This is the most amazing place.
My description won't do the lodge justice. But it's perhaps the best backpacker's accommodation I've ever seen, and I was sorry not to be able to stay there much longer.
Set in an area of rainforest between the main road and the sea, you drive 100m down a dirt track to get there, and find a small parking area, the reception, and a communal lodge with kitchens, internet access, etc. The guy in reception, evidentally the manager, was helpful, not hugely friendly but not unfriendly; there were many nice touches around the place, and a couple of Buddhas too, and it felt these were probably from his wholehearted investment in maintaining it. The main lodge contained a lounge, a well-appointed kitchen with cutlery/pan sets, and a small essentials shop. They bake fresh home-made muffins and bread in the oven every morning - a beautiful touch (that day's flavour was Chocolate Chip). All payment for the above was into an open jar, or to a Buddha statue - trust is intrinsic to this place. There are no locks on any lodges or bedroom doors either.
However, when we went hunting for our room, we realised how special it was.
You walk to the corner of the main lodge, and find an entrance into the rain forest. Walking down narrow gravel paths, you follow signs at small junctions until you find your own lodge; ours was Te Nikau, which I guess could be the original building - I've no idea. Walking to the lodge was around 100m, winding uphill and downhill, and in one case past a small pond with a bamboo water feature, all well maintained.
I've no idea what the other lodges were like, but ours was... well, a wooden lodge, of the type you'd expect to find in a rain forest. I can only compare it to my own experiences, the closest of which would be of the old Hollywood/Pinewood Studios WW2 movies set in the Pacific. Walking up onto the decking around the outside, past various easy chairs, and into the lodge itself, we found the entire lower floor is a lounge area, with two sets of sofas, dining table, and kitchen area. There was a spice rack, complete with around 20-30 different dried herbs and spices. There were full matching sets of glasses, mugs, crockery, knife sets, wine glasses - all in excellent condition - better than we have at our own house. There was even an Aga stove - perhaps useful during the winter months. Off the kitchen and a utility area, were two bathrooms and showers, one with a bath(!)
Upstairs, were two double rooms, and a dorm room with 4 single beds around the outside. Our large double was around 5mx4m, with wardrobe, bedside lamp and table, desk, comfortable double bed, nice carpet, and plush red duvet.
There was no TV, and to be honest, surrounded by all this you'd be mad to want one - but there were plenty of board games in the lounge. Certainly, in such surroundings, it's impossible not to talk to your housemates, and hopefully get on with them. Having said that, there was still good, fast, reliable IAC Wireless Internet in the main reception/lodge area, and Skype worked fine (luckily, since there's no cellular coverage within 50km).
There's apparently a lovely walk down to the beach, and also a few other walks around the area - as well as the Pancake Rocks around a mile south as well. Sandflies are apparently vicious close to the beach, but not so bad in the lodge - certainly we weren't bitten that night. There's not much else around though - no attractions, shops, petrol stations, etc. - just the info centre and cafe by the pancake rocks, and the Seal Colony 75km north. Still, if you want a place to rest up, read, meet people, or contemplate your navel, then this is the one.
There is also the Stargazer's Lodge - actually, just a double bed in what looks a little like an oversized kennel :-) It's in its own spot, with its own path, with a clearing overhead so that you can lie back and, well, gaze at the stars. For this, the first 1/4 of the roof is glass-paned. We did try to book it, but the manager advised us not to as it would be overcast (and it was :-( ).
The one big downer was when we looked in our room bin; it hadn't been emptied since the last guests, and of all the things to find in an unemptied bin, the two used condoms we saw in there were not the best. Hopefully this was just a one-off exception, as the excellent care and attention in everything else was apparent. I would also speculate that by encouraging or expecting such trust in their visitors, the owners get less damage, breakages or theft in return.
Overall - this is a fantastic place. Wear yourself out at Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, or wherever else, and then stop by here and allocate a few days to sit, read, write, walk, eat the muffins, get your internet news fix if you need it, and enjoy the surroundings. You picture the superrich staying in such places in the Americas, paying a fortune for it, and the only difference between their resort and this place would be a lack of flatscreen entertainment systems and, white-jacketed butlers gliding around with Pina Coladas.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Unique hostel with all home comforts, lodges and cottages nestled in the native rainforest. Excellent place to relax ~ restore ~ explore. Beautiful beaches,river walks, horse trekking, kayaking close-by. Bread/muffins available for sale. FREE UNLIMITED WIFI is available in all rooms of the retreat. 3kms north of the Pancake Rocks, sign on main road Motel - Homestay - Backpackers indicates turn off. Book your Intercity Bus to the Truman Track (TRT) and you'll be only meters away from Te Nikau. ... more less
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