After a long day of driving to, and along, the Forgotten World Highway, we arrived at our home for the next three nights, Mill House. We had initially booked another property nearby, but they ran out of water due to some irresponsible guests having a food fight on the property and using a hose to clean it up. What adults have food fights?! Anyway, it ended up working in our favor since the Mill House was incredible!
Located in Pohokura, a little more than half-way along Highway 43, it was the perfect spot to relax for the long weekend. There aren’t many of what you’d consider “towns” along the road, so Pohokura is more like a small settlement without any real center.
Mill House was built in the early 1900’s by the McCluggage Family, who operated sawmills in the area. The Airbnb owners used to live in it, but have recently moved to another property and now rent the house out. One family member, a cat named Kitten, has decided to stay, which was interesting with a dog in the house! She and Higgs didn’t exactly become friends, but came to a grudging understanding to avoid one another.
You can’t beat the views! We had four bedrooms to choose from, so of course picked the bed with this doorway opening out to the front.
Higgsy’s stuffed cow was right at home in this landscape (pictured on its back).
We spent a lot of our time on the front porch, watching the sheep graze and the occasional car drive by in the distance. One of us was especially interested in the sheep, and eventually got threatened with a head-butt. These sheep weren’t at all concerned about a small loud doggo.
Mill House is on a working farm which spreads over a wide swath of land, so we had the company of lots of farm animals. It was fun to pretend we lived here (without all the hard work, of course) for a couple days.
Higgs had a lot of fun scaring the chickens, but they still showed up any time they saw us, hoping for food. We even got to have some fresh eggs with our breakfast one morning.
You can’t beat golden hour in paradise.
As the long summer day came to an end, we were graced with a beautiful sunset and bright moon overhead.
The next morning, we spent some time chilling out at the house and enjoying a break from driving.
Nearby, we spotted a native kingfisher, or kōtare, on a telephone wire.
This was the perfect time to give Higgs some exercise before we headed out on our own in the afternoon. Can you tell he’s ready for the ball to be thrown?
His acrobatics, while trying (usually unsuccessfully) to catch the ball, make for some entertaining photographs.
He gets points for effort, anyway!
In the afternoon, leaving Higgs to guard the farm, Andy and I set out for Mount Damper Falls. About an hour’s drive back along the Forgotten World Highway, it’s a short hike to an impressive cascade.
On the Whangamomona Saddle, we stopped for the view and some brief cell phone reception (the rest of the highway is a dead zone). Andy’s sister was due to have her baby any day, and we didn’t want to miss news!
Again, you can imagine how crazy it would’ve been to carve a road out of this landscape, all by hand.
At the Mt Damper Falls trailhead, we set off through farmland. Since it was a pretty hot day, we looked forward to the shade of the forest.
After a brief trek through the bush, we were greeted with this view of the vast Waitaanga Conservation Area unfolding below us.
Down the steps, we reached a viewing platform and the incredible basin of Mt Damper Falls opened up before us. At 74 meters (243 feet) tall, these falls are some of the tallest on the North Island.
There hadn’t been rain in weeks, so the cascade was instead a mere trickle. The surrounding rock formation was enough to take your breath away on its own, though.
As often happens in NZ, we had the place to ourselves. The only downside to that is having to find ways to prop your camera up to use the self-timer. We’ve gotten it down by now!
After spending a good amount of time soaking in this epic geology, and starting to sweat in the sun, it was time to head back to our air-conditioned car.
On the trek back, we took our time, appreciating the shade of the forest.
More ferns were unfurling in the undergrowth.
Andy managed to even spot a camouflaged stick insect, or rō, on a tree.
“In [Māori] legend, before creating people, the god Tāne Mahuta fathered (with Punga) the trees, birds and insects of the forest. It was Tāne who pushed apart the sky (Ranginui) and earth (Papatūānuku) so there was light, allowing the forest inhabitants to see, breath and move. The insects are considered to be the children or embodiment of Tāne and deserving of respect.” –Te Ara, Encyclopedia of NZ
Creatures large and small definitely deserve our respect.
Back at the car, we headed toward Whangamomona, where we planned to have dinner at the one pub/restaurant along the Forgotten World Highway. En route, we passed through Moki Tunnel again, which was fun. We still couldn’t spot any fossils, though!
Stay tuned for some abandoned buildings, the historic Whangamomona (a.k.a NZ’s only “republic”) and more adventures on the farm.