An Insiders View on Taupo, New Zealand

By Tim Taylor

Taupo, a town near the centre of New Zealand’s North Island, is distinguished by its lakefront setting and outdoor sports ranging from fishing to jet-boating. The vast waters of Lake Taupo, a volcanic caldera, drain into the Huka Falls, dramatic, crystal-blue cascades reachable by hiking and biking trails. Surrounding Taupo are hot springs like those filling the Craters of the Moon reserve. The major local attractions here include trout fishing, skiing, and geothermal parks.

Little-known fact/trivia that everyone should know about when travelling to the Taupo Region NZ/ or a region you call home?

  The town of Taupo sits at the edge of Australasia’s largest lake. Lake Taupo in only a Crater lake and is the result of the world’s largest volcanic eruption. It is 25,000 years old and of the same size as Singapore.

What is a must buy when in Taupo?

Lava Glass Art

One thing to definitely pack when travelling to Taupo?

 A good pair of sturdy shoes, appropriate clothing, a camera, charger and you are good to go!

One activity anyone travelling to this region should not miss?

River Jet Trip

Where should anyone, travelling to this region, definitely get their picture taken.

A picture by a Maori Marae

Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo?

Taupo Lookout or down Waimangu Valley

The best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise?

Clear of surroundings

The most romantic place to take a special someone to.

Rotorua Governments Gardens

One place only the locals would know.

Rainbow Mountain

The best place to have local food?

A Marae is a good place to have local food.

 Your favourite local dish and drink that you would recommend.

My personal favourite is NZ Lamb and NZ White wine.

 What is your advice to someone travelling to Taupo for the first-time?

We believe in punctuality, So please be on time.

How would you describe Taupo in a sentence?

Taupo is compact, clean and a very welcoming town.

   Tim Taylor,
Taylor’s Tours.

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Travel Ideas

When people travel, the biggest topics and highlights are often unique, funny or offbeat experiences that make great dinner party conversations. That’s the best thing about travel for most of us – experiencing something that’s unusual when compared to ones own culture.  So here are seven unique travel ideas from around the world – ranging from activities to eating and other just plain crazy stuff – and all of which will have your friends fascinated.

Unique travel idea 1: Visit the shoe fence

The Shoe Fence, Waihola
You’ll find the shoe fence on New Zealand’s South Island, on the drive south from Dunedin towards Invercargill, near a place called Waihola. The fence has been steadily collecting shoes over the years, with many travellers adding their worn out pairs. And having accumulated so many pairs over the years, the Shoe Fence is now an enormous collection that would easily put Imelda Marcos’ stash to shame. It’s not uncommon to find bizarre fence collections like this all over New Zealand – there’s even a bra fence in a town called Middlemarch!

Unique travel idea 2: Drink coffee made from cat poo

Kopi Luwak from Bali is the world’s most expensive coffee – with prices often reaching the $500 per kilogram mark. But the main reason Kopi Luwak is famous isn’t its price, it’s because it’s made of cat poo (well, the Civet isn’t actually a cat – but they’re referred to by locals as ‘cats’ or ‘weasels’). The coffee beans are eaten and digested by the Asian Palm Civet, then they’re extracted from the Civet poo, washed thoroughly, lightly roasted – and made into coffee, or Kopi Luwak (Kopi = coffee, Luwak = the Civet). There are theories as to why the coffee tastes so good; the strongest argument being that the digestive tract of the Civet removes some of the bitter coffee taste, but leaves the beans intact.

Unique travel idea 3: Paint the town red

La Tomatina, Buñol
La Tomatina has got to rank as one of the world’s most bizarre and downright infantile fiestas on earth. This world-famous summer spectacular sees thirty thousand or so participants try to dispose of the entire EU tomato mountain by way of a massive hour-long food fight. It’s an event especially appealing to repressed northern Europeans, Americans and Japanese, who swarm to the otherwise unremarkable Spanish town of Buñol each year on the last Wednesday of August, accompanied by legions of TV crews and photographers to document the carnage. Hurling 130,000 kilos of over-ripe tomatoes at each other until the streets are ankle-deep in a sea of squelching fruit is a strangely liberating experience. At the very least, it’s the one fiesta where you can truly say that you’ve painted the town red.

