Our Queen’s Birthday weekend has brought a dose of glorious winter blue skies, and it was a good time to take my new car, LaBleue, out for a wee roadie into the Manawatu countryside. When you think of Manawatu, you possibly think ‘floodplains, flat’- but there is actually a lot of variation in the scenery. I used the Manawatu Country Road brochure and headed out on my QB version of the various roads and options on the map.
First I decided I needed to leave Palmerston North by a slightly different route from normal, so instead of driving straight to Feilding first, I headed towards Ashhurst, then took roads through Hiwinui and Colyton. (And I passed the schools in both settlements, neither of which I had seen before, despite my many years of teaching in this area!)
North of Kimbolton I was definitely back into hill country and winding roads. The view from the Apiti lookout was striking, and I often caught glimpses out to Ruapehu on my left- though it wasn’t easy to pull over anywhere and take a photo.
I nearly took the Peep-o-Day route by accident- and perhaps one day I will return to do this when I go to visit my friend Hayley not far south of Ohingaiti. I carried on as far as Pemberton Corner- not far short of Rangiwahia- and read all the historic plaques there about an early settlement that has long disappeared.
Then I headed across on Mangomako Road, planning to come out on SH1 just south of Ohingaiti. I was expecting to be driving an unsealed route here, but it was sealed all the way. There was the bonus of emerging up high to see the Rangitikei River below.
I crossed the bridge and found myself briefly in the Rangitikei region. Had a bit of drama as a black steer crossed the bridge behind me. When I stopped to take photos I found myself stepping smartly back to my car to avoid it, but then it stopped to munch grass contentedly on the verge. I decided the best thing to do was ring *555, and hope it is now safely ‘home’.
At Mangaweka I turned off SH1 and discovered a whole ‘old’ main street, that some people are clearly making efforts to rejuvenate. Mangaweka is hedged in close to the hills though, and in some ways it seems ‘wild’, as if it has borrowed a bit of time from the surrounding bush that is now sneaking in to reclaim it.
For all of the brief time that I was in Rangitikei, I felt as if I had taken forbidden egress out of the Manawatu- and as if I was some kind of illegal immigrant into Rangitikei! But just north of the town I turned off SH1 to the right, and rejoined the Manawatu Scenic route, just over the historic Mangaweka Bridge, which also crosses the Rangitikei River. One day I will come back and explore more of the Kawhatau back roads that I bypassed.
At Ruahine I diverted down to see the “Dress Circle” which I had heard about many years before. There was a pretty little waterfall, but somehow I has imagined something much more dramatic. Take care if you decide to come down here:- the road to the picnic area was a little muddy and you could get stuck some days.
It didn’t take long to reach Rangiwahia, where I ate the lunch I had brought with me, belatedly, before heading eastwards in towards the ranges, on the road towards Apiti.
At Raumai I found myself back on the main Pohangina Valley road, and was soon home again in Palmerston North. I had been blessed with winter sunshine all day- and have lots of ideas for further exploration back in these hidden parts of Manawatu.
I took lots of photos as the sunshine was beautiful and the skies were so blue. There is a selection here on this Flickr album. Hopefully it won't be too much longer before I have more to report from another local roadie!