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EARLY SETTLERS ABANDON THIS VALLEY - TOO HARD!
The Mangapura Valley was opened up by the New Zealand government in 1917 for the pioneering farmers, most of which were returned soldiers from World War 1. Rugged and steep hills covered in thick native forests proved to be back-breaking work for these men who were trying to forge a farming life for their families.
Once they had cut down enough forest, they would set fire to the trees to clear the land, in the warm ashes a seed bed would be sown resulting in small fields in-which cattle could then be introduced for grazing.
To service this area a road was cut through the valley so vehicles could be driven with supplies. Maintaining this road was an on-going task because of the steepness and shear cliff faces that the road had to pass through. One well known cliff face has been named 'battleship bluff', this cliff would constantly collapse and need constant work to keep the road open. It is now a very thin walking track and amazes even the most sure footed hiker how they use to drive vehicles past this forbidding bluff.
Once the road was completed up to the Mangapura Gorge, the now famous 'Bridge to Nowhere' was constructed, It is 130 feet long, and 125 feet above the stream and was built to replace a wooden swing bridge that horses were made to cross on (some-what scary when you first see the gorge).
However economic hardship, and problems with the remoteness and difficulty of access, resulted in many families abandoning their farms. In 1942 there were a few families left. After a major flood in early January of 1942 the Government refused to make further funds available for road maintenance, and it officially closed the valley in May 1942. The disappearing road line, old fence lines, occasional brick chimneys, and this bridge serve as reminders of the ill fated settlement.
KAYAKING THE 'WHANGANUI RIVER'
This 3-day journey takes in the most picturesque part of the 'Whanganui' River from Whakahoro to Pipiriki. This stretch of the river covers 87 kilo-metres of untouched New Zealand bush, with an abundance of streams and rivers that merge into the Whanganui to create an aura of mystery and serenity.
Start your journey from the small settlement of Whakahoro, a side-stream kayak entry that merges you into the mighty 'Whanganui River', after about 15 minutes of paddling you'll find yourself free and totally immersed into nature - just you and the kayak surrounded by nature, cliff-faces, native untouched forests and the soothing sound of the river flowing.
It’s easy to lose yourself here and forget about all of life's problems – it’s pure magic!
There are plenty of conservation areas to land your kayak on to stop for a break, maybe just to stretch and have a rest or a well-deserved lunch. The native forests that encompass the river are thick and filled with bird-life so it’s well worth taking photos along the way, and there’s always wild goats that come to the river’s edge to drink and seem use to people kayaking by.
New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) have done an outstanding job of providing campsites along the river, with sheltered areas to cook under in case of rain and flat area's to pitch your tent. They've even got water tanks to catch the rain, so there's a good supply of fresh water to cook your meals and replenish your water bottles (it's a good idea to boil your water first...just to be safe!).
Depending on how much it has rained, will affect the rapids on the first 2-days...but don't worry they are few and far between and easily negotiated even for first time canoeists.
On your 2nd day you'll come across the 'Mangapura Landing' where you'll tie your kayak and make the short hike (30mins) to the famous 'Bridge to Nowhere', abandoned long ago by the early settlers. This really has-to-be-seen! You might say to yourself...it’s just a concrete bridge...and you'd be right.... but what these people had to endure and where they were trying to break in the land to start a life for their family is truly amazing!
Carrying on down the river brings you to you last campsite - 'Tieke Kainga' a Maori marae - a place where the culture can be celebrated, where the language can be spoken, inter-tribal obligations can be met, customs can be explored and debated, where family occasions such as birthdays can be held, and where important ceremonies, such as welcoming visitors or farewelling the dead can be performed. It's a truly enchanting and culture campsite to stay at and the local maori are very inviting with a few stories to tell of the river.
Your last day is the shortest but most exciting...Rapids!! There's a few to negotiate and get the heart pounding and it makes the end of your river journey something to remember. The best tip I can give you is aim for the middle of the rapid and paddle hard and fast. Everyone's always nervous about their first rapid but once they've done one they're hungry for more.
As you make your way down this last stretch of the river, the native forest starts to thin out and farm-land starts to appear with sheep and cows grazing in the fields and the odd house appears as you round a bend in the river.
All too soon you're landing your kayak on dry land and back to the real world but what an adventure to tell your friends about!
The Great New Zealand Bus Tour Ltd is proud to incorporate the 'Whanganui River' as part of it's North Island camping tours.