Ticket to Ride

Along with all the duties of being out in front and making sure that the line is clear, our wonderful guides have just been issued with their very own ticket clippers.

Part of the experience of a train journey is to have a ticket issued that is clipped as a receipt of the ride.  So we have had our own special ticket designed showing all the stations on the line. Now there is a record of the historical stations that have been passed through! Terry and ticketsMeet our guide Terry pictured here, clippers in hand, before guiding the Twenty Tunnel Tour out from Whangamomona to Okahukura.

Interestingly the difficult part in our ticket plan was finding the genuine ticket clippers.  We are still looking for another set.  Do you know where we might find another pair?

Challenges of Weather and Soils Nothing New

Phot of the Bridge to Nowhere in the Whanganui National Park

The Bridge to Nowhere

What a challenging start to the season weather wise!  The heavy rain events in the area have tested some of the cuttings put through all those years ago.  Just one spot has really created some issues with a bit of shovel work required reminiscent of the toil and hard work that the early pioneers in this area faced almost daily. Fortunately in our time, one day with a high rail digger means that we can remedy the problem.

In the book “ The Bridge To Nowhere: The ill fated Mangapurua settlement”,  the story is told of how the land was opened up for pioneering farmers, mainly soldiers who had returned from World War I, to provide an opportunity for themselves and their families.  Floods, slips, isolation and poor productivity won in the end and the farms were abandoned leaving behind the bridge known as the “Bridge to Nowhere” as a monument.

The Bridge to Somewhere

Bridge to Somewhere

On our western side of the Whanganui River we have a similar bridge called the “Bridge to Somewhere” which is at the end of the Whangamomona Road.  Farming on this side of the river began earlier and lasted longer but again the soil type meant that road maintenance was difficult and the floods and isolation meant that the small holdings of the original planners were never going to be profitable.  No longer needed as a service route, the road today it is little more than a track used by trampers, motorcross enthusiasts and mountain bikers heading down to the Whanganui River.

Dave Digby

Dave Digby

Our southern guides Dave and Carol Digby not only guide the Forgotten World Adventures carts from the Stratford end into Whangamomona but also guide many other walks and tramps in the Eastern Taranaki area including trips to both the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the “Bridge to Somewhere”.

Carol Digby

Carol Digby

 

 

 

Visit their website http://www.eastern-taranaki.co.nz/ for more details but if you are in the area and have the time before or after your trip on the rails, a visit to the bridges will be one not forgotten.

 

Meet Maree

Photo of Maree Matena

Maree Matena

 

Our tour guide Maree has been with Forgotten World Adventures from the very beginning and has a wide knowledge of the area.  With tours for 2013/14 getting underway this week she shared her first day back on the rails…

 

 

… A new bus, new carts,and even a new chainsaw for the guide crew – what a way to kick start the new season!  With 17 enthusiastic clients we set off from Okahukura under a grey sky.Photo of the new Forgotten World Adventures bus
My back up muscle Kevin joined us on the other side of the first tunnel, ready to move whatever might be blocking our way! The sun slowly appeared before our morning tea at Toi Toi. Here the guys put their Kiwi ingenuity skills into use for some minor adjustments to our railcarts (which all worked I might add)!!
With a toot from the whistle blower we rolled out towards Tokirima for lunch.
TokirimaVarious animals appeared along the line to entertain us until we came to a mud heap covering the track, remnants of a big landslide the high rail digger had cleared the day before. With enthusiasm and much effort we cleared this and travelled on for a well earned afternoon tea at Tangarakau.
We arrived at Whangamomona right in time for a quick drink at the local!
A big thanks to my “gangers” (for clearing the line) and my shepherds (who dealt with the livestock) for choosing to share your day with us – a fantastic adventure to start the summer!!

Introducing the Team

The new 2013/14 summer season is the perfect opportunity to introduce you to the team behind Forgotten World Adventures.

Photo of Van Watson

Van Watson

Van Watson is FWA’s Operations Manager and he describes his job as “making sure everything is in place to allow the guides to give FWA’s adventurers an experience beyond their expectations.” Ian Kellas assists him in this role and has ingenuity beyond compare. If there is a way, these two will make it happen but the duo had a few challenges in front of them last week dealing with the aftermath of winter.

Photo of Ian Kellas

Ian Kellas

Monday 30th September

Van headed out from Tokirima on a rail cart while Ian Kellas shuttled the road vehicle and trailer around to Heao. Both rode on the cart from there as they knew they would have to return at the first ‘sure to be there’ slip. It was the Rockfall at Tunnel 10. Returning to Heao, they trailered the cart down to Tangarakau where Ian K departed to pick up two new 4 seater  rail carts from Eltham. Van meanwhile continued the line check by driving the cart up the rail, east from Tangarakau, and was stopped after 500m by a medium slip.

