East Coast

Last day on our East Bro Tour! We left Te Kaha at 8:00am and made our way back to Rotorua. Some of those in our group hopped off in Whakatane to explore White Island – home to New Zealand’s only active volcano. I wish that I had more time to check it out – another item added to the old bucket list!

We arrived back into Rotorua at 11:30am. Here we had the option to either stay in Rotorua for a few days, or jump back onto the main Stray Bus heading south towards Wellington. As I had already experienced a week in Rotorua I decided to jump back onto the Stray Bus.

With a whole new group of new Stray travellers, as well as many from the East Bro Tour – we headed south towards Lake Aniwhenua. I had heard amazing stories about this lake side stay with a Maori Family so I was very excited.

We stopped by some mud pools on the way before picking up our local Maori Guide. As we drove through the Kaingaroa Forest he took us on a short walk to see the oldest Moari carvings in New Zealand. We ventured through Urewera National Park with a stop by a local waterfall.

Our accommodation at Lake Aniwhenua was amazing and literally in the middle of nowhere. Hosts Nadine (or Nads as we called her) and Karl and their family were so welcoming. We settled into our little lodges before watching the Hangi descend into the ground for cooking – chicken, pork, lamb, potatoes, kumara and pumpkin – we were all so excited for the feast.

Whilst the Hangi cooked we had the afternoon to relax and make the most of our beautiful, lake front accommodation. Some of us borrowed Kayaks to explore the lake whilst others played beach volleyball, learnt how to weave bracelets from flax, whipped up some traditional Maori fried bread or just chilled in the hammocks with a beer.

Soon enough it was time to eat! Most of us went for a third serving as Nads told us of the history of the town. We had all noticed how run down and poor the once thriving forestry community had been. Nads told us of her family’s decision to give up their day jobs to move to Lake Aniwhenua to make a difference. Karl’s descendants had grown up in the town and they were determined to make a change. Through tourism such as the Stray bus, they have been able to provide Hangi to the local school children and support the local community. Some of us were so moved of her stories that tears were shed – we really felt that we were a part of something.

After trying to find space for desert we went Eel hunting! We headed out to the pier and set our lines into the lake to catch these cheeky creatures! Unfortunately our group were not as successful as previous guests but the experience was fantastic all the same! We listened to stories of the area before hitting the sack - off to Taupo tomorrow.