In what might have been essentially the most weird gross sales pitch of my life, I rallied across the crew in my hostel to promote them the concept of going to vote for a cat within the self-proclaimed Republic of Whangamomona’s elections.
I didn’t know the right way to pronounce it, and I definitely didn’t know if the cat would win – but, one way or the other, I managed to persuade my new-found associates that Whangamomona Republic Day was an occasion we merely couldn’t miss.
Replace: The following Whangamamona Republic Day is on twenty first January 2023, details here incase you need to make it occur!
Having based mostly myself in New Plymouth – the capital of New Zealand’s tucked away Taranaki area – for the primary few weeks of my working vacation, I shortly 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 surprising New Plymouth gentle competition the place we had seen a hearth dancer by chance launch their flaming baton right into a row filled 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 completely satisfied to find that my motley hostel crew had been as equally down for embracing Aotearoa’s weird points of interest as I used to be.
Now, I’m going to name it and say Whangamamona Republic Day was an enormous success. A number of of us have even stored in contact and have met up throughout totally different international locations 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 would like an totally jaw-droppingly unusual option to bond with newfound associates, 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 cellphone 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 in addition very factually no.
This unusual outdated story dates again to 1989. Whereas maybe essentially the most notable occasion of that 12 months in Europe was the autumn of the Berlin Wall, in New Zealand, they had 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 region, immediately 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 group vehemently needed 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 saying a flag and a passport, this distant verdant pocket of New Zealand grew to become the self-proclaimed Republic of Whagamomona.
Whereas it could by no means maintain up in courtroom – and the Republic’s 125-strong inhabitants’s plan to secede was by no means a lot of a possible actuality – the celebration has continued.
Each two years, the Whangamomona Republic Day takes place, and the locals, plus loads of animals, welcome friends 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, then you definitely’ll have to ebook and pay for these prematurely through the tourism board. If not, you’ll nonetheless want to purchase your ‘passport’ to enter the Whangamomona Republic, and these value the border-crossing-bargain of $5 (2017 worth).
I feel it’s honest to say these journey paperwork received’t get you throughout worldwide borders – and even aboard a home flight – however you’ll definitely get a stamp on the flimsy paper if you enter the Republic of Whangamomona.
Being a sort 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, faculties and supporting youth golf equipment and occasions within the village.
So, what occurs if you get to Whangamomona Republic Day?
My morning began within the metropolis of Stratford, Taranaki, the place a number of buses had 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 needed to journey on ‘Air Whangomomona’ as I’d affectionally named our farm-style barely 4-wheel drive.
Winding down the Forgotten World Highway of Taranaki – it’s spellbindingly stunning place, it’s best to come to cycle it someday – the landscapes shifted from the city (properly, nothing’s actually that city in these elements) to dense hills clad in virtually jungle-like flora. This is likely one of the least visited elements 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 special story. With the roads closed, the streets are filled with occasions: some enjoyable, some unusual, and a few simply, properly, I don’t know… regarding?!
The second we arrived, it felt like ‘Air Whangomomona’ had trundled via a time warp. If New Zealand had a Wild Wild West, at first look, this may very well be mistaken for it.
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 Lodge – the central assembly spot and the Republic’s solely pub and lodging.
The group really feel of this occasion is powerful, and you’ll inform how completely satisfied and proud the residents are to share each Whangamomona with guests, but in addition the self-proclamation story. Occasionally, 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 Lodge, so you’ll be able to chow down on some tasty native treats – suppose Kiwi favourites akin to pies, lamingtons, and lots extra beers.
Performances are placed on all through the day by bands, dancers, and generally well-meaning however barely misplaced sheep. Particular friends are sometimes invited, and to my jaw-dropping shock – and particularly that of my then fawning buddy Anna – a prime regional rugby workforce had been current, together with members of the world-famous All Blacks.
Weirder occasions, which some animal lovers might discover questionable, embrace the sheep shearing competitors, possum skinning (possum pores and skin is used lots in New Zealand in an analogous option to leather-based) and the baa-zzare sheep race.
You may as well play ‘guess what number of eels are within the bathtub’, or maybe be daring and swim via it – as demonstrated right here by the aforementioned rugby stars.
It’s definitely price noting all eels make their approach again to the river on the finish of the day, and the concept is not one of the animals ought to be harmed for leisure.
Basically, this a ‘good old style Kiwi day trip’ – and all of us definitely had loads of laughs and recollections 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 realm, there are prospects. Scenic helicopter flights over Whangamomona and the Forgotten Freeway had been working after I attended Whangamamona Republic Day, and at solely $50 per individual, they had been by far the most affordable I had seen in New Zealand.
The disused practice tracks additionally play host to little carts and peddle bikes, so you’ll be able to enterprise off to see a slice of New Zealand’s historical past away from the crowds and ‘occasion political broadcasts’.
Forged your votes – can the cat do it?
The principle occasion of Whangamomona Republic Day, although, is definitely the presidential elections.
All of us opted to place our poll down for the pub cat – I’m being impolite; his official title is Ted – who mysteriously went lacking simply earlier than the votes had been counted. Foul play was rumoured, and even the regional TV crews who had been overlaying the polls appeared involved.
Fortunately, Ted turned up. Fortunately, with no safety workforce, I bought 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, nevertheless, I need to share that Ted’s goals of grand workplace had been dashed on the final hurdle.
It’s necessary to say this definitely wasn’t because of any desire for people, although. In earlier years, four-legged associates 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 attempt; maybe it’s higher the cat might scarper away to the again of the pub and dwell out his 9 lives in peace.
I feel, 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 automobile – ‘Air Whangomomona’ was having delays with the unexpectedly excessive visitors. Spirits had been excessive – maybe it was assembly Rugby stars slightly 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, get your passport utility in for the subsequent version on twenty first January 2023.
Oh, and if the cat’s nonetheless there, give Ted a stroke from me!