After the morning spent driving up Mount Taranaki volcano we turned east towards Tongariro National park in the centre of the North Island. The quickest route was along the Forgotten Word Highway which starts in Stratford and heads towards Taumarunui a journey of about 150km passing over three saddles along the way. The route is twisty and narrow in places and part of the journey goes through the Tangarakau forest on a gravel road. It was going to be interesting driving over the hills, as the Kiwis say it’s a bit up and downsy.
Mount Taranaki still dominates the skyline in the rearview mirrors but over time its blue outline recedes into the background. We reach Moki tunnel under the mountain after Tahora, It’s only 3,5m wide so only for single traffic, basically it’s has been cut roughly through the rocks, the roof is supported by wooden beams. We breathe in as we go through the Hobbit’s hole.
Many of the villages have been abandoned because the railway line is no longer used for passage trains as it is too expensive to run and closed back in 1983. The road runs parallel with the railway up steep gradients and through a total of 24 tunnels. This isolated and rugged area of North Taranaki has been somewhat forgotten hence the name.
We stop at Tangarakau River, climb down out of the cab and wander onto the bridge, a small pathway leads into the forest and takes us over a small bridge leading to Morgans grave. The road through Tangarakau Gorge is unsealed and is one of the most dangerous in New Zealand because the gravel can be slippery.
At Nevins lookout it is a chance to take in the extensive view over the hills, in the distance the giant forms of Tongariro National Park come into view. We are travelling volcano to volcano today heading for Whakapapa Village in the shadows of Mount Ruapehu Volcano.
Check out the 100 % Pure New Zealand website : The Forgotten World Highway
Where : The Forgotten World Highway, Stratford to Taumarunui, North Taranaki, New Zealand
Travelling : State Highway 43. Starting in Stratford the journey is 150km long to Taumarunui, in the bus it took us about 4-5 hours but would be quicker by car. The landscape is rugged and hilly, with many tunnels and steep climbs over the saddles followed by steep windy descents on the other side.
Camping : New Plymouth, Belt Road Holiday Park easy walk into the town centre along the seafront pathway, cool views out over the bay.
Next Up : Taranaki Falls