Unique, Bizarre & Spectacular Places To Sleep is a series covering a range of accommodations around the world – from luxury villas, to pest-infested slums. Read stories, reviews, tips, and occasional warnings …
And now for one of my worst ever sleeping experiences:
Whiskered Bedfellows in Hope Arm Hut, New Zealand
Whenever I go hiking, it usually begins with a debate that goes a little something like this.
Other Half (O.H): Let’s go overnight hiking in New Zealand!
Me: But then we’ll have to carry our food and clothes and camping gear. For hours. And hours. Then more hours. I don’t really understand walking for days with the weight of several wet sheep carcasses strapped to our backs.
O.H: If we hike, we can find our own little paradise.
I can stab at things with my Leatherman and light fire to great mounds of dry material. I can skin a beast – I don’t care what kind – just as long as it’s bloody and sinewy and it has lots of squirting blood for me to rub all over my bare chest. And it’ll be supremely awesome. Plus, if we hike to one of New Zealand’s huts, we don’t have to carry mattresses and a tent, so the packs won’t be that heavy.
Me: *Sigh* Okay then.
O.H: *Grunting animal noises*
The hike to Hope Arm Hut
From the town of Manapouri near the Kepler track in the Fiordlands, we caught a water taxi across a moat of water that cuts the trail off from the township. We strapped on our packs and began to walk through a damp forest of old trees, ferns, decaying wood, creeping moss and hiding fairies. A carpet of squelchy moss sucked at our boots.
The thing about hiking with heavy backpacks is: after thirty minutes, major doses of adrenalin begin surging, and walking through knee-deep mud with wet sheep carcasses strapped onto your back seems like the best idea ever!
After three easy hours on flat, beautiful terrain, we reached the rustic but charming Hope Arm Hut.
There was no doubt about it: the surroundings were exquisite.
We removed our boots and got to work lighting the fire and cooking our food in the Trangia, while whistling a merry Seven Dwarfs song. Whistle while you work. Whee-wee-wee-wee-wee-wee-weeeeee
Then, something out the corner of my eye snapped me from my bliss. Was … that … a … mouse? Another running dark spot confirmed my suspicion. Okay we’ve got mice. That’s okay. I’m okay with that. I’m not scared of mice. I can live with a few furry friends.
We warmed our sore feet by the fire and stuffed dazed spoonfuls of miscellaneous freeze-dried camp food into our hungry mouths. Curious mice appeared from every corner. Some of them skittered alongside my toes, hoovering up crumbs. These hut mice were either completely unafraid of humans, or hungry enough to risk their lives for a nibble.
I stayed cool. Just mice. Only mice.
I unfurled our sleeping bags and set out pillows for sleep.
I noticed the roof was falling in on this hut, but I was proud of myself for keeping my spirits high, even as I listened to the soundtrack of dozens of claws running around inside the crumbling roof. Just mice. Cute brown mice having a tiny disco party in the roof. No biggie!
As I knelt on the bed ready to step my foot into my sleeping bag, I saw a furry body dashing from beneath my pillow. Then, I completely lost my shit:
“A MOUSE IN THE BED! IDON’TWANNASTAYHEREANYMORE!! LETSGO! LETSGO! LETSHIKEBACK! WHYAREWEHERE? WE’RE HIKING BACK NOW!”
After my hysteria abated, my other half reminded me that we’d caught a water taxi over, so even if we hiked three hours back, we’d be stranded from civilization by a stretch of cold water. Our taxi wasn’t due to pick us up until noon the next day.
Without a tent, our only option was to sleep in the hut.
With the mice.
In our bed.
I made it through the night with those mice, though I woke up in a fit of hysteria once or twice after feeling the grope of lecherous claws, and the tickle of hungry whiskers.
It wasn’t until we were back in civilization at the Department of Conservation that we were told by a ranger: “Hope Arm Hut is a ‘standard hut,’ which means it’s not maintained, and yeah … that means it’d full of mice.”
- Only stay in serviced huts.
- Always carry a tent and sleeping bags just in case.
- Mice may be cute, but sleeping with them is not.
If you want to go there with a tent, the area is absolutely stunning. (Except for the man-eating stand flies, but they’re all over the south island …) Here’s the link to the hike (it explicitly warns about the mice).
Read about more unique, bizarre and spectacular places to sleep here.
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.