© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Epic Little Missions in Manawatu

© NZPocketGuide.com

67 Days on the Road

We spotted them in the distance when we first arrived in Palmerston North: the wind farm. Sat on the hills of Te Apiti above the Manawatu River it looks like it could be the most scenic wind farm we’ve ever laid our eyes on! We must head there today, then follow the Manawatu River to the hiking trails of the Manawatu Gorge, then finally end our day in the adventure playground of Manawatu, the Ruahine Ranges.

Wandering through a wind farm

This means we are leaving the gorgeous Railway Hotel Backpackers (on a full stomach from the free breakfast and plunger coffee, of course). Just 20 minutes from Palmerston North is the small settlement of Ashurst, the gateway to the Ruahine Ranges. From there we head up the winding road to get closer than we have ever got before to a wind farm. The rotating blades of the wind turbines become clearer the further we get into the hills until all of a sudden we are driving on a road just underneath them! They are freakin’ huge! Just the tower itself is 70 metres. Add three 35-metre blades to that and you can consider it massive!

The Te Apiti Wind Farm road for visitors goes right to a perfect lookout directly underneath a wind turbine itself. This might be a stupid thing to say but, man, it is windy up here – it would almost be an ideal spot for a wind farm. The wind is rotating the magnificent blades above our heads with a powerful whooshing sound.

Despite it being a cloudy day, sunlight is just managing to break through the clouds and onto the rolling hills now below us. Some of the hills are bare whilst the others are dotted with wind turbines providing energy to around 45,000 homes. (Can you tell we read the information boards)?

Meandering through Manawatu Gorge

Back to Ashurst, we take a short route into the entrance of the Manawatu Gorge, which can’t be missed thanks to its large car park and a Maori-carved archway. Today, we are doing the Tawa Loop Track with a couple of detours along the way. The walking tracks start next to the highway, but as soon as we pass underneath the highway bridge to a sight of a waterfall, we know we are about to head into that New Zealand wilderness that we love.

Boardwalks pave the way into the forest of the Manawatu Gorge, following a stream with many small rapids and waterfalls. Steps negotiate big green boulders and we cross several bridges before we get to the Tawa Loop and decide whether to go left or right. We follow nothing but the first direction that comes to mind to get us started.

Pretty stream in the Manawatu Gorge

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Vines, vines and more vines!

What with the Mangawhero Forest walk, the Enchanted Track of Mt Taranaki, and countless others, we realise that we have banged on a bit too much about forest hikes in the North Island, but we don’t care! There’s something just that little bit more unique than the last forest every time! Thin vines hanging from the trees of wrapping themselves around tree trunks in a perfect spiral are the thing we are crazing about today. The contrast of the red vines of green trees just looks amazing.

Just 10 minutes ago, all we could hear was the Manawatu River and vehicles on the highway, now we just hear tree trunks crashing into each other every so often from the wind and an array of birds. The Department of Conservation have put QR code signposts up along the way so we can identify the bird sounds we hear.

A Maori warrior

Halfway into our 1h45min we are greeted by a large metal statue of a Maori warrior, looking pretty badass nestled amongst these trees and ferns. From here, we can continue on the loop or do a quick detour to the Slip Lookout. Detour!

Indeed, there has been a slip hear, clearing the trees for a lookout over the Manawatu River and the bottom of this forested gorge. Peaking over the trees, we can see the wind turbines working away.

We huff and puff our way back up the steps that guided our way down the slip and continue to the end of the Tawa Loop Track.

Tramping with our campervan in the Ruahine Ranges

That’s our walking adventure done, now we do our driving adventure to Makoura Lodge, hidden in the Ruakine Ranges. We can’t deny that the drive is pretty to look at by following the Manawatu River, going through forest and getting awesome views from atop the hills, however, when our GPS tells us to head down a narrow gravel road with the rain coming down hard, we are a little nervous. Did we tell you how much our campervan is a pile of crap?

After a somewhat muddy and tricky road to haul our campervan up, we arrive at the adventure and farm activity venue, Makoura Lodge. This is where we will be taking on some horse trekking and 4×4 offroading in the next couple of days. Kimberley and Chris greet us, not only with a meal leftover from their previous function, but with the news that the GPS took us on the worst road up to the lodge. (We’re just happy we don’t have to go down that road again)!

Dinner party at the sheep shearer’s

Not that we didn’t have enough food just now, but like true hospitable Kiwis, Kimberley and Chris invite us to come along for dinner at some of their friend/staff’s house. More food!

The night ends after an intense board game session at a sheep shearer’s house (much to Robin’s delight), with a few drinks and some good laughs.

We are well and truly fed for whatever adventures Makoura Lodge has to offer tomorrow!

The Maori warrior of Manawatu

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