The three tracks along the ridgeline on either side of the Manawatu Gorge are all public roads rated as quite easy 4WD trips. However any track in such an exposed area needs to be treated with caution.
Because I was running this trip as a club outing I was leading a convoy of 11 vehicles, ranging from experienced drivers like our regular travelling companions Ashley and Gilli, to people on their first ever 4WD trip.
North Range Rd runs along the top of the very northern end of the Tararua ranges from the top of the Pahiatua Track to the end of the ridge, overlooking the Manawatu Gorge, before dropping down Hall Block Rd to re-join SH3 at the eastern end of the gorge.
The first section of the track was a very easy, wide, well-graded road now part of the network of access roads for NZ Windfarms’ Te Rere Hau wind farm, a complex of 97 wind turbines generating just under 50MW of power.
The other main point of interest on this section was the golf ball like radar station that handles air traffic control for the southern part of the North Island. Luckily, from our perspective, it wasn’t long before the service road stopped at a set of locked gates, with a gap in the fence leading to a narrow dirt track that was the public road. This was more to our taste.
Later in the day the run up Wharite Rd was a lot easier than Takapari Rd – in fact I was in high ratio 2WD the whole way. It was only when we turned off Wharite Rd for the final three km climb to the transmission towers that the road got rougher and steeper.
We re-grouped at the bottom of Wharite Rd to air up. Some people had commitments in Wellington and had to get away but the last few of us stopped off in Palmerston North for tea at a very nice Indian restaurant before making our way home at the end of another fantastic trip.