Rural homestay stalwarts

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Bev Macaulay, Trish Cook and Gyneth Robins catch up over a cup of tea.

By Mick Jensen

Bev Macaulay, Gyneth Robins and Trish Cook are ambassadors for rural New Zealand and each has shared their home and hospitality with tourists from around the world for more than 30 years.

The trio offer an “open house” experience for visitors and provide dinner, bed and breakfast with a personal touch and country flavour.

They began in rural hospitality in the 1980s when they were living on larger farms.

In recent years they have scaled back to smaller blocks, but continue to share their lifestyle and location with travellers eager to experience what rural New Zealand has to offer.

Bev Macaulay said in the early days it had been easier in many ways to accommodate visitors on the big farm.

“Whatever we were up to, visitors were eager to check it out and usually found it all interesting.

“Sometimes we’d leave the dinner table in the middle of an emergency and they’d join us.”

Mrs Macaulay said offering a dinner, bed and breakfast service was a big commitment, but she loved doing it.

“You definitely have to be a people person and you also need a good sense of humour at times.”

In the early years there had been a lot of American guests; later Japanese had come in big numbers and now there were more Chinese visitors.

Asian visitors, who usually came from highly populated cities, commented on the space, the solitude and the lack of “night life”, said Mrs Macaulay.

The three rural hosts have all travelled overseas themselves, but firmly believe that at home they should offer good old fashioned Kiwi hospitality to guests.

“We don’t want our guests shut off from what we’re doing, so we make sure we sit down to eat and talk with them.

“If communication gets difficult, we write things down and if that fails, sign language usually works,” said Trish Cook.

Over the years guests has been taken horse riding, shown the Rakaia Gorge and other local spots, but often they were only here for one night and needed to move on the next day.

“We’ve had one family from Singapore who have stayed with us four times over the years. They wanted to experience New Zealand at different times of the year, so they kept coming back,” she said.

The rural experience usually includes getting up close and personal with farm animals including cows, sheep and deer, as well as crops and machinery.

Gyneth Robins, who farmed 1000 acres at Fairlie before moving to a lifestyle block in Mid Canterbury, said she had many positive memories of her time as a rural host.

“We’ve had power cuts, snow and ice, but we’ve always managed and guests have gone away happy.

“We had the same guests from London over a number of times and we were lucky enough to meet up with them on our own travels, which was very nice.”

Mrs Robins said her visitors loved checking out the night sky and the observatory at Lake Tekapo was often a stop on their itinerary.

The three rural hosts all agree that travellers from Taiwan, in general, are their favourite nationality. There are around 10 rural stay options for visitors to Mid Canterbury. Visitors book online or through agents.