He Tangata: Angie London of Whakaipo Lodge

Elisabeth Easther talks to Angie London of Whakaipo Lodge.

He Tāngata:

Angie London
On February 23, 4-7pm Whakaipo Lodge is holding a concert on the lawn featuring Laura Collins and the Back Porch Blues Band and Andrew London. Money raised going to Bike Taupō.
My first holiday memory was going to a Butlin’s holiday camp. As a little girl, I learnt ballet and tap and because there was lots of performing at those Hi-De-Hi holiday camps, I had fun. But today, that sort of thing would not be my choice of holiday at all. My family moved to New Zealand in 1972 when I was 10. We left industrial northern England for a land of opportunity, full of outdoorsy people. Because Dad had a job at New Zealand Steel, we settled in to Waiuku, just outside Auckland and I thought it was paradise because my new friends all lived on farms and had horses.

I met Garth, my husband, at my brother’s 21st and through him I got into tramping and he introduced me to New Zealand’s real outdoors — tramping to remote areas, backcountry huts, cycling and kayaking. In 2001, we were trekking in Nepal, when I got acute mountain sickness in a really remote part of Gokyo Valley not far from Mt Everest. Being such a long way from medical assistance — because it’s so cloudy the weather isn’t especially conducive to helicopter evacuations — it’s the most scared I’ve ever felt.

Trekking in New Zealand, you always think you’re going to get rescued and get to a great medical facility but this was different.

In the end, my symptoms alleviated enough for me to walk out, because the only solution with altitude sickness is to descend.

Wainwright’s Coast to Coast is an amazing walk. It goes right across England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, and finishes close to where I grew up. It passes over the Fells and the Lake District, across the Pennines and down through the Yorkshire Dales and across the moors. It’s very literary too. The Lake District is Wordsworth, the Dales James Herriot and the North York Moors are the Brontes. On this walk, we averaged about 26km a day and it took us 13 days to walk 320km. In a way it led us to where we are today because every night we stayed at a different B&B. We were carrying a very basic kit and we’d rock up to our accommodation each night and enjoy the B&B experience. We’d already decided we wanted to run a B&B or a boutique lodge one day and this trip really confirmed it. Over that entire trip, we didn’t have one bad B&B, they were all great and it was always about the people. B&Bs are just fabulous places to meet locals.

In 2012, Garth was offered one of those golden-parachute opportunities and my hearing disability was creating challenges in my job, so we were ready for a change. When we left our jobs, we thought it would take a few months to find the right thing, but it took well over 12 months to find this place. Originally we looked at existing lodges and B&Bs, but we never found the right one in the right place so we started looking for lifestyle properties in tourism destinations and this property came up on the northern shores of Lake Taupō. It’s 10 acres of beautiful gardens, just across the road from Whakaipo Bay and we both fell in love with it and named it Whakaipo Lodge. Garth had always said he wanted to live in a flash DOC hut and that’s what this is. It’s made of board and batten and corrugated iron. It’s classic Kiwi architecture so our guests have a Kiwi experience from the moment they drive up the driveway. And because we’re right where the Great Lake Cycle Trail finishes, we quickly set up a second venture, Adventure Shuttles, to work with the cyclists. The trail is intermediate grade, part of the Nga Haerenga Cycle Trail, and it passes through various landscapes and the views are amazing — there’s regenerating native bush, river canyons, wetlands, views over the lake and across to the mountains and it’s such a beautiful trail.

We love doing what we do, but the key for us is to make sure we enjoy it by taking regular breaks so we can be fresh for our guests. Doing this job we give a lot of ourselves but luckily our guests are amazing, interesting people who simply want to connect with nature, and with Kiwis too.

Further information: see whakaipolodge.co.nz

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