Joe, Bill and Brenda’s great uncle Jim Wilcox owned Ramanui from 1950-51 until 1975. Joe can still remember as a child staying at Ramanui with his parents back when there was just a small cottage there. When Joe found out that his Uncle Jim was going to sell Ramanui he begged to be able to buy it from him but as Joe was still only a teenager he wasn’t able to afford it. Some 26 years later Joes’ teenage dreams came true when he and partner Mandy (me) were lucky enough to purchase Ramanui for ourselves.
For the first few years we concentrated on working out how to run the place, maintaining power with generators, organizing water, replacing out dated equipment and growing accustomed to the many moods of the land and river. Not to forget the many meals prepared and beds made for the increasing number of guests.
Joe’s son Ben joined us initially helping around the property and now is one of the main jet boat drivers taking tours into the wilderness area of the Historic Whanganui National Park and walks into the famous Bridge to Nowhere. In the last few years Ben has been joined by his partner Rebecca who helped out around the Lodge until the birth of their daughter Jasmine and then a year later their son Blake. Joe and I are very proud Grandparents!
Kelly has been part of the Lodges “family” for many years. He brings with him a wealth of experience both as a qualified canoe guide, outdoor pursuits, cooking, building, you name it he can do it!
I mainly run the “business” side of the Lodge from our home in Wanganui. I am based there over winter and at the Lodge over summer. When at the Lodge I help Brenda with housework, cooking etc. I also looks after the smaller animals around the place and drives the jet boats as necessary.
This brings us to Joe who is the driving force, but also the heart and soul of Ramanui. Joe grew up in Ohakune and has spent a lifetime working and playing in and around the Mangapurua, Mangatiti and what has now become the Whanganui National Park area. He has done such things as opossum trapping, deer and goat hunting, mustering wild cattle on horseback, farming bush blocks and he is truly passionate about the bush and this area in particular. At the Lodge he can turn his hand to just about anything; he cooks a delicious meal, make beds and anything else that needs doing. Joes great love and knowledge of the bush, animals, birds and plants as well as both Maori and European history is obvious when you talk to him, he tells a great story and can keep guests amused for hours. He should however come with a warning sign as he is a great tease and likes playing tricks on people.
Anyway that’s enough about us! We hope you enjoy your stay with “our family” and we look forward to meeting you!
The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge is a unique place.
The lodge is located deep in the Whanganui River National Park wilderness region. From the lodge balcony’s we have extensive views of the river and surrounding native bush. The only access to the lodge is by the” Lodges Jet Boat Service”, canoeing, tramping or helicopter. You can not drive your car to the lodge. The lodge has safe over night parking facilities available in Pipiriki.
As there is no road access, everything in and around the Lodge has had to be brought in by jet boat, including all the materials to build the Lodge. So you can imagine the fun and games we have had over the years! (See Getting it done) The Lodge itself is set in1500 acres (500 hectares) of native bush and farmland known as Ramanui.
The Whanganui River winds its way from the mountains to Wanganui City by the Tasman Sea. It flows through countless hills and valleys. Lowland forest surrounds the river in its middle and lower reaches, forming the heart of the Whanganui National Park.
The early Maori cultivated the sheltered terraces and built elaborate eel weirs along river channels where eels and lamprey were trapped on their, migration up river. Every bend of the river had a kaitiaki (guardian) which controlled the mauri (life force) of that place.
The mana (prestige) of a settlement depended upon the way in which food supplies and living areas were looked after for the benefit of the hapu/tribe and visitors.
The first major European influence arrived with missionaries in the 1840s. In 1891 a regular river-boat service began carrying passengers, mail and freight to the European settlers on the river between Taumarunui and Pipiriki and a thriving tourist trade soon began between Mt Ruapehu and Wanganui. The main riverboat trade ceased in the 1920s, due to better roads, a main trunk railway and other tourist attractions, although river-boats were still operating in the late 1950s.
The land surrounding the river is formed of soft sandstone and mudstone (papa) from the ocean-bed, it has been eroded by water to form sharp ridges, deep gorges, sheer papa cliffs and waterfalls. Over this land has grown a broadleaf-podocarp forest of rata, rewarewa, rimu, tawa, kamahi and kowhai with breech dominant on ridge tops. Tree ferns and plants that cling to the steep river banks are very distinctive. Bird species such as kereru (native pigeon), tiwaiwaka (fantail), tui, toutouwai (robin), riroriro (grey warbler), miromiro (tomtit) and the bellbird are often seen and heard.
The call of the brown kiwi can often be heard at night.
Long tailed bats are often seen high above the trees at dusk in some areas of the park.