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we'll only remember the good bits



Deep in the King Country there is a road they call the Forgotten Highway. With one end in Taumaranui and the other in Stratford, it winds through a maze of farmland and forest, follows rivers and straddles ridges, and offers all the climbing you could wish for. Or descending, depending on your preference.

The only civilisation along the way is Whangamomona, a town so isolated they declared themselves a republic some time back and still exist outside normal kiwi life.

When our friend Kate put a posse together to ride this road, and offered her very patient partner as a bag carrier and van driver for the return trip, I signed up immediately.

The party was 11 strong, an eclectic mix of riders, bikes and abilities, from current race-ready roadies to the likes of me.

On a side trip to the almost deserted village of Ohura was the New Zealand we want to believe still exists out there. We found the local shops were closed, and one of them had an intriguing sign announcing Charley’s Bike Museum. We found the local school had picnic tables, and a lovely staff member doing some catch up on her weekend. She kindly offered us unrestricted use of whatever was available - tables, toilets, kitchen, slides. When we mentioned the Bike Museum she said we could go and get Charley, and so not long after lunch we were in the museum. It was great, Charley was a generous host, and there was some rare old stuff in there.

After several forgettable climbs with unforgettable views, we hit a long gravel descent in a spectacular gorge, and not far after that, Whangamomona. The historic hotel where we spent the night was filled to capacity: especially the bar, which was running the footie test on a big screen. I overheard a local say “If I knew it would be this crowded I would have had a shower!”

The ride to New Plymouth on Sunday was punctuated with more long climbs, and some of the sweetest downhills I have ever ridden, one of them on thick, newly laid gravel. Paul punctured right outside the only house for miles, and the three kids who lived there slowly worked their way down the driveway, each daring the other to get close to the weirdos at the gate. The livestock on the ride were just as timid: goats, cows, sheep and even a giant bull were all unnerved by a gaggle of cyclists.

They had better get used to us. This route will become a must-do for an adventurous bike rider. The Highway will only be Forgotten until you have ridden it. Then you will remember it forever.

WPtheroadNo idea what's around that next bend

WPbensonThe Benson in its natural habitat

WPslideGayle makes use of the amenities

WPeggsThree women peel eggs at the same time




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