A spare, mainly fine weekend was the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for David Coxon and part­ner May to ex­plore the Tai­hape area.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by David Coxon.

Leav­ing Wellington our first planned stop was at Palmer­ston North to have a quick look at the square and the shops, as May had never been there. En route we spot­ted a partly har­vested field, and while I am no ex­pert in farm­ing crops, the con­trast be­tween the head-high stalks and the har­vested stub­ble was a photo op­por­tu­nity not to be missed. Mov­ing on we had our brief stop at Palmer­ston North as planned, then con­tin­ued through to the Ash­hurst Do­main for lunch in the sun. We found a nicely placed pic­nic ta­ble where we could enjoy the sun and sounds of birdlife in a park-like set­ting, while still be­ing close to a lit­tle café where I could get a cof­fee. Re­turn­ing to Ash­hurst af­ter lunch we headed up the Po­hang­ina Val­ley for a short dis­tance be­fore climb­ing up onto the low ridge above the Po­hang­ina River where the road turned to gravel for the first time on our trip.

Dog gone!

As we climbed we met a farm dog sit­ting in the mid­dle of the road. He was ob­vi­ously wait­ing for some­one as he ex­cit­edly led us

up the road be­fore turn­ing into a drive­way and wait­ing for us to fol­low. He looked very con­fused and dis­ap­pointed when we just kept go­ing, but we had plans to fol­low the ridge all the way up to Apiti, not visit one of the lo­cals. We moved un­der clouds as we drove and were treated to a mix­ture of rain and sun, with the some in­ter­est­ing au­tumn colours in the trees and in­ter­est­ing pat­terns of the evening sun and cloud shad­ows on the hills around us. Fi­nally reach­ing Apiti we con­tin­ued north along the fairly ma­jor sealed road of the Manawatu scenic route be­fore tak­ing a short gravel de­tour up East Man­gahuia Rd, where we stopped for some pho­tos look­ing down a very nar­row and deep gorge be­fore the road dropped through some very at­trac­tive na­tive bush, end­ing at an open, but pri­vate-look­ing gate where we turned and re­turned to the main route.

Set­ting sun

As it was get­ting late, we de­cided to call it a day and just fol­low the scenic route back to SH1 at Man­gaweka. This took a bit longer than we ex­pected thanks to the scenic

beauty of the evening sun back­light­ing the fields and trees caus­ing far more photo stops than we had planned. Fol­low­ing the fi­nal deep val­ley down to the Ran­gi­tikei River at Man­gaweka I no­ticed a road on the other side of the val­ley that looked like it was worth ex­plor­ing, so I put it on the list for a fu­ture trip. Fi­nally back on SH1 it was straight up to Tai­hape for the night. Day 2 saw us head east out of Tai­hape fol­low­ing a net­work of roads that link into the Tai­hape – Napier road, be­fore turn­ing right down Moawhango Rd and do­ing a long loop back to SH1 only about six kms from where we started. The loop was a mix­ture of sealed and gravel roads with some very pleas­ant views out over the sun-dap­pled hills as we climbed and some im­pres­sively deep nar­row gorges, many of which we crossed on im­pres­sively high bridges.

Lovely spot

Lunch was at an op­por­tunely placed grassy clear­ing on the in­side of a hair­pin bend where we sat for over half an hour en­joy­ing the fresh air with­out see­ing a sin­gle ve­hi­cle. We com­pleted the run back to SH1 af­ter lunch then headed off on a sec­ond loop to pick up the roads we didn’t do the pre­vi­ous day. As this was a much shorter loop and we felt closer to home, we spent more time stop­ping, with May col­lect­ing wa­ter­cress at the side of the road and me once again en­joy­ing the pho­to­graphic op­por­tu­ni­ties of the late af­ter­noon light re­flect­ing off braided river beds and fil­ter­ing through the yel­lowleafed trees. We fi­nally re­turned to SH1 and Man­gaweka via the Kawhatau Val­ley and the road I had seen the pre­vi­ous evening. Yes, it was worth ex­plor­ing. Cruis­ing back to Wellington we both agreed that by fo­cussing on one area, in this case Tai­hape, and not try­ing to cover too much back road dis­tance had made this one of our most en­joy­able trips. Less re­ally was more this time.

De­spite the odd shaft of sun­light, the weather was quite threat­en­ing to­wards the Ruahine ranges.

The Ran­gi­tikei River catch­ing the af­ter­noon sun.

East Man­gahuia Rd took use down to this lit­tle pocket of na­tive bush be­tween farm­land and forestry plan­ta­tions.

“The road goes on . . .” Scenic back coun­try tour­ing at its best.

A geo­met­ric pat­tern caught in the sun, but we couldn’t shake the clouds for long.

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