“The Whanga” is a remote country pub situated halfway along the Forgotten World Highway SH 43 between Taumarunui and Stratford. It is 156km long with 13km of unsealed road. No petrol pumps around here so make sure to fill your tank before you leave town.
Settled in the 1880s, Whangamomona was a saw milling and farming centre located in the southwest of the North Island. With the world slump in wool and meat prices in the 1980s, the closure of the local school sounded the death knell of the town. A regional authority border dispute caused Whangamomona to declare itself an independent republic in 1988. The pub bar became a passport office as locals manned a roadblock to lift a few dollars from passing motorists to buy their passport.
These events are commemorated by Republic Day held around 22 January with a Community Sports Day in the main street. Gumboot throwing, sheep racing, possum skinning, and shootouts attract visitors from all over. In 2000, the Whanga was undiscovered. The barman had a hangover, a few locals were drinking their liquid lunch. There was a packet of Park Drive and zigzag papers on the bar. I enjoyed a yarn with a pig hunter dressed in woolly balaclava and Swanndri jacket, the essential “Good Keen Man” of Kiwi folklore.
I returned in 2010 to find that the pub had been renovated and spruced up for the tourist market. Nevertheless, 100 years of rugby football team photos still remain on the walls with other memorabilia. Shuttle day tours operate from either end of the highway and independent motor home travelers consider the Forgotten World Highway a “must do.” Although changed, the Whanga is still well worth a visit. Buy your republic passport, stay in the camping ground or pub and go horse trail riding, walk the history trail, and have a beer in the bar. Join in Republic Day in January for a unique big day out. You might even be lucky enough to have a yarn with a fair dinkum Kiwi pig hunter.
August Pig Hunting Competition
Republic Day Community Sports Day around 22 January