in New Zealand, just ask a local! Robin walks over to the mechanics/panelbeaters (now we are well-accustomed to conversing with panel beaters thanks to our campervan being a rusty pile of cr*p) across the road to ask what is the deal with this P.O.P. One mechanic talks to another mechanic until they realise they have a key to the toilets in the office.
Just bring them back tomorrow morning. If we aren’t here, just leave them by the door, one guy says. Wow, we love how trusting and laidback New Zealanders are!
With that in mind, we leave the P.O.P the next morning and head on our next journey: the journey from King Country in Waikato to the Horizons Region in Manawatu-Wanganui.
A Rainy road trip
The landscape is like a huge mirror with the flooded fields created by last night’s rain. Horses are stood on their own little islands, while cows and sheep are sticking to the edges of the fields. It’s not long before the rain beats down on the windscreen again, meaning we are driving extra slow on these slippery and winding roads.
On Google Maps we can see exactly when we cross the regions from Waikato to Manawatu-Wanganui. With that, we are travelling higher and higher up the country in a region partly shaped by the volcanoes of Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom in The Lord of the Rings), Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu. There are ancient volcanic cones in every direction, now covered in lush green grass (and very wet sheep).
Above those higher mountains is a thick fog moving swiftly between peaks adding to the atmosphere. Laura is trying to get photos by hanging out of the campervan window, getting needles of rain in the face the whole time (but that’s part of the challenge, right?)
The great thing about a road trip in New Zealand is that there are many reasons to pull over.
The next picnic area we see, we have to stop! Laura exclaims. Sure enough, there’s a sign for a picnic area 400m ahead. There, we stop, take photos of these amazing misty mountains and have a sad (but cheap) lunch of sandwiches.
Planning our Forgotten World Adventure
Back on the road, we are passing grand signs announcing when we are travelling through King Country, then Horizons Region, the the Ruapehu District, until finally where the adventure begins in Taumarunui. This is our final destination for today because it is the gateway to the Whanganui National Park and the base of Forgotten World Adventures.
It’s hard to miss the huge signs, rail carts and relics from the past right outside the Forgotten World Motel. We park up and meet Paul from Forgotten World Adventures to work together and make a plan on how we are going to see the Forgotten World within the Whanganui National Park.
The Forgotten World is steeped in history from a mining and logging industry laid to rest long ago. Forgotten World Adventures has taken the old railway line left from the New Zealand’s forefathers and made their very own electronic RailCarts and peddle-yourself RailBikes to transport yourself on these railway lines. The RailBike journey is an incredible 145km long in total, going through various tunnels and bridges in some of the most challenging terrain a railway line has been built on.
We have organised to do a 40km RailBike journey tomorrow, crossing over eight bridges and through five tunnels in the remote area of the Forgotten World. The next day, we’ll be delving deeper into the wild Whanganui National Park via jet boat on the Whanganui River.
Our night as flashpackers
Until then we need to figure out where to park up tonight. Because we have such a good chat with Paul (and maybe he is feeling generous because he just got married), he kindly suggests that we stay at the motel tonight (for free) as it is super quiet. Nice one! We are definitely feeling like flashpackers here!
The room is definitely a few steps up from a P.O.P! We have luxurious beds with electric blankets, with rolled up towels, a small kitchen area, shower, TV… More than what we need! Plus, free WiFi!
We’re sure to have a comfortable night in the Forgotten World Motel and get plenty of rest before our 40km peddling adventure on the Forgotten World Railway tomorrow. See you then!
Grab your pitchforks for a Forgotten World Adventure!
Why didn’t you say so? For a taste of what this mysterious region offers take a look at these articles:
- 10 Places You Can’t Miss on the Forgotten World Highway
- Ruapehu – Guide for Backpackers
- Whanganui National Park – Guide for Backpackers
See you tomorrow for what sounds like it will be a very interesting day!