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The Falcon isn't just a car

In the heart of the King Country, The Forgotten World Highway (SH43) is the quietest state highway in New Zealand, here in Te Nehe-nehe-nui (the great forest)  wild natives, four legged traffic jams and inquisitive goats all add to the adventure. Lisa McLean tells us more...

Kōkako,  Kākāriki (Parakeet) and Whio (Blue duck), Kererū (Wood pigeons), Tūī, Fantails, Waxeyes, North Island Robins and the mighty Kārearea (New Zealand Falcon) cruise the forest alongside the abandoned rail tracks. 

The New Zealand Falcon 

ABOVE: The New Zealand falcon is capable of flying at speeds over 100 km/h, and can catch prey larger than itself.

Cutting through the Forgotten World, no less than eighteen species of native fish inhabit the Whanganui River, home to eels, lamprey, koura (freshwater crayfish) and black flounder. Home to one of the largest remaining areas of lowland forests in New Zealand, the King Country is also one of New Zealand’s premier regions for pig and wild boar hunting, duck shooting, deer and goat hunting. 

“Any animal or bird that looks like it can’t defend itself probably came from New Zealand.” - New Zealand Pocket Guide.

The Whanganui District hunting area covers land along the coast from the Turakina to the Patea River and lowland forest inland to Ohura, Taumarunui and Raetihi. There is over 166,000 ha of Public Conservation Land within this region, including Whanganui National Park and the Waitotara Conservation Area.

Pigs and goats have been farmed from the earliest days, and deer have been domesticated since the 1970s. Herds of feral goats now roam the King Country  and people who travel here  will invariably encounter a goat or two at some stage. These highly gregarious characters feed  in the early morning and late afternoon during the summer and often hold up rail tours travelling the Okahukura-Stratford line.

Cow on Line
ABOVE: Sheep and cattle have been the most important farm animals in New Zealand since European settlement, providing wool, meat, dairy products, leather and fibre.

On the abandoned Okahukura - Stratford rail line Forgotten World tours travel through Paparata Station, a 7100-hectare high performance romney and cattle breeding operation and home to Paparata Elite Romney sheep stud. Here sheep shearing  is a sport as well as an essential rural service and source of income. A national competition which pits North and South island shearers against one another occurs annually in Te Kūiti, and smaller competitions take place throughout the year in King Country towns, including Piopio, Ōhura and Taumarunui. Te Kūiti-based champion shearer David Fagan was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to shearing in 1999. Sheep dog trials season runs from February to May each year and is highly competitive with entry open to all. With farming at the heart of the King Country it is  one of the many amusements to foreign visitors to give way to sheep and cattle being moved along major roads by expert farm dogs.

“On stopping in Ohura our tour was witness to children waving hello to us from the dog box on the back of a ute while the farm dogs rode shotgun up front.”

One thing is for certain, you can come for the scenery, the native flora and fauna, the history or the adventure but you won’t leave the Forgotten World without some stories, four legged or two.