Foolhardy preparations for a journey ranked by police to be among New Zealand’s top-ten most perilous, The Forgotten World Highway redeems itself by also being one of the most spectacular and scenic road trips anywhere in the world. Linking Taumarunui and Stratford and officially designated State Highway 43, the Forgotten World Highway is New Zealand’s oldest heritage route.
Writhing through 150 kilometres of bearded rain forest, ghost towns and plunging escarpments, each serpentine hairpin unfolds an eye-opening screen shot into a living location guide to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Ten minutes out of Taumarunui I stop for a forlorn looking hitchhiker who introduces himself in heavily accented German as Anos. Hitching invariably implies an element of desperation, and it didn’t take long for Anos to relate that he’d just broken up with his girlfriend and was resolutely soldiering on solo with his global traverse. By the five-kilometre mark he was fighting back the tears and by the seventh well into a shoulder-shuddering sob. We decided one dust up was no reason to bin a three-year relationship spanning 20 countries so back tracked to town to try and find his Fraulein. Located at the convergence of the Whanganui National Park and Tongariro Heritage Park, Taumarunui is a natural staging post for adventurers, but amid the brightly clad backpackers Anos immediately spotted his beloved’s blonde locks and leapt out to make amends.