The rockfall at tunnel 10  He reckoned he could get the cart past it by battling along the ballast on the rubber wheels.  After walking up the line about 30 metres to check that it was all clear, he scraped past the offending rubble on the cart. He should have walked 35 meters because at that point there was a really big slip of wet clay and native bush squelched across the line.
A slip at TangarakauSo then it was a walk in the rain to Tunnel 10 to assess a couple of smaller slips.
Back just past Tangarakau a great slab had fallen from the cliff on to the line, so with no rail alternative Van had to  wind up the rail wheels and take a sojourn along the back country road to join the rail at Tahora. Blocked by further slips at Tunnels 3 and 4 there was a slow road journey over the Tahora Saddle before he rejoined the rail with a clear run through to Whangamomona  to get picked up by Ian.

Tuesday 1st October

Van and Ian leapfrogged the cart along from Tokirima back through Ohura to Okahukura. They found only one slip but lots of fallen trees.

Wednesday 2nd October

Hi rail digger and swivel truck at Tunnel 24Van met with Luke (on the HiRail digger) and Geoff (on the HiRail truck) and it was off to the East and West portal of Tunnel 24 to ream out the drainage to clear the standing water away from the ballast; a job repeated for all the tunnels through to Ohura where they ran right out of the day.

Thursday 3rd October

The team cleared drains and culverts through to Tokirima then continued clearing slips through to the big sloppy slip near Tangarakau. A great night was had at the Whangamomona Hotel.

Friday 4th October

Finally got the gear to Tangarakau and the digger got a stick through an important hose so it was back to Taumarunui for some spares.

Saturday 5th October

Cleared the slips through to Whangamomona  and chainsawed a 20m fallen tree intoPapa rock slip at Tunnel 3 manageable pieces.

Sunday 6th October

The big papa slide at Tunnel 3 was cleared before the machines returned by rail to Tokirima for their Monday Transporter.

Drainage at Tunnel 24 It’s a very dynamic piece of country and it would be challenging to be on the line in the depths of winter but the entire line is now checked, repaired, cleared and open to enjoy.  Unless it rains – really hard.

The “Dropped” Challenge

Jono and Ben on the Forgotten World Adventures rail cartHaving been handcuffed and Dropped in the South Island, TV3′s Jono and Ben have to make their way to Fashion Week in Auckland to find the key that will unlock their shackles. With just one day to go before Fashion Week closes, they’re on a tight deadline. Will they be cuffed together for eternity?

Courtesy of Heineken, this was the “Dropped” challenge facing the comical duo of Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce,  who are more regularly seen on their topical media satire show Jono and Ben at 10 on TV3.  After several days of filming in some rather unusual parts of New Zealand they made it to Auckland to enjoy some of the sponsor’s product.

Heineken have released their journey in three parts with Forgotten World Adventures appearing  in part three.

 Enjoy their journey north through heartland New Zealand.

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2

Click here for Part 3

The team blog

Award wins for Forgotten World Adventures

Forgotten World Adventures last Saturday night ( 21 Sept) capped an outstanding first season by scooping several awards at the Westpac Taranaki Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.

Forgotten World Adventures, which runs unique rail cart tourism tours between Stratford and Taumarunui, took out the competitive South Taranaki District Council Best New Business category against five other finalists.

The company was also Highly Commended in the ITL Business Innovation & Entrepreneurship Excellence Award, Highly Commended in the Air New Zealand Visitor Industry Excellence  Award, and Commended in the Programmed Integrated Workforce Employer of Choice Excellence Award.

“We are absolutely delighted to have been so successful in our first year,” says Forgotten World Adventures owner Ian Balme, “especially in the company of such an impressive array of Taranaki businesses. There was so much drive and energy in that room, which of course is what we associate with Taranaki.”

Tourism is building momentum in Taranaki, he says, with two tourism businesses being finalists for the Supreme Award. “Taranaki is already known for its legendary lifestyles, its spectacular mountain, and its world class energy sector. I believe it is also becoming one of the country’s significant tourism destinations.”

Forgotten World Adventures’ new season begins in mid October and bookings are already ahead of expectations, including increasing numbers of overseas visitors. Ian says it is also satisfying that more people are preferring the two day Ultimate trip rather than the one day journeys, which he believes is an indication  the experience is exceeding people’s expectations.

