I thought I’d share some pictures I took a few years back of one of New Zealand’s most spectacular pieces of scenery, the Manawatu Gorge.
It’s one of my favourite stretches of road – and until recently, the way to get from Palmerston North on the western side to the pretty little Hawke’s Bay town of Woodville on the other, thence on to Napier. Was? Recently? It has always suffered from falling debris, and during August 2011 the hill on the right in the picture below fell in, dumping spoil on the road and taking out a bridge.
Traffic passing from the Manawatu district to Hawke’s Bay had to be re-routed across a narrow and winding saddle road. And there was a scream in Woodville, which relies on passing traffic (I always used to stop in ‘Cafe 88′ in the main street, or at nearby Fontaine Square, an attractive little park with a gazebo-like band rotunda, a public toilet, and a jumble shop opposite). Repairs have involved excavating 370,000 cubic metres of spoil from the hill to stabilise it. As I write this, the gorge road still hasn’t been fully fixed.
In hindsight it wasn’t surprising. The Manawatu River, running east to west, slices through a mountain range. Tectonic activity lifted the Ruahine and Tararua ranges, and the river cut its way through them. Tectonic movements broke the rock along the way, and the result is 10 km of gorge with fractured greywacke sides. When the settlers hacked a road through, on top of an old Maori track, the excavations de-stabilised the hillside. These steep and friable slopes have been shedding rocks ever since.
Peter Jackson never filmed The Lord of The Rings in this part of the country. It’s still a pretty awesome piece of scenery. Any thoughts?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012