I ticked that off my list last summer, as my wife and I meandered back to Martinborough after spending a weekend in Napier.

Months earlier I had taken a road map of New Zealand and had gone over it with a felt pen tracing out all the roads I had travelled. Of course, the major highways had been traversed, as well as almost all of what we used to call the provincial highways, and a good many others as well.

In the South Island, the map was covered with black ink – Picton to Invercargill, in to Mount Cook, over the Lewis and Arthur’s Passes, though the Catlins, from Nelson to Collingwood, up and over the Skippers, the ‘pig route’ in from Palmerston to Central Otago, and back down the Maniototo, even Dansey’s Pass got inked over; Lumsden into Te Anau and Manapouri, around western Southland taking in Tuatapere, Nightcaps, Otautau and Riverton.

The North Island routes were also covered in ink. I’d previously covered all the main highways and provincial roads, the backside of Lake Taupō, around the East Cape, and through the gorge from Gisborne to Opotiki, Hongi’s track, around the Coromandel and up to Port Charles, and even the Far North to up Kaitaia and down the west side to Dargaville, out to the coast from Pukekohe, and the west side of the Firth of Thames through Miranda and on to Auckland through Hunua.

The beach at Porangahau - wind, tussock, flying sand and unpopulated

And a personal favourite – over the hill from the Waitomo Caves and down to the gentle harbour town of Kawhia, once the third busiest port in New Zealand. In the 1830s to the 1850s local Māori had their own shipping business selling and shipping hides and other produce to Sydney and Melbourne. Now it’s a hideaway for boaties and fishers.

But there were three glaring gaps: the inland route to Gisborne from Wairoa; the Gentle Annie between Napier and Taihape and the coastal route in the Wairarapa. So, on a whim, and since we were in no hurry, I persuaded my wife that instead of heading down the main road from Napier to Martinborough we should swing east and explore the back road. It seemed liked a good idea at the time.

We fuelled up in Waipukurau and took the opportunity to get coffee and food at the Angkor Wat, which is the cousin of the place of the same name in Waiouru.

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