Taranaki Cycleway First to 'Open'
The Forgotten World Highway
Weaving 180 kilometres from Taumarunui to New Plymouth via the Forgotten World Highway and inland roads is the first of three new cycle touring routes in New Zealand.
And it has the distinction of being one of the first offical trails to be opened as part of Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail (NZCT) and is expected to attract cycle tourist from around the globe.
The trail was offically opened in August 2011 with some big names present including Green Party MP Kevin Hague, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Bike NZ chairman Richard Leggat and Cycle Action Network manager Patrick Morgan.
The first three cycle touring routes to be opened were Taumarunui to New Plymouth (including part of the Forgotten World Highway), from Taumarunui to the Ruapehu-Whanganui Trails and from Taumarunui north to Ongarue.
The Forgotten World Highway is considered by many to be one of New Zealand's best (and oldest) on-road cycling routes, which means world class and some riders who have enjoyed it many a time like the renowned Jonathan Kennett are stoked.
Also stoked are the local business councils, like Taumarunui who are keen to see their town take on a hub-like role similar to those areas along the successful Central Otago Rail Trail ride.
The ride is an amazing historical tour through some truly rugged country - think Land of the Dinosaurs - featuring abandoned communities and very cool single lane gravel road tunnels, including the Hobbit Hole (the local's name for the 180m Moki Tunnel). You are traversing through some knarly outback, through gorges with steep hills often spotted with fearless sheep on impossible gradients.
A short detour to the Mount Damper falls is worth it. They are the highest falls on the North Island, just shy of 80 metres. You will pass through - and should stay at - Whangamomona. Or should we say the Republic of Whangamomona, a tiny town which became aggrieved with the local councils in 1989, and declared itself independent. Along with the historic buildings that are slowly falling into ruin, the focal point of the visit is the towns pub, which as well as serving food and drink, administers the republic, including the issuing of passports and such like.
The Ministry of Economic Development is inviting submissions from cycling groups and local authorities to recommend the best touring routes in their areas to add to the network. Guidelines can be viewed at www.nzcycletrail.com.