8 November 2017

NZ Travel Diary: River Valley Lodge

On day 22 of our backpacking adventure, we made our way towards River Valley. It was one of the most breath-taking drives we have ever had the pleasure to experience. The small winding road took us through acres and acres of sheep filled valleys. We sat in awe as we admired heavenly greenery, the large hills with stretched as far as the eye could see. It was an image drawn straight from a fantasy novel, or an ethereal painting. It simply did not look real. We could not process the natural beauty of the New Zealand landscape. 

River Valley isn't a town or a region per say - River Valley Lodge is just one of the overnight stops on the Kiwi Experience Bus Tour. The bus' main reason for stopping in the incredibly remote area is because of the outdoor activities available to book. There is a very popular River Rafting Tour available to book, and a Horseback Adventure. (very limited spaces though!). It is also an opportunity to stay in unique accommodation.

We stayed in a lodge which was one of several located outside the main River Valley Lodge building (you can also stay in a large, cosy room which we were informed is known as 'the orgy pit'). The majority of us decided we would rather stay in the lodges: small cabins housing 3 bunk beds each. There is no room for personal space here: if you're lucky you'll wake up with someone's head very close to yours. If you're not, it'll be someone's feet. 

Although the beds are very comfortable (and heaters are available to use in the room), it is literally an 'adventure lodge': you need to venture outside to get to the toilet, and the showers are located in a small open building. It would have been amazing if the weather was nicer, but when it's cold and wet it's a bit annoying. Again, you need to take it as an experience. I personally didn't mind too much: we didn't come all this way for basic amenities and comfort, and River Valley Lodge was such a beautiful place, I couldn't help but love it. 

It had rained all night, so much so that the River Rafting activity had been cancelled, much to the disappointment of the Kiwi Experience customers. When we woke up the sun was shining, so Summer & I made the most of the slow morning and ventured out into the grounds. We followed the road back up which would eventually lead back to the main road, and admired the open fields and spectacular views. Sheep were roaming freely, having crossed the fences. The birds could be seen and heard in the distance, and the only sign of humanity's interference was the small wooden poles of the fences. 

I have never seen so much green: not a deep green, like the French fields of my childhood or the English country-side. It was a bright, rich green which seems so young and full of life. A poor description, perhaps. But the colour is like nothing I have seen before. I felt like I was exploring Middle-Earth. 

We crossed no-one during our short walk as the road lead directly to the Lodge and nowhere else. It was such an isolated paradise, the perfect place to fill your lungs with clean, fresh air, and do nothing but follow your footsteps. 

This kind of scenery not only reminds me of the beautiful land of Middle-Earth as presented by Sir Peter Jackson - it also reminds me of other fictional realms which still have a touch of magic. Places still unspoilt by humanity's touch, the land still clean of waste and filth. Although these places are often described as the Land of Opportunity, ready for whatever is to come, to me the magic truly lies in it's most natural form. The trees, the rivers, the birds and sheep. It's painfully beautiful. A reminder of what our world was, and what could still yet be. The River Valley Lodge was just that. Nothing too modern, a structure which seemed to fit perfectly in it's surroundings. A real effort has been made to conserve the natural beauty of the location, to seamlessly balance man and nature. They are working towards being a fully self-sustaining environment, which is in itself something very inspiring. It is proof that, when we are willing, we are capable of adapting to our natural landscape and producing as little waste as we can.

Even as we moved away from the lodge and back through the winding roads down to Wellington, I felt my heart drop a little at the sight of the small, ugly, old buildings which dotted the beautiful country-side, many of which had been abandoned, left to decay and be reclaimed by nature.

So would I recommend staying at River Valley Lodge? Yes, yes I would. It does embody freedom and adventure. A place for friends to have fun or a solo trip for pure escapism. I would recommend going when the weather is warmer though, and not to expect anything fancy. It is an adventure lodge through and through, from the mixed dorms to the not-so-clean outdoors kitchen hob. 


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