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

Looks charming, but don’t be fooled – remember what happened to Hansel and Gretel …


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 forest is so damp that paper pulps itself!

Wearing gaiters was an excellent idea.

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!

A forest for fairies.

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.

A little remote paradise all for us.

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!
































Rustic … very, very rustic.

Just needs a little bit of maintenance.


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:


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.”

Lessons learned:

  • 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.

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23 Response Comments

  • TraceMyTrip  March 24, 2011 at 2:31 am

    Oh, but it looks so CUTE! Much cuter than the cockroach I once spent the night with, only noticing at 3 am that it had been flying around the room with me for an hour. After that I developed cockroach phobia. 🙁

    • Torre DeRoche  March 24, 2011 at 2:41 am

      Cockroaches are certainly ugly mofos. I have them in my house all the time, just yesterday I rubbed one with my knuckle as I was unlocking the front door, then it scurried off into a tiny hole before it could be disposed of.

  • jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World  March 24, 2011 at 2:57 am

    Oh, how cute!! We used to have pet rats so we have a soft spot for rodents. Wild rodents, however it’s a different thing. So, kudos to you for toughing it out!

    • Torre DeRoche  March 24, 2011 at 3:38 am

      It’s the way the zip around the room that makes my skin crawl. I can happily hold a pet mouse, but hungry mice on the loose in your cozy sleeping area is a big NO! I thought I’d wake up to find them spooning me in my sleeping bag.

  • Stephanie  March 24, 2011 at 4:37 am

    You write so well! I was in stitches the entire time but mostly with your man-talk of bloody creatures and sinewyness. I loved it!

    And aside from the fear of monster moths diving at us at night and centipedes on steroids while living in Hawaii, I have not been forced to sleep with creepy crawlies or rodents. That I am aware of.

    I don’t know how you did it!

    • Torre DeRoche  March 24, 2011 at 4:41 am

      Thank you for the nice compliment. Moths are surprisingly scary for bugs that are really just butterfies in a mute palette of browns and greys. And in regards to those centipedes, I find *anything* on steroids to be frightening.

  • Megan  March 24, 2011 at 5:19 am

    A friend just told me about a place in Guatemala she stayed at that had HUGE rats running along the top of the walls. Not only that, the mosquitoes were so bad that she was bitten through her clothes all night long. Ugh.

    • Torre DeRoche  March 24, 2011 at 6:21 am

      I’m carrying a tent everywhere from now on. Mice and rats can’t get into tents (or can they … ?)

  • david  March 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Whoa, I would not have lasted at all! I’d be sitting up all night in a chair with my feet tucked under me, waiting to get the heck out of there in the morning.

    It reminds me of the week I spent on St. John’s island staying at the Maho Bay Eco Cabins…just waiting for the little lizards/geckos that scurried along the ceiling to drop on my head at night! I wound up sleeping with a t-shirt covering my face the entire time.

    I’ll admit it, I’m no Manly Man.

    P.S. Great pictures of the scenery!

    • Torre DeRoche  March 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      I did consider sleeping on the dining table (pictured above) but figured the mice could climb the legs of that too.

      Lizards are all over the place in Asia. If one dropped off the ceiling and into my mouth, I’d probably go all Bear Grylls and see what it tasted like. Nah, not really, but the Geckos do seem like they’d taste like buttery chicken.

      • david  March 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm

        Hah! But if you WERE going to go all Bear Grylls, you’d have to first take off all your clothes, then jump in a near-freezing arctic river, sputter around a bit, then climb out and roll around in the snow to dry off. Only THEN could you eat the lizard!

        • Torre DeRoche  March 24, 2011 at 11:56 pm

          I can do that. I’m so hardcore, I crush polar bears with my eyelashes. (And weep over mice.)

  • Debbie Beardsley  March 24, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Oh you are a better woman than me! And what a hard lesson to learn. I have never had to sleep with mice but I did wake up to have a cockroach crawling in my long very curly hair (the little critter must have thought it was a nest) while sleeping on Bora Bora!

    • Torre DeRoche  March 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm

      Sounds like a line from Alanis Morissette’s song:
      “It’s like a a cockroach in your hair, while you’re spending $1000 a night in Bora Bora – isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think?”

  • Katja  March 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Yeah, I’d have been back to the water taxi station, even if I had to sleep rough for the night. Mice FREAKMETHEHELLOUT. It’s the way they can unhinge their jaws to get through small spaces, and the way they scuttle …

    *and again*

    • Torre DeRoche  March 24, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      The problem is, the forest was also full of mice. As we were walking along, they were running in and out of mossy holes. So if we’d elected to sleep in the forest (with no tent or sleeping bags!) we still would’ve had a mouse problem (and a hypothermia problem too).

  • Kate Kyle  March 25, 2011 at 5:09 am

    I lived in a house with mice (and ants) for many years. Ants were annoyng, because they would get into any food you forgot to put in the fridge, and particularly anything sweet, like jam or ripe fruit; and then you would have to throow it away. Mice weren’t as bad. My worst experience was when I woke up in the middle of the night once because a mouse ran across my face. Pretty unpleasant experience, but not as bad as my borther’s bitten finger.

    • Torre DeRoche  March 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm

      Mice on the face is not good and nothing ruins a good cake like ants. then your cake ends up tasting like the board game Boggle (anyone else ever notice how Boggle smells like ants?)

  • Stefanie  March 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Zanzibar. In the middle of the night I heard a crackling crunchy sound. I turned on the light and my bag of potato chips was moving across the table. Being half asleep, I went over, picked it up and there were four, FOUR mice in it which then tried to run up my arm. Needless to say I woke the whole place up.

    • Torre DeRoche  March 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      I wonder what your sleepy head was thinking when it picked up the moving bag of potato chips? “Hey, get back here chips, I want to eat you tomorrow.”

  • Julie Musil  March 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    OMG OMG OMG!!! The scenery was gorgeous but wow, a mouse. We live out in the country, and sometimes field mice make their way into our motorhome. One time we were camping and I heard one scurrying through the walls of our rv. Not good.

    • Torre DeRoche  March 25, 2011 at 9:44 pm

      Nothing like nature to really spoil a beautiful piece of nature, huh?
      BTW let’s get this clear: THIS MOUSE is just the one I managed to get with my camera. There were hundreds running around that place, not just one!

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