Unique travel idea 4: Have dinner with the devil

Tasmanian Devil
Forget the spinning, raspberry-blowing Looney Tunes stereotype – the Tasmanian devil is a famously elusive character. So if you want to get up close and personal with one on your trip to Tasmania, you’re going to need the skills of Geoff King. You’ll be taken in a small group to King’s remote fishing hut, where he’ll tempt out the devil with road kill staked to the ground. When one appears – and it usually doesn’t take long – you’ll be in the front row for a show few experience, as the Tasmanian devil guzzles down the fresh carcass in front of your eyes. You’ll literally be at dinner with the devil.

Unique travel idea 5: Cockroach racing

Cockroach Racing is a popular event that takes place every year in Brisbane on Australia Day – the 26th January. The alleged story of how these races started is that two old punters sat in the Story Bridge Hotel bar arguing over which Brisbane suburb had the biggest and fastest cockroaches – so they decided to race them. Nowadays, a jar of cockroaches is placed in the middle of the racing arena and the first cockroach to reach the outer edge of the circle wins. While it may seem silly to race cockroaches, it’s all for a good cause – proceeds from the day go to charity.

Unique travel idea 6: Tuck into a Spam supper

Filipino favourite Spam
Spam Jam is a restaurant in Manila, the Philippines, which specialises in Spam recipes. The restaurant, which you’ll find in the Makati City area of Manila, has delights on offer like the Spam burger, Spam and eggs, Spam spaghetti and Spam Caesar Salad. But whilst the menu might sound like something from a Monty Python sketch, Spam is actually part of the staple diet in the Philippines because it’s a relatively inexpensive, readily available and doesn’t spoil quickly.

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5 things to do in New Zealand

                            By Meenakshi Shankar

1) Bungy Jumping

How about rolling down a hill in a transparent cushioned ball filled with water? You will travel downhill at speeds up to 50 kilometers per hour! Game for it? This revolutionary adventure activity is called Zorbing!

Or if speed thrills call on you then Jet Boating is a must do – take a ride of your life in an adrenalin-pumping jetboat while enjoying the stunningly beautiful scenery.Experience the thrill and excitement in the rivers and lakes of South Island.

2) Skydive from 12000ft

It takes a certain kind of person to jump from an aircraft into thin air. It takes courage. Harnessed to an experienced jumpmaster, expect sensory overload as you step out that aircraft door and for some 60 seconds plummet towards the ground @200kph. Game?

                                                                                  See Milford Sound

New Zealand’s most breathtaking road journey is State Highway 94 in Fjordland on the remote southwest side of the South Island. The route winds through towering mountains and steep valleys of dense native forest. At the road’s end the valley opens into the deep, narrow fiord of Milford Sound and one of the world’s great views, with Mitre Peak rising majestically from the water. It’s popular, but no matter: board a boat to explore the passage that leads 10 miles to the open sea. Seals and penguins can be spotted and bottle-nose dolphins will sometimes bow-ride the passenger boats.

3) Swim with the dolphins

From the lovely bay side town of  Whakatane, explore White Island, a spectacular active volcano that you should head out to. Head out on an ocean adventure to find dolphins and explore the bays of Whale Island (Moutohora) – a wildlife sanctuary 7 km off the coast. The island is home to some of NZ’s most endangered species including the iconic kiwi, saddle back birds, blue penguins and the native tuatara.

For the wildlife enthusiastic

Common Dolphins – We frequently encounter large pods (up to well over a thousand) of these powerful, quick swimmers. Beautiful colorations and highly photogenic!

  • Bottlenose Dolphins – With their permanent grin, the most recognised and likeable of all dolphins. We tend to see them in smaller pods of around 30.
  • Sea Birds – Gannets, shearwaters, pied shags, spotted shags, giant petrels, the albatross and the adorable little blue penguin.
  • NZ Falcon – Only 4000 pairs of falcon are left in the country – fierce and fearless, they live on live prey and dive on humans if you go near their nest.
  • Sharks – We occasionally encounter hammerhead, bronze whaler and mako sharks – usually spotted by their fins gliding silently through the water. Shy creatures that don’t hang about for long.
  • Little Blue Penguins – The world’s smallest penguin, they grow to about 40 cm tall and weigh a little over 1 kg. They feed at sea during the day and come ashore at dusk to their burrows on Whale Island.

4) Fly over the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

Walk on a glacier on this a unforgettable ski plane flight!

Share in the most breathtaking adventure of a lifetime. Enter the world of one of nature’s most magnificent mammals – the giant sperm whale.

