37 Days on the Road
Notice: No goats, cows or sheep were harmed during the making of this blog post.
The Forgotten World: there’s something extremely enticing about that name that begs for this part of New Zealand to be explored. Today, we are exploring the Forgotten World along a relic of the past itself, an abandoned railway. Well, that’s abandoned until Forgotten World Adventures revived the railway so they could send people off on their bizarre but extremely fun homemade RailCarts and RailBikes!
While we are waiting in the reception of the Forgotten World Motel to meet our guide, we start talking to a guy called Bryce, who suggests we stay with his cousin who lives along the Forgotten World Highway, a highway we’ll be travelling in the next few days. God, New Zealand, you kill us with your kindness!
Getting to know our RailBike
We meet our guide, Terry, this morning at the Forgotten World Motel. We hop in the van with Terry and Paul, who we met yesterday, to the start of the Forgotten World Adventures railway line. This is just a 5-minute drive out of Taumarunui and up a gravel track to a railway line we would never have guessed was here! Rows and rows of the RailCarts and RailBikes are on the lines, which Paul, Terry and Robin (Laura’s filming, Ok, don’t judge her for not helping) get the appropriate carts on the rails for us. Terry is going to be in an electronically motorised RailCart behind us in our peddle-powered RailBike.
The RailBike is an unusual hybrid of golf buggy, cycle and train. It has rail wheels and two sets of peddles each with their own sets of gears. (So one person can be doing more work than the other – something we both end up using to our advantage). We get the seats adjusted to suit our incredibly contrasting height difference, and get ourselves comfortable in some padded seats. Let’s go!
Ok, so we say “let’s go”, but the first section of the railway line is actually the steepest. So we aren’t going very fast right now… Terry, who is in the motorised cart behind us gives us a quick push to keep us going. Sure enough, a few minutes later, we are flying through the Forgotten World! At least, we feel like we are flying, we probably look like we are going at snail pace right now.
Stunning scenery and chasing cows
Nevertheless, we are keen to keep slowing down to take pictures. We have this problem where we want to take photos of everything from the start of the trip, forgetting that we will be returning the same way. Plus, we have a quite a few kilometres to go and so much more to see. But that first sight of huge rolling hills with grazing cattle and morning mist can’t be ignored!
Little did we know that grazing cattle, and all farm animals for that matter, would be a reoccurring theme on this trip, especially in the middle of the railway line! At first, cattle are grazing in the distance. Further down the railway, the curious cattle are right next to us, just behind a fence, following us for as long as they can. Next, there’s cattle ON the railway line that slowly start moving out of the way as we get closer. However, not all the cattle get out of the way, because we are literally following a cow running for its life along the railway for a few hundred metres. Just as we get passed this cow, there is a sheep in the middle of the railway line. This one goes nuts and runs as fast as it can away from us, only getting off the railway line once it runs out of energy.
Oh my God, that was hilarious. That is just your standard New Zealand traffic, we suppose. But it’s not the last, nor the most hilarious animal encounter today…
Before all that nonsense, we are peddling our way through a 1.5km tunnel through a mountain! Terry is behind us with the light on his cart for a bit, but when he switches it off, we have never seen darkness as dark as this! It’s a bizarre feeling, moving through the unknown. Terry gets us to stop the cart halfway through to show us some glowworms. He also takes the time to give us a bit more history behind this tunnel and many of the others we are going to see today. The terrain is so wild here, no wonder it took 19th Century New Zealanders 32 years to complete the railway!
We pass through five tunnels, all looking more out of place than the next as they pierce right through the middle of both grassy and forested hills. Various vegetation has grown around the tunnels, really adding to that sense of abandonment. Because the rain is on and off today, there are even a few mini waterfalls waiting for us at the end of the tunnels. Robin finds it funny to pull Laura’s waterproof hood down just before passing right through the waterfalls…
The mysterious Inver-Car-gill
There’s one long stretch of straight railway with a random yellow beetle car just sat on the side of the track with a sign to Invercargill just next to it. Not only is Invercargill the southernmost city in the world, but it’s probably the furthest New Zealand city away from where we are right now. We ask Terry what the deal is with this sign, but he says he has also been just as confused about it as we are. We guess that is just one of the mysterious behind the Forgotten World railway…
Goats going nuts
Up ahead is a whole herd of goats. We admit it, we kind of want to sneak up on them so we can get a closer look before they run away. This plan all goes well, we get really close to the goats, but we didn’t realise we would be this close for the next couple of kilometres! We are slowly stalking a few goats who are running right down the middle of the track. With them is a little kid who is bleating behind the heard: “What the f*ck guys? Why are you leaving me behind with the goat slayers back here?!”
The further we chase these goats, the more goats we pick up along the way. There’s heaps and heaps of them! Because there are so many of them, this makes the next bridge crossing quite a challenge for them. Just so you know, we are moving super slowly behind the goats, so they can take the time to figure out how to move out of the way… But no, some of them literally leap off the bridge! We… are… shocked. Of course, they are perfectly fine because they are goats.
Finally, FINALLY, the goats get off the track and we can continue at speed. As a last gift from the farm animals, there is a fresh pile of cow dung right on the rail on Robin’s side of the track… You can guess what happens here…
Now that Robin covered in feces, we can get on with our day.
We stop for sandwiches, coffee and cake slices just before a beautiful bridge going over a river. Next, we head to our final destination of the day, Matiere. Terry describes that this was once a booming town with 750+ residents during the mining era. Now, only eight people live actually within the town. Old buildings still remain, such as a tiny bank and Matiere Hall.
With a bit of teamwork, we are turning the carts around and returning the way we came. This time at full speed (aside from the sections with goats and cows) while taking in the views of a long forgotten countryside.
Tomorrow, is full of possibilities. We could be jetboating to the Bridge to Nowhere and/or we could be finding a free glowworm spot. Who knows?! See you tomorrow!
Take a look around the tunnel!
Why not? We are having a blast in this mysterious part of the North Island steeped in history. Check out some of the things to do in the Forgotten World with these articles:
- 10 Places You Can’t Miss on the Forgotten World Highway
- Whanganui National Park – Guide for Backpackers
- Ruapehu – Guide for Backpackers
See you tomorrow!