Over the last three days TRM have listed the first thirty reasons for tourists to visit and stay in Turangi.
Remarkably there are still more. No other town in NZ could match such a diverse range of holiday activities and recreational pursuits…
Today we list more to confirm it….
31 – Whio – Turangi is about the only publicly accessible river environment in NZ where the rare endangered Whio or Blue Duck can easily often be seen on a stroll along the river bank tracks. They are territorial and can often be identified as they chase any other Mallard ducks away from their patch. Even the shags are frightened by them. There is a pair often seen under the main road bridge. A breeding unit has been established at the Trout Centre. In Turangi they appear unfazed by tourists and often you will spy keen photographers stalking them to get close up photos of their family. Beware if you get too close they can turn nasty.
32 – Snow – At Whakapapa, the largest ski field in NZ, they have over 60 snow making machines to guarantee you and your kids a snow experience almost all through the year. The Happy Valley kids area has been redeveloped to provide magic carpets and every other snow toy to keep kids entertained all day. Whakapapa is an easy 50 km drive taking about 40 minutes from Turangi. Bruce Road is sealed up to the ski areas comprising about 25% learners slopes, 50% intermediate and 25% advanced slopes. Whakapapa has the greatest number and length of ski runs anywhere in NZ. At the top of the chair lifts is Knoll Ridge, the highest cafe in Southern Hemisphere. From here it is possible to walk to the summit lake and return – make sure the weather forecast is clear – allow about 6 hours. This is the best one day tourist tramp – far better than the Tongariro Crossing! – of them all. Massive changes are under way for next season with most of the chairlifts due for replacement this season with new enclosed gondolas etc. Actually I suspect TRM might have mentioned that already? That’s OK. There is so many ski runs they deserve another mention.
33 – Pumice – “Rocks that float” are a constant fascination for visitors. At Kuratau they even have a “floating Rock” cafe. Pumice comprises a very light porous volcanic rock formed from gas-rich pressure molten rock froth of glossy lava solidifys rapidly. Pumice has been used as a lightweight building material, mixed with lime to form cement, since Roman times, although TRM is not quite that old.
(Pumice Stone is even sold in Chemist shops as an age old dry skin remedy and can be used in pedicure to remove callouses or hard dry skin and roughened skin used after bathing on elbows, knees, soles and heels of feet. )
These pumice lumps from ancient volcanic eruptions are washed down to the lake from the nearby Tongariro River. But Turangi is quite unique as on the main road from the North a well known feature is an historic quirky motel (with an ancient loopy Manager) on the corner of SH1 and Piri Road and Taupahi Road where the entire corner features an architectural landscape feature – a pumice wall. Both the fence and the motel (and SWMBO) should be classified as a national treasure. Amazing!
34 – Hidden Lake – A few years ago the NZ Herald in Auckland ran a competition among its readers on the most treasured natural scenic attraction in NZ. The winner, the most popular vote, was for a tiny little hidden lake called Lake Rotpounamu. It is a treasure, completely hidden from the main road SH47 between Turangi and National Park. A large car park identifies the spot. It is also unusual in that there is no outlet stream readily identifiable. A 5 km walk extends around the perimeter of the lake covering about one square km and takes about 2 hours. It is popular with bird watchers and bush lovers as this is one of the few locations which has never ever been milled. As the lake is nestled into a basin on the western flanks of Mt. Pihanga it was left alone as any milled logs could not be hauled out.
35 – Friendly natives – When you take your compulsory stroll along the Tongariro River Trail take special note of something quite strange for city folk. All the other locals delight in saying hello and stopping to have a chat. There is no need to be afraid. In Turangi this is normal behaviour. Everyone has more time to get on and care about each other. This may no longer be a natural phenomena in the rest of the world, which we understand is far to busy to follow traditional pleasantries, but Turangi enjoys remaining about fifty years behind the rest of the world with no apparent desire to catch up. At first visitors are naturally suspicious and move on a little quicker, but in a day or two we enjoy watching them relax and slow down to local pace to reflect a more leisurely relaxed lifestyle and start acting normally like humans again.
36 – Rugby – No account of any heartland NZ town would be complete without some mention of the most popular local religion. In Turangi it is the same as the rest of NZ. The enthusiasm of local parents watching school games has to be seen to be believed. Lacking player numbers it is not unusual to find the boys play up front to provide the grunt in the forwards and the girls provide the elusive fleet of foot in the back lines. That also explains why this game is so popular providing for all shapes and sizes. Only in Turangi… That also explains why NZ is so successful – ask the Poms!
For special occasions, when watching visiting teams, the locals have their own “corporate box” arrangements – see on right.. Brilliant!
37 – Spring blossoms – Another special feature of the native trees spread along the Tongariro River and throughout the town are the number of Kowhai trees. Even when sections of land are cleared the Kowhai trees are some of the first natural regeneration through the blackberry and broom and other scrub.
In Spring when the kowhai blossoms burst all through town the raiding parties of tuis arrive, tearing from tree to tree stripping them of as much nectar as they can manage. This soon ferments and they get quite drunk and start singing party songs.
In Tui language these are mainly warbles and snorts and burbles and yodels rather than bird song. Nevertheless they sound wonderful. They herald the arrival of Spring. In the Kowhai image on right are more than 20 tuis – can you count them?
38 – Kids Day at Trout Centre – Usually every school holiday period or on public holidays the Tongariro Trout Centre arranges their kids days. For a small fee the kids can catch their own trout – helped by a casting instructor – gain a certificate with the vital measurements, weight etc. then have it smoked to take home for dinner. This is the only way you can guarantee to catch a trout in NZ. As you cannot sell trout this is a specially valuable experience for kids and their parents – many of whom have never tasted trout as they cannot buy them anywhere else. The pure enthusiasm of the day to introduce kids to fishing is very special.
39 – Highest cafe in NZ – Sometimes it is said the journey is as good as the goal. This may very well be the case with this cafe. To visit this special cafe you need to drive up past the Whakapapa village to the top of Bruce Road and then take a chairlift ride up and over the skifields – an adventure and a thrill in itself – to arrive at Knoll Ridge, at 2020 m. the highest cafe in NZ. The views to the west are to die for. Mt. Taranaki is usually outlined against the horizon and the curvature of the earth should be noted for any like SWMBO who are still paid up members of the flat earth society.
40 – Underground Power Station – The North Island’s only underground power station is located about 15 minutes drive south via Kaimanawa Road. When they built it they sealed the road in for future tourist traffic. Tourists are still waiting for Genesis to open it for public viewing. Previous requests have been ignored but one day they will have to respond to the demand from tourists. The secret local plan is to rebrand it as the caves of Mordor… When you consider what a few round doors in a hillside at Matamata have done for their local tourism, then Turangi has immense potential to benefit from the Lord of the Rings circus. That may be why Genesis Energy are so reluctant to open it for tourists – it could replace Hobbiton. Watch this space.