5) Stay in a farmhouse

Off the regular tourist trails, get a first hand feel of the real ‘New Zealand’ by opting to stay in a farmhouse. (You may get to enjoy home-cooked meals, and you will have the chance to join in with whatever is happening on the farm. Depending on the type of farm and the season, you could experience milking, shearing, lambing or harvesting kiwifruit and other crops)

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Homestay at Rangiora, Christchurch-Canterbury

By Farah Bode

A home away from home…is what my stay at the quaint little home in Rangiora, Christchurch-Canterbury was all about.

A  pretty ordinary day…dotted with simple pleasures that was enough to put a smile on my lips…leave me with a warm toasty feeling. A day which leaves you with a feeling of being complete. A day which, whilst I write this blog post, makes me realize that it is indeed simple pleasures – being in the warm folds of a family, going about routine chores – that makes life a treat!

My day kick  started with a big smile from Margaret who met me at  Christchurch International Airport. A grandmotherly like figure – warm smiles and hugs, she opened her arms and welcomed me into her home and her heart with a single smile.

Forty minutes later,  we were at her lovely home in a small town called Rangiora (approx. population 11,000).

(Rangiora Township is small but has all the conveniences of a town without the crowds and traffic jams. The rest of the town is only homes and farmlands. A picture perfect little town which is every Wanderers dream destination…)

Stepping into her warm abode was a  treat to every gourmand’s senses. Freshly baked cakes and cookies welcomed me…and well, just when you think you can get away with a nibble here and there…a nibble turns into a bite…a bite turns into a big bite and before you know it – the decadent delights are polished off the table – which earns me a big smile from my hostess.

A cuppa tea later, we set out in her SUV to the milking station, and en route picked up Bob, her husband.

The milking station was nothing like I imagined it to be. Sure, it smelt like a cow stable back in India, but it was completely mechanized as far as the operations were concerned.

All the cows get herded into a staging area feeding into the rotary milking platform which holds around 50 cows at a time. The machine spins and loads/unloads cows at a pretty brisk pace. One time around is the amount of time needed to finish milking each cow. So once they reach the end, the milking cups automatically fall off and the cow steps out, heading back to a pasture. Farms have as many as 800 cows so it is a lot of planning & hard work, in spite of all the automation.

Wow…Impressive is the adjective I use for want of any better word. A world removed from the cow sheds of India!

And a little later after exploring their farm and basking  in the lush verdant beauty, we headed out to one of  their son’s homes.

Margaret & Bob have a huge family (17 grand children!) The family tree is chronicled through the many pictures Margaret has put up in their home (much like my wall at home). It was interesting to be a part of their routine and listen to the children talk about their day. At which point, it really made me realize that life is full of simple pleasures – the pitter patter of children running about, the warm hearth, the soft tinkling laughter of Margaret, the warm smiles from Bob and his son and  how, in their own way, they enveloped me so easily into their fold.

Came home to a dinner of succulent roast lamb & vegetables (beans, carrot & cauliflower) and spent some time chatting after dinner. By 7:45 pm I was ready to call it a day!

The quaint little heaven they call home is just perfect – the heater making the room warm and toasty…and my bed was inviting.

A long but lovely day that reminded me of simpler childhood holidays (Bob & Margaret are the quintessential grandparents – they pampered me to bits!)

I’ve always believed that every Wandering has its own feel – but a homestay is something that I definitely recommend  in New Zealand for those who want to experience the peace & quiet of the local life here and leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling!

More on my Wanderings soon….

Ciao, Farah

About Rangiora:

Rangiora was occupied by Maori for several hundred years before the arrival of Europeans. The beauty of the area and the potential for grazing lands inspired a Canterbury surveyor, Charles Obins Torlesse, to build the first dwelling in the town in 1851. The main industries in the area are lamb production, dairying, fruit growing and mixed farming. Southern hemisphere truffles are a new specialty crop. The town has several interesting museums and some wonderful heritage buildings, including one of Canterbury’s oldest wooden churches. The beaches of Pegasus Bay are within easy reach and the nearby rivers are popular for fishing and walking.

About our Wanderer – Farah Bode: When she gets time from travelling (or getting people to travel),

Farah enjoys music, interior designing, dancing and shopping in the bustling streets of Crawford Market, Mumbai. Some of her previous conquests include Canada, US, Philippines, Kenya, France and Italy.