With two national parks, one mighty awa, 24 tunnels, 96 bridges, 124kms of railway line and four magnificent maunga, the weather in the Forgotten World tends to be pretty unpredictable, but it also means that you can come visit at any time of year and still enjoy glorious days.
The team at Forgotten World Adventures (FWA) have been operating on the abandoned Stratford to Okahukura line (SOL) since Ian Balme, farmer, former Waikato Regional councilor and keen outdoorsman, first saw the decommissioned rail line. But adventures through the Forgotten World have not been without challenges.
Inspired by the Otago Rail Trail, Ian understood the sense of adventure travelling down a railway line creates. Writer Elizabeth Smither rode on the last passenger train from Stratford to Taumarunui in January 1983 -
"The names of the little town make a lament: Toko, Douglas, grave siding of old carriages, some burnt out like Phar Lap's ribs; Huiroa; Te Wera; Whangamomona; old rails that click and the new ones that don't; Kohuratahi, where you could cross a field and buy ice creams thereby boosting the local trade; Tahora, Tangarakau, where a passenger sighted a wild deer; Haeo...the falling into oblivion of a town is like the falling of language."
Spring arrives in September and as the weather starts to warm up, the FWA team starts gearing up. Spring is our 'waterfall season' - the country's falls multiply with magnificent effect. Spring is also when calves, lambs and daffodils pop up in the fields and Cherry Blossoms mark the entry to Ngahainga (Cherry Grove) where the Ongarue and Te Awa Tupua Whanganui Rivers meet.
You can also hope for sightings of kaka and yellow-crowned parakeets. At night it's even possible to hear the call of the North Island brown kiwi.
During summer, between December and February, New Zealand celebrates, school's out, temperatures rise and the sunshine hours are high. Aotearoa's native Christmas tree, the pohutukawa, blooms a vibrant red and legend has it that if the pohutukawa flowers early, it will be a long hot summer.
On a clear day, the view of all four maunga - Taranaki, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are simply exquisite.
Travelling through the Forgotten World manuka, kanuka, matai, kahikatea, buttercups, foxgloves, golden and red tussocks and native mistletoe greet travellers from farmland and bush. Random fruit trees hint at former gardens, blackberries and apples are shared with the locals as well as recipes passed down from cooks and kitchens. In the Tangaraku Gorge the sweet smell of manuka and kanuka hangs heavy in the air.
In summer this whole area looks like it's been snowing and everything smells like honey.
The Rail Cart Tours
On the SOL the Rail Carts travel at a top speed of approximately 20km per hour, it can get a little chilly when you're just cruising, especially through the tunnels, so all carts have blankets supplied and the windscreen can be adjusted a'la air conditioning. The carts have waterproof plastic curtains that ensure travellers remain dry when the rain sets in, but waterproof gear can be useful on a really wet day.
There is also a strong chance you'll be getting up close and personal with the local wildlife, as they seek out shade, sun or food. Being fully immersed in this unique New Zealand experience also means travellers need to be travel smart - slip, slop, wrap and slap is a great motto to follow - hat, sunscreen, layers...insect repellent.
Safety is something Forgotten World Adventures takes very seriously in all of their destinations. Whether you're flying by helicopter, riding the rails, jetting on Te Awa Tupua or just sitting back and soaking it all in.
Get Lost in the Forgotten World
More importantly, the Forgotten World is a great place to discover, or to get lost, no matter the weather. Forgotten World Adventures tours run from October to mid-May with most kicking off at 07:30am and an alternative time at 10:30am and 11am on some. Incredibly popular in summer, booking in advance is highly recommended.