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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Eco-Cultural Forest Walk & Maori Family Visit in Taupo, New Zealand


Creative Travel, Travel With Locals, New Zealand, Oceania, Travel Blog , 0

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Ko te Reo kia tika ..
Ko te Reo kia rere ..
Ko te Reo kia Māori.

“It is important to us as Maori people, to continue, and perpetuate, our unique ways of understanding the world around us. In the past, our efforts have gone into instilling Maori language & cultural learning as early as kindergarten age. It is in the home, and from the home, that this culture and language needs to thrive, celebrating its only chance to survive …” Such are the important words of Maori Elder Whaia Olga, a charming 82-year-old who has been kind enough to welcome me into her beautiful Maori home here in Taupo, Central North Island New Zealand thanks to her family connection with my dear friend Ngahuia Tahau. What a unique, and wonderful opportunity for me as an international traveller forever interested in languages, culture & creative development, to listen to what this particular “Maori Whanau” family has to say.

 

Coming from a European “nucleus-family” background, the closeness among Maori people from multiple families & tribes is astounding to me. “Close” family here entails hundreds of people, literally everyone is welcomed as “coz”, “bro” or “sis”! I love this new form of togetherness.

“I know there is always going to be someone out there for me. I could live here for a while …”, Ngahuia tells me, casually pointing out some rooms or flats on different properties around town, “they all belong to my whanau (extended family). I like to think that we all care for each other. And such is the merit of our elder, Whaia Olga, to whom people come for advice and consultation. It really hasn’t changed much over the years.” Whaia Olga, or “Mother Olga”, has an Irish forefather that married into her Maori tribe, hence her maiden name Olga O’Keefe! She now lives in Taupo with her numerous children & grandchildren, generously inviting me to come and stay with her during my visit. Despite the difference in age, we are two of a kind and happily feed off each other’s knowledge and understanding of the world around us! She inspires me to be just like her when I reach her age: Kind, open-minded, out there & caring for the people & the land! Being the creative traveller I am, I get to teach her & her family our famous Austrian “Kaiserschmarren” recipe in return. Check this out.

Starting my "Maori visit of New Zealand" is being welcomed into the beautiful home of Maori Elder Whaia Olga ...

Starting my “Maori visit of New Zealand” is being welcomed into the beautiful home of Maori Elder Whaia Olga …

 

... whose beautiful cultural expressions I have really come to treasure: Have a look at this intricate harakeke flax weaving work, as seen at the local Marae meeting house ...

… whose beautiful cultural expressions I have really come to treasure: Have a look at this intricate harakeke flax weaving work, as seen at the local Marae meeting house …

 

... the meeting house, or "Kurapoto Marae" that I have been gladly welcomed by Whaia Olga's son Moana together with Ngahuia: What an honour for me as an overseas visitor. Thank you so much, my dear Maori family !!!

… the meeting house, or “Kurapoto Marae” that I have been gladly welcomed by Whaia Olga’s son Moana together with Ngahuia: What an honour for me as an overseas visitor. Thank you so much, my dear Maori family !!!

 

But the magic does not stop there. A little later, Ngahuia "casually" prepares delicious, juicy cockles shellfish for me, a true feast once again for a foodie visitor like myself!

But the magic does not stop there. A little later, Ngahuia “casually” prepares delicious, juicy cockles shellfish for me, a true feast once again for a foodie visitor like myself!

 

So I, in return, get to teach her our very own, simple signature dish from Austria called "Kaiserschmarren"!

So I, in return, get to teach her our very own, simple signature dish from Austria called “Kaiserschmarren”!

 

KIA ORA - Thank you is written all over my face, for celebrating magic moments such as this one. From left to right: Bubbles, Whaia Olga's daughter, Ngahuia & I as well as Whaia Olga herself.

KIA ORA – Thank you is written all over my face, for celebrating magic moments such as this one. From left to right: Bubbles, Whaia Olga’s daughter, Ngahuia & I as well as Whaia Olga herself.

 

Taking a walk around the township of Taupo, let me fill you in on such great traveller tips as the “Crafts Beer Movement” as well as some awesome local Street Art Graffiti!

“The wine world needs to watch out for what the crafts beer movement is doing in terms of innovation & business development!” Words from the #DWCC14 Digital Wine Communications Conference I recently attended still ring in my ears as I am being served two little casks of New Zealand home-brewed, crafts beer from Taupo. YUM! As a #winelover traveller, I merrily “swap sides” for a few hours, indulging in the delight of the local #beerlover society here at Lake Taupo. One of them even has Austrian roots to show: There you go, beer fans! Quality assured. 🙂

Starting my #beerlover visit of Lake Taupo with a stop at the Lakehouse Café at Taupo Waterfront ...

Starting my #beerlover visit of Lake Taupo with a stop at the Lakehouse Café at Taupo Waterfront …

 

... it is a good idea to pair those craft beers with this delightful bruschetta selection, complete with melt-in-your-mouth blue cheese & flavoursome spices on top!

… it is a good idea to pair those craft beers with this delightful bruschetta selection, complete with melt-in-your-mouth blue cheese & flavoursome spices on top!

