Our rural adventure in deepest darkest Benneydale came to an end, and we hitched up, drove back down the little dusty country road to join up with the Ongarue-Waimiha Road. Then we re-joined SH4 and headed towards Taumaranui.
It was time to refuel, and while at the petrol station Robin noticed that the caravan hand brake cable had snapped. Perhaps it had caught on something as we travelled around those windy country roads. Peter came to our aid with a roll of tape so it could be held together in the meantime and not drag on the road.
Continuing along SH4 to National Park, the weather worsened, the temperatures dropped and the rain came down. Mind you, we were travelling along the central plateau at a height of 830 metres or so above sea level, no wonder we were up in the clouds. The National Park railway station does good lunches, I remembered from my last visit when I was travelling by train to Auckland, so I suggested we break our trip and stop for lunch.
The meals were hot and tasty after I had sent my broccoli and blue cheese soup back to be given an extra blast in the microwave, I can’t abide luke warm soup. Robin had hot roast pork in a bread roll, and it looked great, plenty of meat with gravy. The Northern Explorer train (Auckland to Wellington express) used to stop at this cafe for lunch, but does not do so any longer as the service has been privatised, I was told.
Continuing our drive south, we passed giant tussock grasses of toetoe, (although we have always called them as toitoi) with their large creamy flower plumes blowing in the wind. In the old days, the Maori people traditionally used the stems to line the inner walls, roofs, and partitions of houses. The hollow culms were also used as shafts for hunting arrows, straws and pipes, spears in games, and frames for kites. They are still used these days in tukutuku panels, the ornamental lattice-work put around the walls of meeting houses, and a pattern woven among them of flax.
Just 12kms south of National Park, we drove under the Makatote viaduct, the highest on the main trunk railway line. This impressive piece of engineering was designed by Peter Hay and built by J. and A. Anderson’s, and was completed in 1908, and it is 78.6 metres high and 262 metres long. Sadly, there wasn’t a train crossing over as we approached the viaduct.
We pulled into the Waimarino Golf Club and quickly found ourselves a site for the night. The club house open but no one seemed to be around. Then things went a bit pear-shaped. First we tried to fill up the water tanks, but not a drop of water came out. Which meant that the showers and toilets would not work either. Then we set the burglar alarm off, and it rang, and rang, and rang some more. Oh dear, the police will be arriving soon with a couple of large dogs. Finally a couple of blokes arrived, and the water problem was sorted out, thank goodness. After all this trauma, we really needed to have 4zees to settle our nerves.