This morning we left Taupo at 9am headed to River Valley. I had previously been ‘warned’ that River Valley is in the middle of nowhere, with no WIFI or phone reception.
After a good few hours driving through farmland, with no signs of civilisation other than the presence of hundreds of sheep dotting the land like snowflakes, I quickly realised that people had not been exaggerating.
I grew up in a small village in the middle of nowhere, in the heart of Sicily…and in comparison even that would look like a metropolis! The Lodge which would provide our accommodation for the night was right at the bottom of a steep dirt track, so steep and narrow that the Bus could’t even get down there. As we were asked to get off the bus, load our bags on the back of a truck and walk down to the Lodge I was half in awe of the tranquillity and remoteness of the place and half thinking….’Where the Feck are we?’
The Lodge itself was full of character, situated a stone throw away from a pretty river and surrounded by mountains, it was the perfect representation of ‘Rural’. We all gathered in the communal area, a large room with stone walls and high beam ceilings. The whole place had a rustic feel, with wooden tables and benches and a large fire place in the middle of the room. We were given a welcome talk and introduced to the team composed of the Lodge Staff, the White Water Rafting Instructors and the Horse Riding Instructors. The welcome we were given was…different. The driver had preempted that, probably due to the lack of social interaction in the area, the guys at the lodge had a bit of an unusual sense of humour. Let’s just say that their approach is verynon-english…not very PC, pretty laid back, to the point and maybe a little tactless. An initial shock, but, once you embrace the differences in manners as well as in Landscape you soon realise that different isn’t bad and it makes the experience even more unique.
As if the surroundings and the custom weren’t unusual enough, the accommodation was also of the interesting type…you have one of two options. Either a shared 6 bed room with normal(ish) bunkbeds, I say ish because the bunkbeds are connected in a horseshoe shape so your head will inevitably be next to someone’s feet…OR if you are feeling extra adventurous and want to save a few dollars, you can opt for the 'ORGY' room - a room which is just one huge mattress and sleeps about 20 people I think. I wasn’t feeling adventurous and as the Kiwi Experience bus is known for it’s after hours ‘activities’ I didn’t fancy waking up to people humping next to me….Normal Dorm Room for me Thanks!
The main activities at this stop were White Water Rafting (which is meant to be one of the best in the country with grade 5 rapids) and Horse Riding. We also had the option to sign up for a roast Dinner for the price of $15. As we were warned that the cooking facilities weren’t that great at the lodge (which is true) most of the people on the bus signed up for the Meal, making it a pretty sociable evening. The Roast included Beef, Roast potatoes, Curried Vegetables, Yorkshire Puddings (YES!) and gravy. There was plenty of it for everyone and it was quite yummy!
The rest of the evening was spent drinking in the common area….mostly because there was literally NOTHING else to do, but hey, it always sounds like a good idea to a bunch of 20 something travellers so I don’t think anyone was complaining.
The activities that people had signed up for, were booked in for the next morning. I had initially signed up for the White Water Rafting but as the Flu I had caught in Taupo didn’t seem to want to shift, I had to once again miss out on the activity BOOHOO. Instead I spent the morning reading and writing in the sunshine.
Everyone came back at around 12.30pm and we set off on the bus at around 1pm. Next Stop - Windy Wellington!