We often travel over the winding Rimutaka Hill Road, on State Highway 2, usually towing the caravan behind us. It is the only road route over the Rimutaka Ranges, travelling from the Hutt Valley side of the ranges on the western side, to the Wairarapa Plains in the east. At the summit the road is 555m above sea level. Why it is called a “hill” when it is part of a mountain range is beyond me, and I can vividly remember the first time I drove over this road in my young days. The red “L”for learner driver was affixed to the windows of my old bomb of a car, telling the world I had not long been granted my driving license. With my two young children in the back seat, I stalled my car driving up the hill in slow traffic. Try as I might I just couldn’t get the car started, and with each try the car kept sliding back down the road getting perilously closer and closer to the car behind me. As you can imagine, the traffic was backing up and I was starting to panic. Obviously, hill starts were not yet part of my driving skills. Finally, a kind motorist took pity on me, and offered to help. Effortlessly, the car started straight away for him. I jumped back in the drivers seat and continued my journey home, swearing my children to secrecy so they wouldn’t tell their father what a terrible driver I was.
Muldoon’s Corner before the work started - Photo courtesy of New Zealand Transport Agency
Muldoon's Corner is the sharpest and tightest corner on Hill Road and is the third to last right-hander heading northward before the summit. It is notorious for the fact that trucks often had to cross the centre line, and two trucks cannot take the corner in opposite directions at the same time. Robin used to drive his truck over this road for several years and often came home with tall tales to tell of narrow escapes! Work has been well underway to realign the road 1km south of the Rimutaka summit on the Wellington side of the hill.
Our trips over the hill are often slow due to the large amount of trucks carrying fill from one part of the road to another. This map shows how the road is being altered, by cutting, filling, and bridging.
Wairarapa News photo
And just who was the corner named after? Former National Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, who was also Minister of Finance, that’s who. The corner has said to got its name in relation to Muldoon's budgets: "tight and [when heading northbound] to the right".