A nice 47km round trip in the Tararua District is from Pongaroa 50km east of Pahiatua, to the Waihi Falls via Manuhara Rd on the way and Waihi Valley Road on the way back. (Google maps is a bit wrong with its southern end of Manuhara Road. It doesn’t go back to the Waihi Valley Road, it goes to State Highway 52.)
Pongaroa is a tiny town. It has a pub and a dairy come grocery store. The pub does meals Friday to Sunday, and after doing this circuit, which I thoroughly recommend, finishing in the pub would make a nice afternoon of it. Pongaroa is the way to go:
Pongaroa also has a human size hamster wheel. I’ve always wanted a go on one since I saw one in the movie Eagle vs Shark, which was filmed in and around Wellington. I don’t know where the wheel from the movie is, but I don’t think it is this one. I had a go when I got back from the ride. It took me 10 seconds to work out I don’t like them. Very disorientating. I don’t like spinny rides.
I left town on State Highway 52. This is one highway you don’t have to be scared of being mowed down by a truck or a drunk driver. It is the quietest road, sometimes called the cyclists’ highway. After a couple of kilometres I turned into Manuhara Road. It is a dirt road, as much of the circuit is. It gently rises over one hill and then there is a long gentle downhill and flat:
The local scenery is dominated by bare hills and sheep:
Disconcertingly this is one sign that says Pongaroa 24km, and there’s another one a couple ks on still saying it is 24km to Pongaroa. Both I think are wrong, and it is slightly less than 24km:
I didn’t know what to expect at the falls, as I’d never seen them before, and was only exploring the map, but there’s actually a neat little picnic ground. The Waihi Falls Scenic Reserve is the oldest reserve in the Hawke’s Bay according to the sign (so I guess I was in Hawke’s Bay, although I thought I was in Manawatu-Wanganui. It’s all so confusing.) The reserve is eleventy-one years old this year.
My trusty steed, holding up well after it’s major surgery:
Then here are the falls, which were bigger and more dramatic than I imagined. The Waihi flows over a ledge of hard argillite:
A short track leads down to the bottom, and in the pool as I arrived a frog hopped off a rock and swam downwards away from me:
Here’s the route back from the falls to Pongaroa via the Waihi Valley:
As I said thoroughly recommended.