My first visit was an early one to a friend who lives near Hunterville with a baby: she was certain to be up already! Next I took a wander down the main street of Taihape, full of interesting old buildings and wonderfully local, non-mall-ified shops. Then I swung into the local Tourist Office to check out some details about the route ahead. They were really very helpful- thanks guys!
I left town on the route for Napier- wee bit scary in the first few kilometres, as there were places where the road seemed to be ready to slip away down to the river! Soon I took the turn-off for 'River Valley', as the Tourist Office had directed, so I could swing by Pukeokahu School, where I know the principal.
It was leaving Pukeokahu that my plans took an unintended longer turn. The Tourist Office people had carefully highlighted the route on the map for me, showing a slight retracing of steps back onto the road for Moawhango, the quickest way to the "Gentle Annie" route, mostly sealed now. But I never re-checked my map, and was 'fooled' by this sign near the school, into thinking that I was already on the quickest route to Napier...
And thus the day's adventures really began- as I headed out onto unsealed roads for many more kilometres than I had intended, past some really isolated farm stations... And I was really glad now to have the map they had given me at the Tourist Office. Even though I had got more than a tiny bit 'lost' off my originally intended route, at least I was able to work out where I sort of was out in the wopwops- and I could tell I would eventually rejoin the Gentle Annie route further east.
This is a bridge crossing the Rangitikei River. It is always surprising when you discover how far back-country some of these rivers arise, far from where they reach the sea. (The road was sealed over the bridge- which gives a misleading view really- as I had travelled for many kilometres on an unsealed road to get here!)
The road name changes here, which my GPS had no knowledge of. In fact my GPS kept trying to direct me to Hawkes Bay via a V-shaped route back home via the Manawatu region.... I managed to totally confuse the poor GPS, until I was back on the Gentle Annie route itself, when it finally let me head for Hastings without telling me to 'turn around when possible'.
I had travelled so far at this point, that I almost expected the river to be heading east, but it was clearly flowing westward. This view is looking back into the hill country upstream. You can see a support from a former bridge still in the river bed.
And still my back-country route continued. I came to what almost looked like a farm entry, across a cattle stop, and I was a bit concerned I had somehow missed my road connection for the Gentle Annie route.
But all was in fact well, and soon enough I was passing through Otupae Station, on a road that I imagine gets very little use by anyone other than shepherds...
Just a few kilometres past the station, I finally emerged onto the main Taihape-Napier road, and could even see a glimpse of Mt Ruapehu in the distance.
I felt like my adventure was 'over' once I regained the main route, but interesting surprises still remained. I could see the 'remnants' of the Ruahine Range to the south.
And very soon I was passing through the southern end of the Kaweka Range, which was very rugged, full of that moody atmosphere that only such country can have.
Finally, and quite suddenly, I emerged onto the 'other side', into the more gently rolling back-country hills of Hawkes Bay... my adventure over for the day... But I will be back- as there is still a section of the Gentle Annie route I haven't been over!