After waking up to another incredible day on Mt. Taranaki, I was standing with the rest of the group leaning against the fence looking at the front of our motorhomes admiring the views when I spotted something that disturbed me about our motorhome. I spent 15 years running a rental vehicle company so got very used to looking at the state of the tyres of a vehicle, and the front tyres in our Globetrotter were definitely looking worn.
We have travelled almost 18000 km in our motorhome in the last 13 months which by most standards is a lot for a private motorhome in that time, but not a lot for a set of tyres. So I was astonished to see them down to 3mm of tread remaining. Turns out that there are a couple of reasons for the wear. Firstly they are a soft compound tyre designed for better grip but wear faster. Secondly, I should be rotating them, this was something that I was unaware of.
Neal, one of the safari group which has more experience in these things than I did, told me what I should have worked out. When you have a 9-metre front-wheel drive vehicle, the front wheels are working much harder than you might expect. After 10,000kms the front tyres should be moved to the back, the back to the middle and then the middle to the front. Rather than carry on the rest of the safari and rotating the tyres when we got home Sarah and I decided to drive back to Stratford and get it done.
We found a tyre shop in Stratford (Dicksons Service Centre) willing to do the job for $60. They told us to leave the van with them for an hour or so, and they would call us when it was finished. So this gave us another chance to explore the town. With all of this happening in early November, we came across the remnants of the Scarecrow trail that was around the town for Halloween. We called into the local I Site to see if there was a map of the scarecrows, but they had thrown them out the previous day. Still a bit of fun and something that neither of us have ever seen before.
Of course, my sense of timing was completely off, and the Glockenspiel Tower had given its display just a few minutes before we got there and we weren’t going to hang around for a couple of hours for the next one. It is; however, I am told a must-see at 11am. 1 and 3pm. Next time……….. What we did find though was the local craft shop with crafts and paintings from various local artists with Sarah adding a couple of items to take home for the wall. Next to the craft shop was a quilt show which Margaret and Tony recommend that we did. No photos but we did wander around some fascinating quilts.
The text came through faster than expected to tell us that the motorhome was ready, so we wandered back to collect it and begin the journey along the Forgotten World Highway. We actually drove this road in June last year and know that it’s reputation isn’t warranted, the road is way better than some roads we have driven in other parts of the North Island. Maybe it’s the name that scares people as you often read posts on Facebook asking if such and such vehicle will be OK on the road. I can tell you right now that no matter what rig you have the drive is excellent!
The road is sealed for all but 12 km and follows the old railway track for much of the way. The railway, started in 1901, was constructed for access to the remote farms in the area but took over 30 years to complete with construction delayed by WW1 and the difficult terrain. The last regular train service ran in 1983, and these days it’s used by the company that run electric carts up and down the line from Taumarunui.
Three saddles need to be crossed to get you to Whangamomona, and while these are a slow wind up in the motorhome, the corners are wide enough that we had no worries about meeting any oncoming traffic on a tight bend. We stopped at the top of the Pohokura Saddle to admire the views. I was amused by the changes that had been made to the anti-littering sign.
The halfway point on the highway is the Republic of Whangamomona, and it’s a historic hotel. It’s a great place to stop for a cup of coffee to break the journey as you drive through if you aren’t going to stay here like us. One absolute highlight for us was as we sat outside having a coffee a couple of English tourists arrived noting the parking meter outside the hotel they wondered how they could pay not realising it was a joke.
For what was to be our final night with the safari. Dave, our tour leader, had booked the group into the camping ground, which is located about 600 metres down the road from the hotel. It’s one of those places that’s tucked away off the main road and probably not a place you would think to stay if you didn’t know about it but one that’s full of surprises.
The first order of business, however, was the Melbourne Cup with a sweepstake draw amongst the group. We turned our TV so that it could be seen through the habitation door and everyone settled down to watch. I honestly don’t know why I bother with these draws as I never win anything. However, the gods shined on Lois and Dick with them taking first and second place. A fortunate couple.
After the horse race was out of the way, the group had agreed to wander down to the hotel for dinner. The walls of the hotel are covered in photos relating to the locals and their history, especially the local rugby team. You can, of course, also get your passport at the bar to register yourself as a member of the local republic. But most importantly, at least for me was the fact that you could order your meal at the bar.
The meals were not exactly cheap, but I guess stuff has to be transported here; however, the servings were plentiful and of good quality. An above-average pub meal!
After dinner we walked back to the campground noticing, I guess, it’s that time of the year with new life springing everywhere. The camp manager breeds miniature horses, one had foaled just a couple of days prior, the poor thing was very unsteady on its feet but just so cute. Then the chickens with an abundance of chicks that also looked adorable.
The following morning we were out for an early stroll and I noticed this sign on the gate obviously things run a bit slower here with pricing for 2017 still on display. Also whoever produced this sign didn’t have spell check with the spelling of campground. Not too good for a place that used to be the local school!
Whangamomona is a place proud of its history and a place that actually surprised both Sarah and I with more to offer than we expected. The camp was clean and tidy with excellent facilities, and the pub was a great place to eat. The people that own the hotel are actually restoring the old Post Office next door to provide accommodation for people who work at the hotel over the busy summer season, a really pleasing thing to see.
Even though the safari had one more stop left in Taumarunui, a place we have visited a few times already, we had decided that we would return towards Auckland rather than spend the night there. We felt that the dinner the previous night was our farewell to the group and it was time to start heading home. We stopped at the top of the Wangamomona saddle to take these photos of the broken hills.
We arrived at the tunnel with no traffic coming the other way it was a clear run through. It’s a bit longer than it seems and it certainly needed lights on to ensure a good run through. What surprises me is just how rough it was both on the walls and the floor indeed not a smooth surface.
From the tunnel, it’s not long before you reach the 12 km of gravel road which although narrow in places is as I said earlier in better condition than some roads we have driven. I think the most significant hazard was actually the tourists driving too fast for the conditions with 3 Estima’s in a row, coming towards us that seemed to be travelling as though they were running late for their own funerals. With another vehicle going so fast, it almost met me coming the other way on a one-lane bridge. Those incidents aside it was actually a very pleasant trip.
We stopped briefly at the small town of Ohura which is probably best described as a ghost town with its vast, spacious main road and then every shop or business closed and boarded up a rather sad sight. It does have one redeeming feature though the cleanest public toilets I have ever encountered complete with a flower arrangement inside the room. Something extraordinary.
From here home… And after 17 days on safari with the EBOP team, I have to say that we have both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We started wondering if we would appreciate it – we did. We wondered if we would leave early – we didn’t. We wondered if we would be made to feel welcome – we were. We wondered if we would do it again – we would.
Many thanks to Dave and Nita (who organised the safari) and then in no particular order Dick, Lois, Neale, Kay, Roger, Berice, Des, Mary Lee, John, Lorraine, John, Rae, Tony, Margaret, Den, Brenda, Wayne and Rose. What a wonderful group of people. Thanks again to all of you who made us feel so welcome.
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.
To view the ratings for other places and camps, we have stayed click here