River valley: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

River Valley New ZealandI think it’s safe to say that I have mixed emotions about River Valley. Whilst it is a particularly beautiful part of the world, I just can’t shake the feeling that the place has a few dark secrets. Perhaps I’m a cynic, or perhaps I have been watching too many thriller’s lately, but still… Let me try to explain.

The Good

Located in the middle of (you guessed it) a valley, River Valley is incontestably undisturbed and delightfully scenic. In front of the lodge (which I will get to shortly) you can frolic in the River, or cross it on a very old-fashioned piece of equipment. I have zero idea what the correct name for this is, but essentially you sit on some wood which is attached to a few ropes and pull yourself across to the other side, whilst hoping not to fall off and into the water. 

River Valley New ZealandOnce you reach the other side, feel free to scale the harsh terrain for a stunning view. I watched a few other people do this and mistakenly thought it was an effortless task. Boy was I wrong. It is a seriously tricky to climb as the terrain is made up of loose rocks and mud. Worth the challenge though!

River Valley New ZealandIf you don’t fancy a hike, you can always try out one of the activities the lodge offers. Though a little pricy, they do seem appealing. Particularly the horse trek around the valley, and the white water rafting.

Rock Jumping New Zealand

The rafting here is renowned for being intense, which is why I didn’t go. As a petite gal with a tendency to get injured in all extreme sports, I could picture myself bouncing out of the boat. It turns out, this is exactly what happened to one of the poor girls after us. And she got really hurt. In fact, multiple people from the next group were injured. Whilst I usually try to write with sarcasm and quick wit, I would urge you to seriously think about your safety before committing to extreme activities – especially if you are a beginner!

The Bad

River Valley Lodge New Zealand
Spot the lodge

Deep at the base of the Valley is River Valley lodge, which offers a multitude of activities from horse trekking to white water rafting. So, what’s so bad about it?

Firstly, the rooms. When traveling to this lodge we were told that there are two rooms with giant mattresses. Each mattress sleeps multiple people i.e. as many as you can fit. Just picture giant bunk beds. Except you’re not sleeping with your siblings or even any one you actually know. Bit weird? I thought so too.

Anyway, what was more annoying was that they promised there was space for everyone, but there absolutely was not. And because it was first come first serve, my friends and I had to speak to management about finding somewhere to sleep. For some reason this was a bit of a palava, and resulted in us having to pay more to sleep there than everyone else just because we couldn’t find a space in the giant bunk bed situation. Let’s also bear in mind that there were 8 of us, so I’m not just talking about squeezing in one extra body.

Strike one my friends.

We were also given the option to pay for a roast dinner that evening. Considering it was $15 per person all you can eat, you would have thought there would be heaps of food. Think again. As a Brit, I was massively disappointed with the whole meal. Granted, I knew it wouldn’t be quite like back home, but this didn’t even come close! The meat to vegetable ratio was really quite tragic. And don’t even get me started on the gravy.

Strike two.

River Valley New Zealand

The Ugly

We had a given ourselves a rather long time to explore NZ, and this lodge made us an offer we were seriously considering. An offer called slaving.

I realise that the fact they call it slaving should have been a red flag, but the offer of free bed and board for a few hours of housework can seem worthwhile when you’re a backpacker. They also offered a free activity every few days (these usually sold for around $200 each).

We went and spoke to the current ‘slaves’ who told us that they worked ten hours a day with just one break, doing the grottiest if jobs without ever being able to leave the isolated lodge and that it was super hard work. They then told us that they had both been doing it for months, so you really have to question their sanity…kidding! Kind of ;).

River Valley New ZealandThe final strike for me came the following morning. After splashing around in the river the previous day, we had obviously laid all our swimwear out to dry. Come morning, my bikini bottoms had vanished from the shared balcony. Just the bottoms.

After asking everyone around us, plus rummaging in the bushes below, there were no pink pants in sight. You might think I sound paranoid, but then I was told by another all girls room that 8 pairs of their underwear had vanished too.

Strange things happen in secluded places, that’s all I’m saying!

River Valley New ZealandIf you do decide to visit despite my bizarre stories make sure you take plenty of bug spray with you, as there are hundreds of little nasties by the water!

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