Route 43 The Forgotten World Highway Part 1 Blog 127
Jan 9th and 10th
We stop for lunch just before Douglas in the same spot where the stand broke as it has a picnic table. After a nice picnic lunch and coffee we take a little off shoot to explore an old brick kiln from a tile business long since abandoned.
This area is real backwoods country there are no shops or fuel for 150km but we are prepared for that. People still live and farm here but it is sparsely populated partly because it is such hilly and tough terrain. What few roads and settlements there are here are in the valleys and the rest is steep sided farmland suitable for grazing stock but not much else. This area was once much more bustling than it is now, it’s heyday was the late 1800′s and early 1900′s when settlers were given sections of land in exchange for working on the new road, what is now the 43. They were really tough times and while some gave up others kept going and prospered taking over adjacent properties. The entire area was covered in thick bush and had to be cleared by hand with crosscut saws before it was any use as farmland. There is a railway running through here contructed in the early 1900′s it took years to build it through such hard country. It only stopped running relatively recently and most of the track is still serviceable, it seems a great shame that after all the obstacles that were overcome to build the track it was economics that stopped the service as per usual.
At about 4 o’clock we come to a place called Te Wera which is the first campsite on the road, there are two further up near Whangamomoma which we did intend to try to get to but we like the look of this place and it has an arboretum which looks interesting. We pull in along a avenue of magnificent sequoia’s and head for the office but despite being quite a large complex there is not a soul around. We look around for a while then Karen spots a sign saying “back at 4pm” it also listed prices and at NZ$10 a night for a tent it’s a bargain.
We are a bit perplexed where we are actually meant to be camping, at first most of the complex is cabins but after a bit of exploring we find the campsite is down by the entrance next to the adventure playground. It’s just when we are here that the owners turn up in their ute (4×4 pickup) they drive over to come and say hello. The bike is parked up by the house but we still look travelled enough for them to ask where we are from. We explain a little of our adventure and they are intrigued about the bike so we all go up to the house.
Chas and Sandie are lovely people and before we know it we are sat on the deck outside their place with a cold Tui (local beer). They then said don’t bother getting your tent out you can stay in the self contained cottage for the same price as camping.
I don’t suppose everyone gets this treatment so we count ourselves lucky and move into our new home.
Chas and Sandie also invite us over for dinner that night and by pooling resources we make a nice meal. Chas suggests a few places to go and asks if we would like to go for a drive with Kevin the postman tomorrow and accompany him on his rounds, that way we will see some places way off the beaten track. We agree and he makes a call, he will pick us up at 11am tomorrow. We spend the evening drinking and talking with Chas and Sandie, it turns out they have only been here for a year or so. Chas explains the camp was originally single mens accomadation for the NZ forestry service to manage the massive forestry plantations in this area. It was they who planted the arboretum from 1954 to 1962 as an experiment to see what trees grow here and how quickly. The rate of growth here is extraordinary due to the heat and humidity and a Pinus Radiata which is the most commonly grown tree here is ready to crop as a mature tree in 25 to 30 years, the same tree in Canada takes 40 years. Some of the trees in the arboretum are absolutely huge and its hard to believe they have only been there a maximum of 60 years. The camp is used for school groups in term time to teach kids about the outdoors, they open it up to campers in school holiday times when they are quiet so we are lucky.
We sleep well and after a nice lie in wander up to Sandies for breakfast, we sit and chat with her until Kevin arrives. Kevin has lived in this area his whole life and is a real character, he is in his late sixties but still seems to have lots of get up and go. He turns up in a Subaru Impreza estate which is his postie car of choice and we soon discover why. He has been doing this round in amongst his agricultural contracting and farming for 20 years and he knows every pothole and every bump in the roads around here. He also drove the school bus for years before that so not only that he knows everybody as well as every bend.
He can really drive too and we are soon dancing along loose gravel roads with a huge plume of dust behind us. He certainly doesn’t hang about but it’s not frightening as a passenger as it always feels like he’s in control even when we are drifting mid corner in the gravel. It’s a great tour and we see some very out of the way places that we would never have done otherwise. When his round is done we go back to his place and his wife treats us to lunch and a cup of tea. His two grandchildren are there and they come back with us to Te Wera when his mate drops us off so we can have a go with their mini remote control helicopter in the hall where there is more room. It’s tricky but great fun and a good test of co ordination, when they go home we carry on being big kids by trying out the adventure playground and the flyingfox (zip slide, aerial runway) After this we take a walk around the arboretum, there are many interesting trees in here from all over the world, some we have never seen and some are much more familiar to us than anyone here.
When Chas gets home Sandie treats us by cooking us roast dinner which is delicious. Once that’s gone down Chas offers to take us up to the lake on the other site they use on Kevin’s ground. It’s an exiting ute ride and a beautiful spot and we stay until sundown taking pictures and enjoying the tranquility of the place.
Next day we have to get going again and after breakfast we say a heartfelt farewell and thank you, we have loved our stay in this peaceful woodland setting but the rest of the 43 awaits….