 

Ngahuia and I love ordering one of those "craft beer tastings" for me, as seen at the BIER KAFE around town!

Ngahuia and I love ordering one of those “craft beer tastings” for me, as seen at the BIER KAFE Crafts Trout around town!

 

And the creative visit continues with a taste of some of the city's best street art graffiti around town ...

And the creative visit continues with a taste of some of the city’s best street art graffiti around town …

 

... or take these: Beautiful Aphrodite coming to visit Central North Island New Zealand ...

… or take these: Beautiful Aphrodite coming to visit Central North Island New Zealand …

 

... and don't you just love the intricate artwork on those Kea native parrots here? Apparently, we are told they were painted in just one day! True art I believe.

… and don’t you just love the intricate artwork on those Kea native parrots here? Apparently, so we are told, they were painted in just one day! True art I believe.

 

The whole magic, however, does not stop there. Around Taupo, make sure you take a fun, interactive nature culture forest walk with Ngahuia & visit Wairakei Terraces for a soak in their spa pools afterwards!

A true traveller’s delight. After embarking on the epic Tongariro Crossing together, Ngahuia Tahau, thanks to running her own eco-cultural Maori tour guiding business Haerenga Tuhura“, is happy to introduce me to yet another side of the beautiful New Zealand nature around Lake Taupo: An eco-cultural forest walk near Lake Rotopounamu! This walk is easy to do on your own, but only half the fun. Let me tell you why everything is more interesting, and worthwhile, “in Maori”!

Out & about with Ngahuia, we start our day at beautiful Lake Rotopounamu ...

Out & about with Ngahuia, we start our day at beautiful Lake Rotopounamu …

 

... where first of all, we get to cut some Harakeke New Zealand flax for a later weaving activity!

… where first of all, we get to cut some Harakeke New Zealand flax for a later weaving activity!

 

Off we go starting our two-hour walk ...

Off we go starting our two-hour walk …

 

... with Ngahuia teaching us in an interactive way, all there is to know about the local flora / fauna we watch ...

… with Ngahuia teaching us in an interactive way, all there is to know about the local flora / fauna we watch …

 

... and did you know that "Korus", New Zealand fernshoots such as this one, can be eaten - also known as the "New Zealand Asparagus" for their juicy, fleshy taste? Love them !!!

… and did you know that “Korus”, New Zealand fernshoots such as this one, can be eaten – also known as the “New Zealand Asparagus” for their juicy, fleshy taste? Love them !!!

 

For all needs, there is "New Zealand toilet paper" ...

For all needs, there is “New Zealand toilet paper” …

 

... or an "Ice cream, You scream" ... pepper plant experience!

… or an “Ice cream, You scream” … pepper plant experience!

 

The tallest native tree, we learn, grows up to 60 metres tall reaching way out above the forest canopy ...

The tallest native tree, we learn, grows up to 60 metres tall reaching way out above the forest canopy …

 

... while my eyes focus on the intricate art work that nature offers us on this eco-cultural forest walk ...

… while my eyes focus on the intricate art work that nature offers us on this eco-cultural forest walk …

 

Or how about hugging one of the oldest trees in the forest, well over 1.000 years old?!

Or how about hugging one of the oldest trees in the forest, well over 1.000 years old?!

 

Lunch is ready for us as we reach Lake Rotopounamu!

Lunch is ready for us as we reach Lake Rotopounamu!

 

Ready with some fresh forces, Ngahuia teaches us the ancient craft of her people weaving with Harakeke New Zealand flax ...

Ready with some fresh forces, Ngahuia teaches us the ancient craft of her people weaving with Harakeke New Zealand flax …

 

... in no time, the girls are ready complete with new bracelets to show off !!!

… in no time, the girls are ready complete with new bracelets made straight from Mother Nature to show off !!!

 

Mother Nature, who continues to enchant us offering us the large Pohutukawa flowers on this tree for instance ...

Mother Nature, who continues to enchant us offering us the large Pohutukawa flowers on this tree for instance …

 

... as spotted at the Wairakei Terraces just north of Lake Taupo & Taupo City!

… as spotted at the Wairakei Terraces just north of Lake Taupo & Taupo City!

 

Not only are the hot mineral pools worth their visit: The entire site offers a Maori culture experience complete with Hangi & Maori village, too.

Not only are the hot mineral pools worth their visit: The entire site offers a Maori culture experience complete with Hangi cooking & Maori village experiences, too.

 

Thank you so much, my dear Ngahuia, for introducing me to YOUR world of Maori wisdom, beauty & culture here in Taupo !!! I really hope to be back soon again.!

Thank you so much, my dear Ngahuia, for introducing me to YOUR world of Maori wisdom, beauty & culture here in Taupo !!! I really hope to be back soon again.!

 

Check out even more stunning nature photography from Tongariro National Park here:

Disclaimer: I have been invited by Ngahuia to join her on the guided Nature Culture Forest Walk in New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park. All opinions are my own.

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
The Tongariro Crossing: New Zealand's most popular day walk … in Maori!
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