The friendly whanau (family) of Kohutapu Lodge at Stray’s Lake Aniwhenua overnight stop recently launched a new ‘Plant a Seed’ initiative as a way to say ‘thank you’ to their international visitors and encourage them to carry a positive message further on their travels.
For those who don’t know, Lake Aniwhenua is one of Stray’s Strademark overnight destinations, which means it offers a truly unique experience here in New Zealand. Deep in the heart of the central North Island and miles from the mainstream tourist trails, Stray’s guests stay at the welcoming Kohutapu Lodge operated by the Toe Toe family. This warm-hearted family have opened their doors to international visitors, teaching guests about their Maori heritage, the region’s history and some of the modern day challenges faced within the surrounding community, which include unemployment, substance abuse and severe poverty.
For the past four years, Kohutapu Lodge has facilitated a community program that sees Stray passengers deliver lunches to the local school where kids often go without. While the children appreciate these nutritious meals, what has been most beneficial is the cultural exchange between the kids and Stray’s international visitors who spend quality time discussing their countries, culture, languages and careers. For a young group of kids who have had very little contact with the outside world and too few role models in their lives, these exchanges have opened their eyes to world full of possibilities where careers and travel aspirations are fostered.
The concept of gifting a totara seed is the Toe Toes way of saying ‘thank you’ to Stray’s visitors who by sharing their time and their stories have helped to plant a seed of hope into the minds of these young students.
Each Stray guest that visits Lake Aniwhenua this summer season will receive a native totara seed to take with them as they continue travelling through New Zealand. The seeds come with cards inscribed with this very fitting Maori proverb:
He aroha whakato
He aroha puta mai
“If kindness is sown
Then kindness you shall receive”
Kohutapu Lodge owner Nadine Toe Toe explains that the message of planting a seed ties in with how their many guests from around the world have “planted the seed of education in our kids and opportunities for our region.” She hopes that these seeds will be carried to other parts of New Zealand and planted in spots that resonate for the traveller or gifted to someone else who makes an impact on their trip.
It is hoped that Stray guests will one day return to find a healthy tree growing as a lasting memento of their time spent in New Zealand learning about “our people, our culture and our beautiful natural environment.”
What is a totara?
The totara is a New Zealand native tree that grows throughout the country. They typically grow to be 20-25m tall, but can grow up to 35m. Associated with characteristics of strength, durability and mana (spiritual power), totara trees were prized by Maori for their lumber and often used for wood carving and crafting into large waka (canoes).
Where to plant your totara seed?
- Bearing in mind that a totara tree can grow to be up to 35m tall, it’s wise to plant your seed in a spot that gives it plenty of room to grow.
- Totara trees are particularly hardy and can endure in most soil and climate conditions, but they are most commonly found in lowland areas with elevations below 600m.
- The next overnight stops on the Stray North Island route are Blue Duck Station and Raetihi, both of which champion native tree planting initiatives and make great spots to plant your totara seed.
(A word of warning: do not try take your totara seed with you on the plane when you leave New Zealand or you may get caught out as a bio-security risk at your next destination! If you find you still have your seed at the end of your trip, gift it to a friend to carry on and plant for you.)