Geographically, this is a very special place - the scenic divide between the Tararua and Ruahine Ranges. The Manawatu Gorge was formed over thousands of years by the Manawatu River. It is the only place in New Zealand where a river begins its journey on the opposite side of the main divide to where it joins the sea. Bill and Val joined us for the last night of our Christmas/New Year trip staying at Ferry Reserve.
Ferry Reserve offers free overnight parking for self contained motorhomes or caravans on a large slightly undulating grassy area overlooking the river. The vans were parked up and after getting settled, we went for a walk to see what we could see.
The area is bordered by two bridges. The Balance Bridge was constructed over the Manawatu River in 1904 and served until 1968 when it was closed, as it was thought to be unsafe. This wooden bridge was then replaced by an iron-concrete bridge which opened in 1971.
A road through the Manawatu Gorge was constructed 1871-1872, opening up Manawatu to Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay, and the original Upper Gorge bridge replaced the ford in the Manawatu River in 1875, with a toll gate to collect revenue for the maintenance of the road. The wooden bridge, built of heart totara, was replaced in 1931 allowing for two-way traffic. The Manawatu Gorge Road is now closed due to recurring landslides, and a new road is planned.
Upper Gorge Bridge
Several buildings have been added to the reserve since our last visit. Whare Three is one of eight dotted about the region and information boards tell of the history of the area. According to Rangitane tradition the Manawatu River Gorge was formed by a giant totara tree known as Okatia who once stood on the Puketio Ranges to the east. Okatia became incensed with the desire to reach the sea and traveled west from his home, encountering the great Ruahine and Tararua mountain ranges. This it overcome, creating a great mountain pass known as Te Apiti, the Manawatu Gorge.
Whare Three with information boards inside
There is also a BBQ shelter and a rather smart tiled toilet block in the park.
And that’s us away in the distance, overlooking the river
A lovely touch in the park is the Sacred Grove of Trees. These were planted by the children of Woodville School in memory of the servicemen of Woodville and surrounding districts who did not return from active service during the Great War of 1914-1918. Each man now has a personal living memorial so that his sacrifice will be forever remembered.
Sacred Grove of Trees
Our last evening was spent together having a tipple and reminiscing about our trip. The weather had changed overnight and our journey home the following morning was rather wet. But, as often happens, by the time we reached our home town, the weather had improved, making unloading the caravan so much easier. It was a great trip away, plenty of time for relaxing, some exploring, dining out, and time to catch up with family too. We've unpacked the caravan, done a couple of loads of washing, getting ready to do it all again shortly, our next trip away is in two weeks time.
Driving home in the rain