Driving a road called the Forgotten World Highway; Walking through a cave with “big shiny maggots” overhead. How compelling is that?
Forgotten World Highway – a Slow Roll through Middle Earth
We leave Stratford, near New Plymouth on SR 43. Three hours through the remote central North Island Mountains on an incredibly scenic roller-coaster road.
Halfway is the Republic of Whangamomona. In 1895 a population of 300 for road and rail construction. Now…maybe 20 residents who, when disgruntled by resdistricting, declared themselves a republic in 1989.
The Moki Tunnel “Hobbits Hole” – single lane, 180m (590 ft) long, built in 1936 with hand-carved walls and a gabled roof. The tunnel’s floor was lowered in 1989 to allow access for stock trucks.
A detour and short walk to Mt. Damper Falls (North Island’s second-highest waterfall) during which I heard “this better be worth it”. It was!
Glowworms at Waitomo – Wai (water), tomo (hole)
Waitomo terrain (karst) is characterized by barren, rocky ground, caves, sinkhole (tomo), cavities and passages (visualize Swiss cheese), estimated to cover over 200 square km. We were there for GLOWWORMS in the caverns.
Glowworms are the larvae of a small fly called a fungus gnat. The light that they emit attracts prey; they also attract tourists. Outstanding!
Typically thousands of tourists visit Waitomo, but as NZ had moved from Covid Level 4 to Level 1, there was but a handful. By design, there were 9 people on our Spellbound Glowworm and Cave tour. (Photos courtesy of Spellbound Tours)
Outside of Waitomo is Marakopa Falls “Prettiest waterfall in NZ”. Nearby is Mangapohue Natural Bridge, with a walk through the karst topography.
Taharoa – driving northwest toward the coast to the end of the road.
The Boot and Shoe Fence
Ten years ago a woman named Irene hung boots on her fence to remember her parents. Today tramping boots, work boots, walking shoes, gumboots and jandals (flip flops), hang along that fence line of about 200 meters. A tribute to trampers, hikers, trekkers, walkers, adventurers and explorers near the Tawarau Track. We added our worn-out trainers.
Unexpected Wildlife Lessons
Mark, our guide, feeding longfin eels…and proving that possum traps do indeed work. #PestfreeNZ
And finally, a message from a noisy kea at the Otorohanga Kiwi and Native Bird Park
Where to next? Hot Stuff at Rotorua and Taupo: Volcanoes, Geysers, Mud Pools, Boiling Lakes