Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui

Being a historian the idea of going to an abandoned settlement appealed to me, so I decided to walk through the old Mangapura farming area.  This was leased to returned servicemen after WW1.  However most of these would-be farmers walked off the land during the 1920s, unable to make a profit clearing the thick bush and having to transport wool from the remote area. The last left in 1947.  Now you can cycle or walk down the old road that serviced the area.

Access to the track is by boat up the Whanganui River.  I left from Pipiriki and the jet boat cost $120 return.  If you want a longer walk you can drive in from Whakahoro but still need some way of being picked up at the other end unless you return on the same track.

If you do drive up to Pipiriki on the Wanganui River road you can stop at the Kawana Mill.

Kawana Mill

This was gifted to local Maori by Sir George Grey in 1854 to mill flour.  It was completely restored in the 1980s.

When you do start the trip up the river you will see that A BILLION people are also out doing the same thing.  When I made it to the Bridge to Nowhere at the start of the track there were 2 other tour groups there, making about 30 people.

The bridge was finished in 1935, by even by then farmers had started walking off the land

Nearly everyone stops at the bridge so I had the track to myself.  It follows the Mangapura stream past all the farms.  These have been labelled with the names fo the various owners.

The track itself is completely flat and would be very easy on a bicycle.

This is the most overgrown part of the track

Not much remains of the farms except clearings and some fences.

Sheehan's old front fence

The houses were all burned during WW2 when the roofing iron was taken for scrap.  The Bettjeman fireplace still remains, with a surprising number of relics.

Relics in the fireplace - pots, a grinder and a coal shovel?

This is a large and picturesque campsite, with a good stream running through the middle of it.  If you do an overnight trip I would recommend staying here.

If you continue on, like I did, there are just more clearings until Johnson’s campsite.  It took me 3 1/2 hours to walk the 15km to this camp.

Johnson's Campsite

This is only a campsite because it has a longdrop.  The ground has been dug up by pigs and rabbits, except for under some trees (note positions of the blue tent for flat ground).  There is no water access in summer unless you climb 20m down a vertical cliff.  The closest water is at Tester’s (1km away) and even that involves climbing down through bush.

The next day I returned on the same track and had the bridge to myself before the tour groups arrived at 11.30.

Then it was back down the river past another 700 million people in canoes.

Traffic jam on the Whanganui River


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