After the usual door-to-door pick up we all gather at the coach in South Auckland and head down the motorway, alongside the new construction and to our first stop at Riverhaven in Huntly. Time for a cuppa and rest stop, before continuing through Hamilton and onto Otorohanga. We’ll point out a few places of interest as we drive south – the old Huntly Power Station, Taupiri Mountain, the “Rosetown” of Te Awamutu and, when we get to Otorohanga, you’ll hear the story of when and why it changed its name to Harrodsville!
And on through Te Kuiti, we’ll point out a couple of statutes of iconic New Zealand figures that have made this great nation what it is today!
Our lunch stop is with Rachel at Piopio, just a bit south of the 8-Mile Junction. This has been wonderful in the past and we expect the same again this year. Rachel goes to a lot of trouble to prepare her place and to provide a tasty and mouth-watering lunch. She will willingly tell the story over lunch of her family’s settlement and growth in the local region. She and her husband have built a hilltop home with great views around the surrounding farmland and we’ll have time to enjoy those for ourselves.
Then on through to Taumarunui, on the Main Trunk Line, where the Forgotten World Adventure Co runs railcart tours on the old railway line from here to Stratford. This is a brilliant adventure with the self drive railcarts and a knowledgeable guide, traversing scenery which is impossible to view by any other means. Our new Bridge to Nowhere and Forgotten Worlds tour incorporates a 16½ km long section of the old track as part of that trip, and includes lunch at the famed Whangamomona Hotel.
And I’ll be testing your knowledge (with a few clues supplied) as to who were the famous, (and infamous!), New Zealanders who were born here in Taumarunui before going onto make their name and fame.
We continue south pass the engineering marvel of the Raurimu Spiral, a complex and creative solution to a major engineering problem ie a 500ft height difference between the two ends of the North Island Main Trunk Railway. It was built from 1898 and is recognised internationally as a innovative engineering feat.
And we emerge onto the central Volcanic Plateau at National Park, before turning up to the Chateau Tongariro. I love returning to this place. The Chateau, built in the 1920s, retains an air of elegance and comfort – take a look at the huge chandeliers that adorn the main lounge, with its sofas and settees! We’ll enjoy a pre-dinner drink here before going in for a beautifully cooked dinner in the sumptuous restaurant, the Ruapehu Room. Hard to believe that it was built using a fair bit of prison labour from the nearby camp at Erua, while others were enticed to join the workforce by the promise of ‘free accommodation and a free suit’ if they stayed till completion.
A highlight here is the trip up the mountain road to the Ruapehu ski field with its magnificent views over the upper Whanganui region. On exceptionally clear days it is possible to see Taranaki/Mt Egmont away to the west, and I’ve been fortunate to see it on 2 or 3 occasions.
Scroll through some recent tour pictures below: