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Whangamomona Republic Day: a curious self-proclaimed republic


In what could have been essentially the most weird gross sales pitch of my life, I rallied across the crew in my hostel to promote them the thought of going to vote for a cat within the self-proclaimed Republic of Whangamomona’s elections.

I didn’t know learn how to pronounce it, and I actually didn’t know if the cat would win – but, in some way, I managed to persuade my new-found buddies that Whangamomona Republic Day was an occasion we merely couldn’t miss.

Replace: The subsequent Whangamamona Republic Day is on twenty first January 2023, particulars right here incase you need to make it occur!

Having primarily based myself in New Plymouth – the capital of New Zealand’s tucked away Taranaki area – for the primary few weeks of my working vacation, I rapidly got here to the realisation there are numerous bizarre and wacky issues celebrated within the land of the lengthy white cloud. 

From the large carrots and L&P bottles I’d gawped questioningly at on the highways, to the sudden New Plymouth gentle pageant the place we had seen a fireplace dancer by chance launch their flaming baton right into a row stuffed with shrieking youngsters within the days earlier than, it was shaping as much as be a land of curiosities and questionable occasions.

Fortunately, I used to be glad to find that my motley hostel crew have been as equally down for embracing Aotearoa’s weird sights as I used to be. 

Now, I’m going to name it and say Whangamamona Republic Day was an enormous success. A couple of of us have even saved in contact and have met up throughout completely different nations and continents since. Going to vote for a cat, watch folks bathe in eels, and attend a sheep parade is seemingly strong social glue for years to return.

So, if you’d like an totally jaw-droppingly unusual solution to bond with newfound buddies, and end up in Taranaki or the Manawatu-Wanganui areas of New Zealand each different January, then get your self a passport – sure, actually – to the Whangamomona Republic Day and expertise this slice of New Zealand that’s so-remote there isn’t even telephone reception.

Wait, New Zealand has a republic inside it?

Bear with me as a result of the reply could be very a lot sure – but additionally very factually no.

Whangamomona republic
Whangamomona republic by Helicopter

This unusual outdated story dates again to 1989. Whereas maybe essentially the most notable occasion of that yr in Europe was the autumn of the Berlin Wall, in New Zealand, they have been figuratively attempting to erect them.

The native councils had determined to reshape the nation by altering the boundaries of areas. Whangamomona, which was within the Taranaki area, abruptly discovered themselves being shifted to the Manawatu-Wanganui Area. Within the immortal phrases of Shania Twain – that didn’t impress them a lot.

Whangamomona’s neighborhood vehemently wished to remain a part of Taranaki. So, on 1st November 1989, a mere week earlier than Germany’s dividing wall fell, the residents took issues into their very own fingers.

Declaring themselves a republic in a rallying motion – the occasion was extra protest than official – and asserting a flag and a passport, this distant verdant pocket of New Zealand turned the self-proclaimed Republic of Whagamomona.

Whereas it might by no means actually maintain up in court docket – and the Republic’s 125-strong inhabitants plan to secede was by no means a lot of a deliberate authorized actuality – the celebration has continued. Each two years, the Whangamomona Republic Day takes place, and the locals, plus loads of animals, welcome visitors from far-flung locations akin to New Plymouth (a 90-minute drive) to affix them for the grand elections and different oddities. 

Do you want a ticket for Whangamomona Republic Day?

Ticket, no. Passport, sure.

If you will be utilizing the buses from Stratford, you then’ll have to e-book and pay for these upfront by way of the tourism board. If not, you’ll nonetheless want to purchase your ‘passport’ to enter the Whangamomona Republic, and these price the border-crossing-bargain of $5 (2017 value).

I believe it’s honest to say these journey paperwork gained’t get you throughout worldwide borders – and even aboard a home flight – however you’ll actually get a stamp on the flimsy paper whenever you enter the Republic of Whangamomona.

Being a form and giving bunch, the folks of the Whangamomona Republic donate all funds from the occasion and passport gross sales to native causes, akin to well being teams, colleges and supporting youth golf equipment and occasions within the village. 

Residence of the republic, the lodge

So, what occurs whenever you get to Whangamomona Republic Day?

My morning began within the metropolis of Stratford, Taranaki, the place a number of buses have been shuttling us – the brand new passport homeowners – all the way down to the Whangamomona Republic.

The hostel squad had opted to drive, however I used to be signed up for the fully-fledged expertise and wished to journey on ‘Air Whangomomona’ as I’d affectionally named our farm-style barely 4-wheel drive.

Winding down the Forgotten World Freeway of Taranaki – it’s spellbindingly serene, it is best to come to cycle it someday – the landscapes shifted from the city (effectively, nothing’s actually that city in these components) to dense hills clad in virtually jungle-like flora. This is likely one of the least visited components of New Zealand’s North Island.

Whangamomona is tiny, the inhabitants of which wouldn’t even fill a jet if ‘Air Whangomomona’ was actual. However, on Whangamomona Republic Day, it’s a distinct story. With the roads closed, the streets are filled with occasions: some enjoyable, some unusual, and a few simply, effectively, I don’t know… regarding?!

The second we arrived, it felt like ‘Air Whangomomona’ had trundled by way of a time warp. If New Zealand had a Wild Wild West, at first look, this could possibly be mistaken for it. 

whangamomona republic day
Absorbing the historical past in Whangamomona

Stepping right into a swinging door to make use of the bathroom, I discovered the pleasant locals smiling, laughing, and sinking chilly ones within the Whangamomona Resort – the central assembly spot and the Republic’s solely pub and lodging.

The neighborhood really feel of this occasion is robust, and you may inform how glad and proud the residents are to share each Whangamomona with guests, but additionally the self-proclamation story. Every now and then, the crowds can peak above 1000 for Whangamomona Republic Day, so it’s clearly a legend many need to take pleasure in.

Meals stalls complement the Whangamomona Resort, so you possibly can chow down on some tasty native treats – assume Kiwi favourites akin to pies, lamingtons, and many extra beers.

Performances are placed on all through the day by bands, dancers, and generally well-meaning however barely misplaced sheep. Particular visitors are sometimes invited, and to my jaw-dropping shock – and particularly that of my then fawning pal Anna – a prime regional rugby staff have been current, together with members of the world-famous All Blacks.

More unusual occasions, which some animal lovers could discover questionable, embody the sheep shearing competitors, possum skinning (possum pores and skin is used quite a bit in New Zealand in an identical solution to leather-based) and the baa-zzare sheep race.

You can too play ‘guess what number of eels are within the bathtub’, or maybe be daring and swim by way of it – as demonstrated right here by the aforementioned rugby stars.

It’s actually value noting all eels make their manner again to the river on the finish of the day, and the thought is not one of the animals ought to be harmed for leisure.

Primarily, this a ‘good old style Kiwi time out’ – and all of us actually had loads of laughs and reminiscences to remove.

Native companies – native in New Zealand phrases, however many are from ‘throughout the border’ – promote their wares, and if you wish to enterprise out and discover the world, there are potentialities. Scenic helicopter flights over Whangamomona and the Forgotten Freeway have been operating once I attended Whangamamona Republic Day, and at solely $50 per particular person, they have been by far the most cost effective I had seen in New Zealand.

The disused practice tracks additionally play host to little carts and peddle bikes, so you possibly can enterprise off to see a slice of New Zealand’s historical past away from the crowds and ‘celebration political broadcasts’.

Solid your votes – can the cat do it?

The primary occasion of Whangamomona Republic Day, although, is actually the presidential elections.

All of us opted to place our poll down for the pub cat – I’m being impolite; his official identify is Ted – who mysteriously went lacking simply earlier than the votes have been counted. Foul play was rumoured, and even the regional TV crews who have been overlaying the polls appeared involved.

Fortunately, Ted turned up. Fortunately, with out a safety staff, I received to carry him simply earlier than the nationwide information – yep, the massive weapons – interviewed him for each TV and newspapers. Worryingly – or maybe reassuringly – on gradual information days in New Zealand I’ve seen much more peculiar tales nonetheless.

For these of you who’ve stayed with me to listen to the thrilling information of the cat’s political crowning – thanks for scrolling. Sadly, nonetheless, I need to share that Ted’s desires of grand workplace have been dashed on the final hurdle.

It’s vital to say this actually wasn’t on account of any choice for people, although. In earlier years, four-legged buddies have been elected – together with Billy Gumboot the Goat and the crisis-prone Tai the Poodle.

Reportedly, the poodle’s time period ended early after an assassination try; maybe it’s higher the cat might slunk away to the again of the pub and stay out his 9 lives in peace.

I believe, with that unusual recalling, I’ve stated all I can about Whangamomona Republic Day. When the time got here, we piled again into my mate’s automotive – ‘Air Whangomomona’ was having delays with the unexpectedly excessive site visitors. Spirits have been excessive – maybe it was assembly Rugby stars somewhat than my genius concept to pull everybody down right here that did it – and we set off again to ‘actual New Zealand’.

When you, too, need to expertise Whangamomona Republic Day – a correct New Zealand hidden gem – get your passport utility in for the subsequent version on twenty first January 2023.

Oh, and if the cat’s nonetheless there, give him a stroke for me!

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