The Gentle Annie takes us though the heart of the North Island from Napier to Taihape and is a spectacular albeit very twisty road. It's only recently been tar sealed and this is our first opportunity to "give it a go".
Today it's pretty quiet but there's the odd truck that makes for some excitement on the narrower stretches. Be particularly aware of hazards such as horses and sheep.
The actual Annie hill is very steep and rugged but rewards with the most spectacular views. This is one not to be missed.
The Aspen Motor Court in Taihape is still (apparently) the best in town but we can hear the trains struggling up the hill out the back of the motel after we check in. We've gotten a room at the front though to try to get as far away as possible from them.
The only open restaurant in town is the Cafe Telephonic which, perhaps not co-incidentally is Tripadvisors No 1 ranking. A booking for 7pm is readily made and on arrival things seem to go very well with a splendid looking Franglais menu and prompt service.
Unfortunately for us a party of 12 completely disrupts proceedings. Our mains are in part cold (my duck is very sad although my wife's steak is good) and the service deteriorates pretty much as soon as the 12 are seated. This is the most expensive meal of our trip so far and by far the slowest service. Taihape on a Monday however offers no other options.
The other issue here is the number of truck and trailer units grinding through the Taihape main street. We have quite a chat about why this should be but essentially if you want your goods at the other end of the North Island overnight then trucks are the only option. The Government owned rail service just does not compare, sadly we the people have brought it - at a very high price.
Give Cafe Telephonic an "average" at best.