When I signed up for a 12km (~7.5mi) walk, I thought that was a decent but very manageable walk. What I hadn’t factored in was this being over a mountain range and in the middle of the day at the height of summer with zero shade. Oops.
Anyway, my partner and I slapped on the sunscreen, packed plenty of water, and just over two hours later, we’d done it! Why, you may be asking, would we do this? Well, if you’ve read my latest cosy murder mystery, Murder on Milverton Square, you may remember a certain roading project mentioned? I may have taken many liberties, but this project was inspired by a very real new highway being constructed just 15 minutes down the road from us.
Now, you may be wondering why I would research something that I’ve already written about? Well, we know these big infrastructure projects take a long time, so I’m sure it’ll get a mention in future books. And just walking along I noticed a good few places that unscrupulous characters might be inclined to hide a body…
Another great aspect was getting up close with these massive wind turbines!
I pulled together a quick 30-second video on TikTok here, or you can watch below:
The event: Walk the new highway
The opportunity to walk Te Ahu a Turanga, Manawatū Tararua Highway, and see the project’s progress was organised by the Woodville School and Woodville Lions Club.
On Sunday 22 January 2023, all walkers met on the eastern side of the Manawatū Gorge (in the Tararua District, near Woodville) for their designated time slots. We were then bussed over the Ruahine Ranges (on the Saddle Road) to the western side of the Manawatū Gorge (in the Manawatū District, near Ashhurst) where we walked back over the Ruahine Ranges along the route of the new highway, ending back where we started (see map below).
With impressive cuts and fills, some sections appeared to be near completion as far as earthworks were concerned. You could easily imagine the four lanes of the new highway going through. But other sections appeared to be little more than construction access tracks, only as wide as a single vehicle. Plenty of work to go before scheduled completion in December 2024!
If you’re interested in reading up a bit more about the project, seeing the plans, or watching a flyover video, you can find more information on the Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency website: Te Ahu a Turanga – Manawatū Tararua Highway project page.
The route map
Inspiration for the book
My novel, Murder on Milverton Square, is set at the western end of the Manawatū Gorge, in the fictional town of Milverton (just across the Manawatū River from real-world Ashhurst, which I’ve removed from the world of my story, sorry!).
The construction of a new highway is front of mind for many residents of Milverton in this story, the first in a planned series. I took bits of inspiration from this real project, but of course my book is a work of fiction, so there’s plenty that’s completely made up! More details below, and you can click through if you’d like to grab a copy.