Another base for outdoor adventures is Mangaweka, further south on SH1. Right next to the main road and impossible to miss is the Aeroplane Cafe, an old DC-3 plane that has been fitted out as a tearoom. Stop in for a snack here if only to experience more legroom than you will ever get in the Economy Class of any modern jumbo-jet. Beside the plane is the office of Rangatikei River Adventures.

They are the key to a 141ft (43m) bungy jump, jet boat trips and other outdoor activities in this rugged landscape of dramatic river gorges, walled by sheer cliffs of dazzling white papa rock.

From Taihape it is just over 124 miles (200kms) down to Wellington or 1 1/2 hours via Bulls to Wanganui at the start of Route 8.

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