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In­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors con­nect with unique Kiwi ex­pe­ri­ences and com­mu­ni­ties in Murupara

The late, great chef, au­thor and TV pre­sen­ter An­thony Bour­dain prob­a­bly wasn’t think­ing about Murupara when he said “Travel isn’t al­ways com­fort­able but the jour­ney changes take some­thing with you and hope­fully leave some­thing good be­hind”.

But the sleepy log­ging town tucked be­tween the Kain­garoa For­est and Te Urew­era Na­tional Park is cer­tainly em­body­ing Bour­dain’s words by wel­com­ing in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers for an off-the-beaten-track ex­pe­ri­ence.

Be­cause while Murupara might not ap­pear on any ‘top des­ti­na­tion’ or ‘must-see’ lists, that hasn’t stopped trav­el­ling with the hop-on-hop-off bus com­pany, Stray New Zealand.

Four times a week over sum­mer, up to 30 young over­seas vis­i­tors from all over the world roll into Murupara on the bright orange Stray buses.

They come to meet the lo­cals and see the re­gion its closed shops and rough edges.

the beauty of a place,” says Na­dine Toe Toe, who runs Murupara’s lake­side Ko­hutapu Lodge where the trav­ellers stay.

Their itin­er­ary also in­cludes a visit to New Zealand’s oldest cave rock etch­ings, which have been car­bon dated to around 1050AD, as well as meet­ing farm an­i­mals, night-time eel­ing and tra­di­tional Maori ac­tiv­i­ties such as

But the real magic hap­pens when guests visit the Murupara Area School. Trav­ellers help pre­pare food parcels for stu­dents from im­pov­er­ished back­grounds and then visit the school to de­liver them and share in a cul­tural ex­change which in­cludes a per­for­mance by stu­dents and a Q&A ses­sion with their in­ter­na­tional guests.

Jude Robin­son from Murupara Area School says the pro­gramme has to­tally trans­formed her stu­dents.

“They get to min­gle with trav­ellers of var­i­ous na­tion­al­i­ties which has re­ally en­larged their worlds,” says Robin­son. “We live in an iso­lated town and it was hard to get the kids to see the world as a place they could go out into. But now they see they are part of a global com­mu­nity.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence also has wider im­pli­ca­tions, with stu­dents study­ing the var­i­ous coun­tries they learn about from their global vis­i­tors, as well as be­ing in­spired to learn about their own cul­ture so as to bet­ter share it with guests.

This is echoed by Na­dine Toe Toe who says they do a lot to sup­port the lo­cal com­mu­nity and school. They have re­cently sent a couple of lo­cal kids off to an in­tern­ship in the USA.

Ev­ery­one wins: vis­i­tors see what’s best about New Zealand – the peo­ple – and tourism has a pos­i­tive im­pact on strug­gling and iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties.

Bour­dain would no doubt be proud of these tourism op­er­a­tors con­nect­ing vis­i­tors to the real New Zealand, while at the same time pos­i­tively im­pact­ing those com­mu­ni­ties.

For more great sto­ries head to sus­tain­able­

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