Bike Packing the Forgotten World Highway


Over Easter weekend I took a trip through and around the Forgotten World Highway, between Taumarunui and New Plymouth. This area is surprisingly beautiful for how little I have heard about it before going, and still relatively quiet in terms of traffic.

As you pass through, there are stunning views of the Ruapehu massif, Taranaki, some ancient indigenous forest, cultivated agricultural land and wonderful vistas of the Tasman Sea.

There’re some hefty climbs in there, but nothing that an experienced bike-packer can’t handle, and always followed nicely by some good vistas and exciting non-technical downhills. The particular route I took was mostly sealed and gravel roads.

Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
My bicycle ‘Deirdre’, looking tough on the train heading north

The route formed a loop, down the Forgotten World Highway, turning at New Plymouth and then returning slightly to the north, with a bit of highway travel to link to some great gravel back-roads (which I think will be part of the upcoming ‘Geyserland Mega-Grind’ bike-packing event).

Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
The route, showing proximity and views to Ruapehu, Taranaki, Whanganui and the coast
(image : Google Maps)

DAY ONE : Friday 19th April

08:00 : Depart from Taumarunui Holiday Park, Manunui Domain

16:00 : Arrive Whangamomona

The first day is always a little tough, as you’re fully loaded with food and slightly nervous about every corner and how you’ve packed. But I was soon into the swing of things and enjoying the easy-intro of the sealed road at the start of the Forgotten World.

Bike Packing Forgotten Highway
Elevation Chart from Taumarunui to Whangamomona (image : Google Maps)

The elevation chart showed me that I had several steep climbs to get through, and it was around 95 km to Whangamomona. So, pacing myself and finding some good tea spots along the way made for a full and enjoyable day on the road.  

Bike Packing Forgotten Highway
The road follows steeply-sided gullies for much of the way
Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
Occasional glimpses to the Whanganui River below, and a lot of goats!

There’re some interesting tunnels and great vistas too, with the peaks of Ruapehu clearly identifiable in the distance.

Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
The Moki Tunnel looks scarily home-made, but seems to work
Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
Ruapehu Massif in the distance, with a fine sprinkling of snow

The town of Whangamomona is actually it’s own Republic, or so they claim, and at the hotel that night I met the President (formerly a goat but currently a human). He propped up the bar most of the night in his socks (muddy boots outside), and with satisfied rosy cheeks from a few drinks and having completed a bunch of new fencing that day.

Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
The Republic of Whangamomona
Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
Whangamomona Hotel – hearty food and their own beers for sale

DAY TWO : Saturday 20th April

08:00 : Depart from Whangamomona

17:00 : Arrive New Plymouth

The second day was much like the first, again covering around 95km. But the vistas changed to Taranaki and the coast, the road change to mostly gravel, and turning off the highway onto Junction Road (rather than heading all the way to Stratford) made for much quieter travel.

Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
Taranaki rising out of the mists below, from near the Junction Road turn-off
Bike Packing Forgotten World Highway
Morning tea, with some cheeky hot-cross buns

The day ended on the award-winning coastal walkway into New Plymouth, which was greatly animated with people all along and reminded me of the similar urban design successes in Lima.

Bike Packing the Lost World Highway
The Coastal Walkway, with tomorrow’s weather brewing in the background

DAYS THREE & FOUR : Sunday 21st and Monday 22nd April

07:30 : Depart from New Plymouth

17:30 : Arrive Ohura

08:15 : Depart Ohura

13:30 : Arrive Taumarunui

Days 3 & 4 were much the same, with Day 3 being around 115km and the last day around 60km. The rains came in so there were fewer breaks and more steady progress. There was a bit of highway to get through out of New Plymouth, so I would recommend avoiding that if possible, but otherwise the gravel back-roads were very pleasant with a lot of birdlife to enjoy.

Save some Party Mix and a hot-cross-bun for the Waitaanga Saddle – quite a climb!

The Bed-&-Breakfast in Ohura is a new venture, and a great comfy place to rest for the night.

Bike Packing the Lost World Highway
Days 3 & 4 elevation charts, showing the significant Waitaanga Saddle at the end of Day 3

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