The Train Stops in Taihape, So Why Don't You?

The above question sirens out to drivers from a sign on the side of the road in tiny Taihape, New Zealand. It is visible to motorists about to pass through town, ever-so kindly calling out for their decision to skip over Taihape to be reconsidered.

Make no mistake, Taihape doesn't own a huge black dot on the map of New Zealand nor a blip on the typical tourist radar of the North Island. When you tell someone you are coming to New Zealand, no one usually leans over and whispers whatever you do, you have to go to Taihape. What Taihape does have though is loads of quirky Kiwi charm, a beautiful setting right smack in the middle of North Island high country, and gumboots. Lots and lots of gumboots.

What the heck are gumboots? Well, they're Wellies. Ahem, what are Wellies you may ask? Thats short for Wellingtons of course. What are Wellingtons? Well, Wellingtons are what most Americans would call galoshes or rain shoes and they have become the rubbery and rain repellent calling card of Taihape, New Zealand.

Taihape bills itself as the Gumboot Capital of New Zealand. Now while the amount of competition Taihape has for that crown may be debatable, the title is indeed an undisputed one. A colossal corrugated iron gumboot greets you as you enter town and every year in late summer Taihape holds a Gumboot Day.

Gumboot Day was the result of a brainstorming session by city elders in 1985 aimed at offsetting some of the economic downturns in the agriculture and rail industries that were adversely affecting the area. Every year, the town gathers for a day of fun, games, and celebrating of its hard-working heritage. The day is capped off by a gumboot throwing contest which attracts participants from all over the world. Visitors on any day of the year though are more than welcome to try their hand at the town throwing lane and will even be issued a set of gumboots and throwing rules.  

If you are looking for a little less sole in your fun, take a quick stroll from Taihape's quaint main street to Mount Stewart Reserve and her scenic lookout. Mount Stewart makes for a lovely lunch break or a stunning sunset toasting spot. The hike is a short fifteen minutes each way, but the view from the wooden lookout perch will keep you at the summit for much longer as mountains ring around you all the while being treated to a view of the North Islands tallest mountain, Mount Ruapehu, and her snowy volcanic cone in the distance. Taihape is also a jumping off point for the Mokai Gravity Canyon, which provides a much faster paced thrill if you have a taste for some of New Zealand's signature extreme activities.

So, should you make like the locomotive on the sign and pull over for a night? You bet your galoshes, I mean gumboots.

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