Route 43 The Forgotten World Highway Part 2 Blog 128

Heading away from Te Wera the road twists and turns along the course of the valley until we reach the next saddle. Here we climb out of one valley and over into the next one, it offers a spectacular view over the surrounding countryside and we stop often for pictures. Some of the hills were too steep to climb like this or the resulting track was so impassable in winter when this was an unsealed road that tunnels were dug through them. We pass through one of these called Moki tunnel unofficially known as hobbit hole. These single lane narrow tunnels were hewn out of the sandstone with picks and shovels, you can still see the marks in the soft rock. This one has some props in the roof but many around here don’t, the builders shaped the roofs to a point which gives them strength and reduces the need for reinforcement. This pointed roof also gives the tunnels their elfin appearance hence the nickname.
Beyond here we get to Whangamomona probably the most famous town on the 43. There is a much photographed pub here and a small village.
In 1989 following unpopular local border changes the district declared itself an independent republic and elections are held to vote for their president.
There has been an interesting collection of presidents as follows: 

Ian Kjestrup (1989-1999)
After being put on the ballot without his knowledge, he became the first elected President. Served 10 years 

Billy Gumboot the Goat (1999-2001)
First elected animal. He won election by eating the other challengers ballots. He died in office after serving for 18 months. 

Tai the Poodle (2003-2004)
Tai retired after an assassination attempt left him a nervous wreck. 

Murt “Murtle the Turtle” Kennard (2005-present)
The local garage owner fought off strong competition from former president Kjestrup and a cross-dresser called “Miriam” to become the 4th President. He was re-elected in 2009 by one vote. 

You can get a passport for the republic from the pub and a T shirt to prove you made it.
After some photos of the classic colonial looking house and shops fronts and a look around town we carry on. After a few more km’s we detour off the 43 to Mount Dampner falls. On the way there we stop at a picnic spot to look at the rusting wrecks of some old steam boilers, relics of this areas industrial past. While reading the sign we notice it says there is a camping space and long drop bush toilet in the far corner and sure enough there is, so we carry on to the falls and agree to pop back later if someone hasn’t beaten us to it.
Half an hour later after parking up the bike the walk to the falls is a nice 15 minute stroll across rolling farmland and native bush. It’s NZ second highest waterfall and the drop is impressive but there hasn’t been much rain lately so there is not that much water going over it.
It’s worth the walk though as it’s a beautiful area.
Heading back to the camping spot it’s still free so we stop there for the night, we have only seen about 6 cars all day. It’s a nice place to camp and extremely quiet except for the Moreporks (NZ owls)
Their real name is a Ruru but their call sounds like More Pork which is what gives it its common name.
We are woken by a Possum in the wee small hours, these can be a real pest but fortunately we hear no more from this one. They have spread like wildfire and have caused big problems here, so much so that communities and even some schools have possum hunting competitions to see who can bag the most.
We sleep well and wake late, we are not packed and away until about 11am, riding back down the offfshoot we came up we get back on the 43.
We now get to the metal (gravel) section, NZ gravel roads are generally pretty good and unless you happen to be unlucky and ride it when its been topped up or graded, the gravel is not to deep.
Part way through the gravel section we stop for a photo on a bridge and then realise it is the spot where Joshua Morgan’s grave is. He was the pioneer surveyor who first marked out the road we are riding down in the early 1890′s. He died aged 35 of a ruptured appendix out in the bush and was buried where he lay alongside the road. His wife was buried alongside him when she died but she lived into her 80′s. When we get back from the grave we meet a husband and wife on a tandem, they have are Kiwis and have travelled all over NZ and beyond. They have a trailer for their gear and it’s quite a rig.
We have a good chat and compare our experiences before they sadde up. Before they leave though they invite us to stay with them in Tauranga when they get home. This is typical of Kiwi hospitality and you could travel this country without a tent just staying with the people you meet. We are still camping about 50 per cent of the time, it’s good to stay with folks though their local knowledge is invaluable.
We finish the gravel section off and are over halfway along this route 43 when we see the turn off for Ohura. We have enough petrol to last to the next big town. We stop at the junction for a while unsure whether to turn off or not, eventually we decide to go and have a look. We know there is an old prison here and a sleepy little town and that’s about it.
Riding down the main street is like riding through a ghost town, the prison is still here at the far end of town but it closed years ago. You can stay there if you want to by prior arrangement.
There is a sandwich board outside a shop on the mainstreet which says “only one open” . We pull up in the middle of the wide main street to take some photos, there is not a soul or a car in sight. We hear a voice say ” well now you’ve stopped you might as well come in” a lady has appeared from the “only one open” shop. It turns out to be an old Ford Garage still with its 1950′s service counter only it’s not actually a shop but a couples personal collection. It’s a fascinating mish mash of stuff, some of it is everyday antiques some bric a brac some is total rubbish. We have never seen anything quite like it,  what is really amazing is the amount of it. We wander around the main shop front and then discover another side room piled high. We then walk out the back and what was the massive old workshop which is also FULL of stuff. I said to the lady “you wont be moving any time soon then” she replies “No it took us 3 years to move it all in here” It turns out they have more at home ! Her husband is an avid collector and they love nothing more than visiting junk shops and yard sales to add to their collection. She describes herself as Ohuras meet and greet lady, she is very friendly and gives us a can of coke each and gets us to sign her visitors book.  Eventually its time to go and we say our goodbyes leaving this fascinating and quirky little ghost town behind. Just before we do though we ride up to the prison to take a picture, it’s not bit like we expected. It’s less Alcatraz and more Butlins, it looks a bit like a holiday camp from the outside so much so that  I am surpised someone hasn’t turned it into one. Apparently it only housed white collar criminals which I guess is why it looks like it does.
Back on the 43 we stop at a lookout called Nevins point The bike has been cornering strangely the last or two so I have a good look while we’re stopped. The news is not good I discover a large crack in the clamp of the bottom steering yoke (the bit that holds the front suspension to the frame) we will have to replace it as soon as possible. It is so well braced that I think we can ride it for a few days until we can get somewhere to fix it, indeed I am not entirely sure the crack hasnt been spreading for some time and isnt the cause of the intermittent headstock shake we have experienced.
I join Karen for lunch at the lookout and we discuss tatics and take some pictures of the stunning view. Walking back down to the bike Karen spots a plastic lunchbox tucked behind a gatepost, intrigued we discover its a geocache (treasure hunt using GPS)
we read and sign the visitors book which has people from all over the world in it and leave some stickers.
Resuming our journey after another 40km or so we pass more houses than we have seen in a long time as we start to approach civilisation again. The first town is called Taumarunui it’s bizarre to suddenly be straight back to McDonalds drive in’s and supermarkets again. We stop for petrol and then spot some picnic tables so stop for dinner. As is often the case a lot of people come over to have a look and take pictures. Our plan is to get to Taupo tonight as we have arranged to stay with Jared who is the Guzzi club contact for New Zealand and organiser of the “Rattley Tappet Rally”. The sun is just starting to set as we start the final leg, we are concious we are running a bit late and are trying to rush but are distracted by the most beautiful sunset over the lake as we skirt it’s circumference. We stop for photos several times as it’s colours are ever changing, the Gps leads the way through town and we pull into Jared’s place just as it’s getting dark. Luckily they don’t mind and give us a warm welcome. The kids have been allowed to stay up slightly late so they can see us arrive and the whole family comes out for a look at the bike.
After a cup of tea/beer and introductions we are shown to our room which to our surprise and delight is a den in the garage which is Guzzi heaven decorated with posters, badges, memorabilia and pictures galore. 

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)