MURUPARA’S MAGIC RUBS OFF ON INTERNATIONAL VISITORS AND LOCALS
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 you...you 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.
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