Long, beaut drive from Taupo via the Desert Road to Whanganui. Stopped off for a few hours to take in Okahune and Whakapapa Village in Tongariro National Park for striking views of the triplets – Mts Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu, and Tongariro.
A short walk from the village up the Ridge Track affords stunning views of the valley below. Got chatting to a very friendly Dutch couple who were hanging out at the top of the track, soaking up the view of the mountains passing in and out of the cloud. They recommended a side visit to Tawhai Falls Walk a few minutes out of the village, which we did when we resumed our journey on to Whanganui. Walk does what it says on the tin, leading to another of the many waterfalls we encountered on our trip.
More impressive views over river, valley, and verdant hills dotted with grazing sheep as we made our way along the much winding road into Whanganui along State Highway 4. Lots of landslips and washouts on the road made for “tricky” driving in places.
Eventually we arrived at Mowhanau Holiday Park where we planned to stay for 2-3 days. Darkness was upon us and the temperature had plummeted. As a result, our first impressions were not great. The dawn of the next day painted a whole new bright picture. Although the campsite might be in need of a little TLC, the location at Kai Iwi Beach is fab. Wild ocean waves crashing onto a lovely beach piled high with driftwood, beautiful Pohutakawa trees just a very short stroll away… Fellow campers were interesting and friendly.
The 64km Whanganui River Road drive to Pipiriki is a must. Another narrow long winding road means slow progress and requirement to stay alert and careful. The effort is duly rewarded with the wonderful scenery. Also worth a stop is the beautifully carved Marae at Koriniti. You can wander the grounds provided there’s no one around – otherwise check whether it’s ok to before doing so. Serenity itself, with the added bonus of historic wooden buildings on the edge of the grounds.
Onwards to Pipiriki we didn’t mind at all getting stuck in a traffic jam – New Zealand stylee – two vehicles (including ours) and a whole bunch of sheep…
On arrival at Pipiriki our choices were to go back the way we came, return via SH4, or go the really long way round via Okahune and SH1. Opted for the latter – at least the roads were fast and relatively straight. Also got the pleasure of a different view of snow capped Mount Ruapehu in the distance
Whanganui town about 20 mins drive away from Mowhanau Village (and our campsite) has lots going for it, warranting a morning mooch round the shops and galleries, and a stroll along the river before we headed up to New Plymouth in search of warmer weather. The Big Orange Café provided a hearty and delicious breakfast to fortify us for the journey.