Forgotten World Adventures has exciting plans for the coming season. Initial bookings have already been made for the new Epic four day journey, which includes the two day Ultimate rail cart trip plus a sensational two day jet boat adventure the length of the Whanganui River.

Representatives of the FWA team attending the Westpac Taranaki Business Excellence Awards

Representing the FWA team at the Awards were L to R : Sheryle Henderson, Carol Digby, Dave Digby, Ian Balme and Rachel Balme

Summer Adventures 2013/14

fernsThe popularity of our Forgotten World journeys has delighted us in our first season.

We have not been idle over the winter months and our first adventurers down the line on the 14th of October will see several changes to enhance their experience.  With more robust shelters for our lunch and snack stops including extra toilet facilities, new information booklets in each cart and several more accommodation options in the Whangamomona region we are confident that the 2013/14 summer season will be a success.  All our guiding staff are returning to lead the way to what we believe will be a fun and exciting summer.New Zealand wood pigeon kereru

Looking though some of the photos that guide Maree took during our first season has really highlighted the natural beauty of the region.  Wood pigeons (Kereru) were sighted, fossils were found when clearing away small rocks to the side of the track and even our normally green ferns took on various shades of brown as they coped with the drought that last summer cast over the area.

But when the rain came, new growth was evident everywhere and so the area renews itself for another season.  Come and join us this summer!

New Zealand FernNew Zealand crab fossil

Will you be the 1000th?

This week we will pass a significant milestone as we will process our 1000th booking!   To celebrate, the lucky person to book and confirm that #1000 seat will ride absolutely FREE! Although January seats are filling fast, there are still plenty of choices for February and March and April.

Development of our systems and facilities continue. Ian took a rail cart up to The Cloud on Auckland’s Queen’s Wharf as part of the Sustainable City Showcase.

It certainly appealed to Mayor Len Brown who tried it out for comfort!  Then it was off to the Stratford A&P Show to display the cart to those on the south western end of the SOL line.

Mayor Len Browne on Forgotten World Adventures rail cart  at the Auckland Sustainable City Showcase

Auckland’s Mayor Len Brown tries out the FWA’s rail cart watched by Holly and Alice Balme who were telling the FWA story at the Auckland Sustainable City Showcase.

In the Taumarunui office, Dianne and Holly are taking care of all bookings, enquiries and administration.  They are sure that there will be many happy faces on Christmas morning as the FWA Gift Vouchers have proven to be a popular choice for Christmas giving.  The girls will be in charge right through the Holiday period with Christmas Day and Boxing Day being the only days that the rail carts will not be operating.   All the trip details are being updated on the website constantly so check regularly for the latest.  We recommend choosing and confirming your dates early to avoid disappointment.

Every member of the FWA team really appreciates all the interest received and kind wishes expressed during these initial months of operation. Thank you very much.  It has been an exciting start to an exciting adventure!

FWA Gift Vouchers are available here

FWA Tour Dates are available here

The New Way to Whangamomona

After two years in the planning and many challenges surmounted, the first rail carts will head out on Saturday (tommorrow) for the first official Forgotten World Adventure.

Photo of the Full Dress Rehearsal Team listening to stories of the rail construction

The Full Dress Rehearsal Team listening to Guides Van and Maree give details on how the line was constructed.

After a fun filled “Full Dress Rehearsal Team” trip of friends and family to test that all was working as it should be last weekend, the carts have been returned for a polish and spruce up ready for the inaugural adventurers.

I am sure that the original settlers set out for Whangamomona with a great deal more trepidation than the rail riders of today.

The township of Whangamomona was established in 1895, and grew quickly with the large amount of agricultural, road and railway work available.  Around thirty businesses were established, including banks, store, stables, a library, a billiard room, police station, refreshment rooms and the Whangamomona County Council Headquarters.

Photo of Whangamomona Circa 1905

Whangamomona Circa 1905

 McLuggage’s Store had a staff of 23 at its peak and was the focal point of the district. A Hotel was erected by builders Irwin and Henry in 1902, with timber from the saw mill on Marco Road. This burnt down in 1905 and was replaced by the current hotel in 1911.

 Lined with photos and memorabilia of the district the Whangamomona Hotel is a fascinating place to visit.  We enjoyed a welcome dinner there last Saturday night before camping down at the Whangamomona Camping Ground in a building which was part of the old school.

Just how hard the pioneers of the area had worked was very evident.  Long may they be remembered and appreciated by the new explorers into the Forgotten World.

Photo of rail cart entering a tunnel on the SOL line