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The Forgotten World Highway, has been listed as one of the world's Top 10 bike rides by Lonely Planet, and now there is a plan to improve it with a cycleway running alongside the mothballed SOL rail line

A Top 10 Bike Ride in the World 

Many travelers will agree that the best way to explore a tourism destination is on two wheels, slowly meandering along as the landscape unfolds before you.

The idea, by ​Forgotten World Adventures owner Ian Balme, has the support of Stratford and Ruapehu District Councils, which are preparing a joint proposal to the Provincial Growth Fund for a business feasibility study.

Forgotten World Highway World Top 10 Bike Rides3

Balme, whose company operates rail carts along the KiwiRail-owned line, said the upgraded cycleway would be "an absolute game changer" for the region's tourism. "It would be the Otago Rail Trail on steroids," the Taumarunui businessman said. 

Cyclists would cover the same route as tourists riding on the rail carts through spectacular scenic gorges and staying overnight at historical rail and farm settlements.

Balme suggested a trust set up between iwi, KiwiRail and the two district councils would operate and maintain the cycle trail when it is built.

He estimated the cost of the project between $5m and $6m.

"The advantage we have compared to other cycleways in the country is that we have a 140km existing corridor of uninterrupted land," he said.

Lonely Planet described the ride travelling through "farmland, lush green valleys, raging rivers, wooden-roofed tunnels, narrow bridges and unsealed roads".

But it warned two-wheeled adventurers to be "well prepared or travel with a support vehicle, as there are very few opportunities to restock supplies along the way".

Occupying top position in the Lonely Planet list is a seven-day 1000km adventure from Windhoek to Felix Unite in Namibia.  This ride is followed by a 55km jaunt on the La Farola in Cuba, and then there is the 300km high altitude pedal through Salar de Uyuni​,through Bolivia.

Whangamomona Hotel owner Richard Pratt said any promotion of the Forgotten World Highway as a dedicated cycle route would be a bonus for the region eager to attract more tourists.

Pratt said around 20-30 cyclists had passed through the small rural settlement between Stratford and Taumarunui during January.

"We don't get a lot of them because of the hills coming out of Taumarunui," he said.

"It's hard work and they need to be pretty keen.

"However without a doubt, it is a stunning ride and it needs promoting."

Pratt said the ride could be re-routed off-road to enhance more of the scenery and history of the isolated area and minimalise interaction with car traffic.

A public meeting is to be held in Taumarunui on 12 February 2020 at 5.30pm at the Taumarunui RSA to hear feedback on the cycleway proposal before it is submitted to the PGF. All are welcome to attend. Entry is $5 for non-Enterprise Taumarunui members. Snacks, coffee and tea will be provided. 

(Source: Stuff.co.nz)

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