Having finished my time in New Plymouth, I headed back towards the interior of the North Island, via Highway 43, or the ‘Forgotten World Highway’. H43 runs from Stratford, near Taranaki, to the interior town of Taumaranui, lying on the northern stretch of the Whanganui River.
The Forgotten World is known as one of the quietest stretches of main highway in New Zealand, winding it’s way through a remote, very sparsely populated stretch of land.
A few farms and sheep/cattle dotted the hillsides, but otherwise it was grass and trees as far as one could see.
There is also the odd tiny town. The most notable town is Whangamomona…or I should say, ‘The Republic of Whangamomona’. The epicenter for this is the Whangamomona Hotel.
As the story goes, Whangamomona (rural population of around 175), was historically part of the Taranaki region. In 1989, the New Zealand government decided to redraw boundary lines for regions, and Whangamomona was going to become part of the Manawatu-Wanganui region. The folks of Whangamomona objected, and to show their objection, they declared themselves a Republic. Now, every second year, they elect a new president of the Republic. The election results have been thus (from Wikipedia):
Ian Kjestrup (1989–1999) – After being put on the ballot without his knowledge, he became the first elected President. Served 10 years
Billy Gumboot the Goat (1999–2001) – First elected animal. He won election by eating the other challengers ballots. He died in office after serving for 18 months.
Tai the Poodle (2003–2004) – Tai retired after an assassination attempt left him a nervous wreck.
Murt “Murtle the Turtle” Kennard (2005–present) – The local garage owner fought off strong competition from former president Kjestrup and a cross-dresser called “Miriam” to become the 4th President. He was re-elected in 2009 by one vote. He was re-elected again in 2011 by a landslide.
Anyways…continuing along the Highway, I detoured for my hike of the day – out to Mt. Damper Falls.
The falls were suitably impressive. 74 meters high and straight down.
From there, the winding scenic drive continued until I emerged onto the central volcanic plateau. Only to be completely closed in by rain and clouds. <pictures not taken>