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North Island Roadie, Otorohanga - Mokau

Surviving extremes

View North Island Roadie on Sallyj66's travel map.

18th May
stormy in all its facets

Waking up in Otorohanga was awful weather-wind gusts that punched the van and rocked it, then squally horizontal showers so not a good start. We had 2 things we wanted to do which were visit the Waitomo Caves and also the Natural Bridge which had been highly recommended to us by another camper the previous night.

A quicklook around town and then on up the valley. We parked at the Caves and as they weren’t open yet decided to go for a walk.
As it was just dreadful weather we put on the full regalia.e. waterproof leggings hats scarves and Maddie with her oilskin. It was perfect for the occasion.
Then in discussion with the lady at the ticket counter made the decision to go to the Natural Bridge first and then come back to the Caves.

This is when our day turned into a very stressful exercise. The van started playing up-it was not changing gears well and I knew by the quiet silence beside me that things weren’t that good. We were on a narrow road heading into the wilderness with a van that was not reliable and passing huge logging trucks all too often-just not a good situation. So off course we then start re-evaluating things, does it mean we shorten our holiday and head home, we try and contact Fiat (with no cell phone coverage?), just lots of contingencies playing out... Anyway we limped using manual onto the Natural Bridge (approx 30 minutes up the road from the Caves).

The Mangapohue Natural Bridge is very very pretty. Just a 5 minute walk in from the road. Just turned back and there was a huge bang right behind me. We nearly jumped out of our skins-to see rocks landing onto the track behind us. That was an extremely close call and could have ended very badly for us. We high tailed it out at speed and warned another couple just coming onto the track.

Our trip back to the Waitomo Caves was fine with no issues with the van-strange!. But we still decided that with an unreliable vehicle we should not go on the Forgotten Highway from Taumaranui to Stratford which is a pity because it was on our to-do list. The weather was still abysmal but the occasional bright blue sky. The Waitomo Caves experience was lovely because it is a natural wonder, but our guide was disappointing and as happened last time I was here there was noise to spoil the ambience. I don’t think it is an appropriate thing for babies and when we were in the boats off course the child decided to cry-need I say more.

Our journey now was to head toward New Plymouth as there is a Fiat dealership there. Our sat nav gave us a weird itinerary . We use 3 different forms of assistance-the NZMCA app, google maps and the road map each with its own advantage. Route 3 looked like the best option for us-more direct but both sat nav had us retrace the steps all the way back to the Caves. So we decided to trust our own decision making and go through the Awakino Gorge toward the coast.

Driving was awful with sideway gusts and driving rain alongside our anxiety that we were doing something foolish. However there was plenty of traffic coming our way so we plodded on through the King Country-Colin Meads territory. Pretty impressive but hard. At the tunnel in the Gorge they are making a tunnel by-pass which will be an improvement. That was the only reason we could see for being redirected.

Heading for Mokau, a POP. It is a small camp in the Tainui Wetere Domain but with power and a toilet. Crazy weather still but able to rest for a while. Met another van with people from Wakefield and Pauline has worked with Maureen and Ruth, NZ is a small country. Sal took me fo a walk to the beach at the mouth of the river. The biggest seas I have seen , and also a nice sunset. It took me some time to orient myself to seeing a sunset as we are now on the west coast. The beach has black sand which would be very hot in summer. Despite the inclement weather it was good to get some fresh air in our lungs.

We were invited for 5s so spent time having a wine and chat before heading to bed having survived rockfalls, bad vehicle and extreme weather.

Posted by Sallyj66 22:40 Archived in New Zealand

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