On the first night of our roadtrip round New Zealand's South Island ... otherwise known as Di's Island, we were heading for Hunter and Clare Shaw's eco retreat in Manapouri, Fiordland.
I first met Hunter and Clare when I was living in Te Anau, back in 90's, and one of my favourite life stories is about their daughter Phoebe who came home from school and told her mum about the new girl's interesting mum. The 'favourite' part of that story is the part where she told Clare that I reminded her of Lucy Lawless ... aka Xena Warrior Princess. Who could resist...?
And that was the beginning of the friendship. Later, after we moved to Dunedin, Hunter used to come up to work with clients in his Hellerworks massage practice and so he would stay, bringing venison fresh from the mountains or farm. He taught me how to cook the most divine venison steaks.
Still later and they popped in and stayed a few days with us here in Antwerp and there was always an invitation to go stay with them when I finally got home.
And so we did.
I cannot recommend booking their eco retreat highly enough. Gert and I were stunned when we were shown the light-filled, spacious cabin where we would be spending our 2 nights in Fiordland.
It's private, it's an exquisitespace, and it felt like home. I'm highly qualified in the field of 'feels like home' as I've been searching for places that feel like home since forever.
But here is a taste of what they offer in their words: Lake Manapouri is just 3km away, the start of your Manapouri-Doubtful Sound experience and we are well placed for trips to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park. There are many walking tracks nearby of varying degrees of difficulty, whatever your fitness level you will find something to suit and be able to experience hiking in Fiordland from the popular tracks to those that are used by few.
Your hosts are Hunter and Claire Shaw who both have a wealth of knowledge about the local area, its history, and the flora and fauna of the surrounding park, not to mention the numerous places to visit.
Hunter is a professional guide with interpretation being his specialty and has lived in the area for over 50 years. All Hunter’s working life has been involved in the National Park - in the early years with wild deer hunting and more recently leading trips through the World Heritage forests of Fiordland.
And friendly, so friendly. Hunter is a story-teller, a man I spent a couple of days interviewing once upon a time. He is a book. I didn't write it but he talks about doing it himself one day.
So ... all this to say, if you are heading to New Zealand, or if you live there, and you are thinking about visiting Fiordland, consider staying at Hunter and Clare's cabin in the woods. You won't regret it.