Cycle tours uncover local history
No matter how far away from her roots Paula Beilby travelled, she always intended to return to Bay of Plenty.
“I don’t think there was ever any doubt that we were going to come home,” she says. “We did the typical Kiwi OE, travelling Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and had a ten-year stint in Melbourne where we had all three of our children and that was enough. While we were living overseas, we would return home every year to see family.”
It was during those visits, that Paula and husband Rob felt mixed feelings of pride at the number of tourists coming to our region on cruise ships and disappointment that many were spending their shore time elsewhere.
“The area of Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty, has so much more to offer to its visitors than being just a gateway to attractions outside of our region. It’s not just our maunga. We have more substance than that. The idea came to me about wanting to share with international visitors our narrative, our story, our history through a Te Ao Māori lens.”
The couple launched Te Ara Tourism in 2018, offering e-bike, walking and SUP tours. However, they had to rethink their plans when Covid affected tourism.
“I thought ‘who am I going to tell my stories to?’ but we’ve realised that there are a great number of New Zealanders who have no idea of our history so it’s about time to remedy that.”
The tour route is the Bay’s newest cycle track from Ōmokoroa to Wairoa River. It includes the historic Ongarahu Pa which is considered one of the most well-preserved defensive fortifications in New Zealand.
“It’s a nice korero and a good contrast between the gentrification of the area and the tiny, humble pa site. A really special area with some of the best views of Tauranga harbour.”
The stunning scenery enjoyed during an easy cycle along 19 kilometres of mostly flat trails and an insightful recount of life for tangata whenua (the Māori people of Aotearoa) are wrapped up with light refreshments at the Cider Factorie.
‘Te Ara’ in Māori literally means The Way or Path as a nod to Paula and Rob’s wish to build a legacy for their children based on their shared values of whanaungatanga (kinship), manaakitanga (hospitality),
taurikura (prosperity) and hauora (wellbeing).
“Tauranga was always going to be the place, and this is us. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
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