This week Jack and I explored the backbone of rural New Zealand by driving NZ’s oldest heritage trail curiously named the Forgotten World Highway. By car, we can go where we want, take the roads we like the look of and love the journey as much as the destination. This is why most backpackers prefer to see New Zealand by rental car, for the freedom to take the road less travelled.
And it’s not an easy drive by any means. The road tilts left and right, up and down as we seesaw across Taranaki. The landscape resembles the pictures I drew as a kid with bulbous hills stacked one behind the other. These roads are rough and aren’t well maintained; now and then we would round a corner to find half the road had given way over the cliff edge.
It was a hot day and we could hear the car wheels sticking with tar. We flew past freshly shorn sheep, bee huts, wilds cats and goats, dust flying and wheels skidding as we left the paved roads and entered the Shire.
Well, almost. Moki Tunnel otherwise known as Hobbit Hole holds a little Middle Earth magic, cleaved through the hill and almost overrun with surrounding foliage.
On a whim, we followed a dirt track off the Forgotten World Highway leading to the alluringly named Bridge to Somewhere, but when it appeared that Somewhere was 26kms to Nowhere, we turned around.
We often stopped for a break at lookout points during the three hour journey. The farmland puffed up around us and sheep bleated their little hearts out in the valley below.
Eventually we reached Whangamomona, a town with a population of just 30 people, and after disagreements with local councils declared itself a republic in 1989 – so you can get your passport stamped at the Whangamomona hotel if you’d like.
What you need to know about the Forgotten World Highway:
Passport stamps can be bought at the Republic of Whangamomona (at the hotel) for $2
If you’re likely to get motion sickness consider picking up something from the chemist before you go
There are no gas stations along this route so fill up enough to get you through.
The Forgotten World Highway is one of New Zealand’s ten most dangerous roads.
The next Whangamomona Republic day will be in January 2017