Together Stray & Kohutapu Lodge make a positive impact on local school

A little over a year ago Stray changed its North Island tour route to include an overnight stay at Kohutapu Lodge on the edge of Lake Aniwhenua.

“Lake Anna – what?” you might be wondering. Located in the central North Island on the outskirts of a sleepy logging town called Murupara, this place is not a typical ‘tourist’ destination one might expect to visit while touring New Zealand.

IMG_6274However, this charming lodge is a hidden gem well-aligned to Stray’s ‘off the beaten track’ style of travel. The general consensus from Stray drivers and travellers is that this overnight stop at Kohutapu Lodge has become a highlight on the North Island itinerary.

For many New Zealanders, Murupara doesn’t register on the radar and it’s not featured on any “top 10” destination lists. Once a thriving logging town, Murupara suffered from declining employment as mechanisation replaced labourers’ work in the area.

_DSC0664It was under the vision of Maurice, Nadine and Karl ToeToe that Kohutapu Lodge was revitalised. Nestled in the rural setting by Lake Aniwhenua, guests can expect to be greeted by friendly farm animals and find comfortable lakeside cabins set on manicured grounds with volleyball nets, lounge areas and the ‘Taniwha Bar,’ the perfect spot for a sunset drink.

In addition to the serene settings, Stray guests are introduced to a range of traditional Maori activities that include the ‘laying of a hangi’ for dinner (a traditional underground oven), flax weaving, cooking fried Maori bread and night-time eeling.

Breadmakingweaving

However, the most rewarding aspect of this overnight stop is found in nearby Murupara. Nadine and Karl (of Kohutapu Lodge) have identified the positive impact tourism can have on a struggling and isolated community. Admirably they made it their mission to develop a social project that connects Stray visitors to the local Murupara Area School.

SONY DSC

Stray travellers participate in preparing food parcels for the local school children from impoverished backgrounds. They then visit the school to personally deliver the parcels and share a cultural exchange in which the children get an opportunity to mingle with travellers of various nationalities and learn more about the world around them. Jude Robinson, the Junior Syndicate Team Leader who has taught at Murupara Area School for 15 years, has witnessed first-hand the transformation this social program has had on the students.

“Having the Stray tourists in our class has enlarged our children’s world. We live in an isolated town,” says Robinson. “It was hard to get them to see the world as a place they could go out into, that they were a part of a global community.”

School performance 2The cultural exchange between the students and Stray travellers usually involves a performance by the children and a Q&A session with their international guests. The impact of these interactions carries over into the classroom after the visits. Not only have the children taken to studying the different countries they learn about from their Stray visitors, but they are also inspired to learn more about their own culture so as to better share it with guests.

School Visit (9)

Robinson says, “I have seen my year 3-4 students (age 7-9 years) mature in their ability to communicate with people from all different nationalities. The pride they now have in their culture (Ngati Manawa) is huge. By performing our waiata and haka for the tourists they have rapidly developed a sense of pride in their culture.”

The success with the year 3-4 students has led to the year 5-6 students becoming involved in the program as well. Prior to the December holidays, Kohutapu Lodge and the Stray visitors even threw a Christmas party for the kids on the last visit of the year.

SONY DSCIn addition to seeing a new part of New Zealand, the chance to make a positive impact on a local community through tourism is what drew Stray to staying at Kohutapu Lodge and Lake Aniwhenua. Stray travellers and the children at the Murupara Area School alike agree that this is an eye-opening and at times emotional experience well worth venturing off the beaten track.

Jude Robinson summed it up perfectly: “A world once enlarged will never return to the narrow image once held.”

LisaT profile picture

Lisa T

Originally from Delaware, USA. Favourite Stray stop: Blue Duck Station (New Zealand). Fun fact: her knowledge of sci-fi, Disney and British literature make her the Queen of Trivia.

These New Zealand tours will depart soon!

Takahe - South Island Tour

11 days - starts & ends in Christchurch

From the golden sands of Abel Tasman National Park to the West Coast’s glaciers and rainforests, the party and adventure capital of Queenstown, to the “Roof of Aotearoa” Mt Cook National Park.

Ruru - All of NZ Tour

18 days - starts in Auckland, ends in Christchurch

Hike some of New Zealand’s best tracks, kayak at sunrise, taste a delicious traditional hangi meal, bathe in a hot thermal stream surrounded by native bush.

Or check out these articles for more travel inspiration

Can you explore New Zealand without a driving licence? Is it possible to get off the beaten path without one?

New Zealand is one big playground. There is always something to climb on, jump out of, hike to, a path or a trail to follow… You name it, New Zealand has it! Aotearoa truly is one of the world’s ultimate […]

Read More

Our sustainable traveller’s bible will help you to live your best life – without it costing the earth

We all share a common goal: more travel, and less impact. There’s an overwhelming amount of information (and disinformation) about how to be more sustainable, and we know that when you’re travelling, it becomes 10 times harder. We’ve put together […]

Read More

Great news…. A Stray Journey tour is the best New Zealand bus pass

If you want to discover the sheer wonder of New Zealand we’ve got some great news. Stray tours just got even better! As part of our 20th birthday celebrations, we’ve been reminiscing about the thousands of happy travellers who’ve taken […]

Read More
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scroll to Top