Stray is known to take you “off the beaten track” and it is totally accurate. Lake Aniwhenua was going to be a true cultural experience. I love those kinds of activities so I couldn’t wait for it. We met our Maori guides early in the afternoon and were guided through their tribal lands along a couple of stops. We saw 1,000 year old cravings and the largest man-planted forest, and a beautiful waterfall before driving through a local town and arriving on the property we would be staying on.
Wow the property was gorgeous. There were cute cabins situated all around with a breathtaking lake and mountain background view. The best part of the experience was the warm hospitality and love we felt from everyone there. We feasted on a traditional hangi dinner. This is a method of cooking that was used by Maori tribes for special occasions. They essentially create a natural pressure oven underground.
We all played an old school “training” type of lawn game and were treated with fried bread (yep exactly what it sounds like) after a winner was crowned. Then there were optional activities including bracelet weaving and learning traditional hakas. This was of course to pass the 2.5 hours it would take for the food to cook underground.
When it was dinnertime we were all more than ready to eat! The food was absolutely fantastic and totally worth the wait. Most if not all of us went up for seconds, but there was still plenty to box up and it would be delivered within the community the next day.
We spent the evening learning more about Maori culture and history. When we were retiring to bed we were treated by an insanely beautiful, starry sky.
Part of this experience is going to the Maori school the next day to deliver the food and meet the local kids. We were unable to go into the school because it was already the holiday break.
This was such a special, beautiful experience that really just makes you appreciate what you have and opens your perspective further. You don’t have to be a Stray passenger to visit so if you are looking for an authentic, cultural experience in the North Island this is worth checking out.
This isn’t a popular tourist destination and not a rich town so there aren’t accommodation choices, but the Kohutapu Lodge and everyone there is really lovely and worth the stop. The cabins seemed very well maintained and I thought were absolutely perfect. Ours had two bunk beds and a lofted double bed area. There were communal lounge, kitchen, and dining areas as well as a shower/toilet facilities all in really close proximity to all the cabins. I really wasn’t ready to leave when we had to head out the next day.