Tour Operator 9-1-2006

The Road to Nowhere

By: Deborah Dimond

If you have clients heading to New Zealand’s northern island who are searching for a unique way to explore the country’s pristine wilderness, an afternoon of jet-boating will fit the bill. Bridge to Nowhere Tours offer several different excursions that allow clients to experience the picturesque Whanganui River. It’s a great group activity that accommodates most age groups, and passengers range from the most timid to the highly adventurous.

After an hour’s ride to Pipiriki down a small winding highway, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into the land that time forgot. The majestic hills are covered with dense green brush, and tall trees that first appear as palms, on second glance, are actually huge towering ferns. My party made their way down to the dock where I donned a light wind and waterproof jacket, an essential item for this trip in the colder months. There, our guide fitted each passenger with a life jacket, we boarded the boat and were off.

The boat glided effortlessly over the still reflective waters of the Whanganui; on either side, stood expansive fern-covered cliffs that gave way to deep caves hiding breathtaking waterfalls. I sat awestruck at the beauty of my serine environment.

Along the journey, our guide and driver stopped and shared some of the local history, legends and pointed out sites, like the famous Drop Scene, the Dress Circle, Sulphur Springs, Mangaio Gorge and the Manganui-O-Te-Au River.

The boat docked at Mangapurua Landing, once the home of a Maori tribe. There, my group basked in the amazing scenery as we walked to the historic “Bridge to Nowhere” gateway to the “Valley of Abandoned Dreams.” On the bridge we enjoyed complimentary tea/coffee and biscuits. Passengers can also pack a picnic lunch and dine as they listen to the guide tell of the historic Mangapurua Valley and its pioneering people. Afterward, a brief return walk to the boat and ride back down river, punctuated by a couple of adrenaline-pumping 360s on the way to Pipiriki, completes the journey.

If you are arranging a large group, take advantage of the lunch option at the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge. This remote property sits high on the banks of the river giving an exquisite view for all to feast their eyes on.

Tours depart from Pipiriki daily during the winter months and twice daily during summer.