River Valley Lodge & Horse Trekking
River Valley was an exclusive stop to the Kiwi Experience bus located in the middle of nowhere! It’s designed to break up the journey between Taupo and Wellington. The drive takes you among some of the most beautiful scenery the north island has to offer including views of Mt Ruapehu in the far distance. Nestled along the side of the Rangitikei River, the lodge offers grade 5 white water rafting, a spa with massage treatments and horse trekking. As well as providing accommodation they have an onsite bar and café.
The lodge from the outside looked like the other buildings in the area, however once you get inside it is the most warm and welcoming place. With a huge fire in the middle of the lodge and plenty of sofas around it – it was the perfect place to chill out and relax. Some of the rooms were located in the main building; others were in outta buildings not far away. Our double room was located in the main building above the open plan lounge area. The only problem was the nearest toilets were the opposite side of the building, out the door and around the corner! Several of the toilets were in little tin huts and with no lighting luckily a few did have lights. I guess when you are in the middle of nowhere you can’t expect too much. I did however expect to get a double bed for my $75 however we were given two single beds pushed together to make a double.
The lounge area was the perfect place to relax and unwind compared to the normal hostel communal areas. We paid $15 each to have a gorgeous roast dinner cooked for us that night. They had a few drink offers on at the bar but our group didn’t do too much drinking there. They also had a communal kitchen for use if you didn’t fancy the roast dinner. We spent the night sat in a circle around the fire, roasting marshmallows and enjoying everyone’s company. The café then provided a great lunch with options of sandwiches, quiche and a hot meal for around $8-10.The Horse Trekking
We were up bright and early to head up to the stables, they took us up in a minibus to save our legs on the steep hills however it wasn’t far. We met Nicola the riding instructor and got kitted up for our ride. They provided boots, chaps, helmets, gloves and even coats. It was then time to meet the horses of which all had strong characteristics and personalities.
Nicola gave us a demonstration of how we would be riding our horses – they practiced ‘natural horsemanship’. This meant instead of a bridal and bit the horses wore rope head collars. There was no contact with the mouth and very little contact on the reins. Instead we used three commands she showed us and except for one you were to keep your reins long and lose at all times. The commands were: gently pulling outward on the left or right rein to turn, pulling the horses head to your side/foot (either side) to stop and shortening the reins and pulling back to stop – this was the only one you used a tight grip on the reins for. After every command when the horse had obeyed you gave him a lose rein again and a pat on the neck.
The ride took us up and down hills providing amazing scenery and views, if you are a Lord of the Rings fan then imagine some of the scenery in that. There was five of us on the ride (including two staff members) and it went on for about two hours; despite my boyfriend only being a beginner we managed a good amount of trotting and a few canters. I loved every minute of being back in the saddle after at least a year of not riding. The technique was different to any way I have ridden before and so it took a little getting used to but by the end I started to feel very comfortable.I would thoroughly recommend a ride with these guys, they cater for all experiences and ages. Each horse has a real character and the manager Nicola is lovely!
We had no real reason for stopping here except because the Kiwi bus chose to, travelling around by yourself I can imagine this is a place you would miss however it is beautiful, different and has some amazing activities on offer. The River Valley Lodge, Spa and Stables is open to the public as well as Kiwi Experience people, so I urge you to detour off the main path and check this place out.
Visit their website here for all up to date prices and info.