Upper Hutt Leader
It's a long way from Salt Lake City to Upper Hutt, but American tourists Dean Chytraus and Tim Gannuscio say they would definitely come back for a visit after an "amazing reception" from the people of Upper Hutt.
The two intrepid travellers won Arrival Magazine's "dream job" competition for an all-expenses- paid tour of New Zealand, and have spent the past month travelling the North Island with Taranaki man Ben Sarten and his German-turned-Kiwi girlfriend Judith Beuel.
Upper Hutt was the last stop of their North Island leg, and according to Ms Beuel it was the best.
"The 'job' part of this promotion is that we promote the businesses and groups which host us, and we've had a great time doing that, but this is the first place we've been where we felt so relaxed and like we were with friends," she says.
Mr Chytraus agrees.
"Everyone at council treated us like family and we couldn't believe how friendly all the local business owners were - the hospitality was amazing."
When Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy heard about the tour last month, he decided that Upper Hutt needed to play host and showcase some of the local attractions.
"Anyone who lives in Upper Hutt knows that there are heaps of recreational and natural attractions here, but I think we need to do more as a city to promote them," he says.
"We refer to Upper Hutt as Wellington's gateway to the outdoors for good reason. In Kaitoke alone, there are about 10 different recreational activities you can do within a five-kilometre radius."
The foursome arrived in Upper Hutt on Wednesday morning last week just in time for two days of glorious hot weather. Mr Guppy drove them up to Hutt Valley Gliding Club where they spent the morning soaring above Kaitoke in a completely cloudless sky.
Club president Wayne Fisk said they were keen to host the group to encourage locals and tourists alike to take advantage of the club and the world- class views right on their doorstep.
After a month living out in a touring van and at hostels, the weary travellers could not believe their luck when they arrived at Eirene Bed and Breakfast in the Akatarawa Valley, and said owners David and Mary Beachen were "phenomenal hosts".
On Thursday members of Upper Hutt Bowling Club gave them a quick lesson before challenging them to a duel, and despite making good progress after a few hours on the green, the Americans were still no match for their seasoned coaches.
Their "Upper Hutt adventure" ended with a tour of Pinehaven artist Bruce Winter's workshop where they enjoyed a cup of tea and chat about sculpture, which was inspirational for both Mr Chytraus and Mr Sarten who are both budding artists with an interest in Mr Winter's mixed- media sculptures which use an assortment of recycled materials and junk-shop treasures.
Mr Chytraus says the group were truly grateful to everyone they met in Upper Hutt for making them feel so welcome and said it was great to meet real, everyday Kiwis.
"I think Upper Hutt might be a hidden jewel in the Wellington region so we'll do our best to tell people what a great place it is."
- Upper Hutt Leader