In the Mackenzie basin, surrounded by snow capped mountains and turquoise lakes, sits a small home fit for hobbits.
It lives in the backyard of the little family who built it. Often providing shelter to Te Araroa trail walkers, when they’re in need of a warm bed and a fireplace. I didn’t expect this little cabin to become my home for three and a half months, but this year has held a lot of “well that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
My boyfriend and I had walked 2500kms down the length of New Zealand, when the country went into lockdown. With 500kms left on the Te Araroa, the walking trail we had begun four months earlier. We were foreigners in a strange land and had to find somewhere to live and fast. We had slept a night at the hobbit house as we passed through town a few nights previous. Denise, the owner, with true hobbit hospitality, had sensed our growing fear and offered us a place to return if we needed.
Denise grew up in a large family, daughter of legendary mountain climber, Brede Arkless. She had grown up sharing everything, and it was second nature to be generous. And when you give, you get back in return. The love her community has for her is palpable. The hobbit house itself became a community project, with many borrowed hands helping to build it a few years before we moved in.
The seasons turned while the world was on standstill. We piled logs into a small cast iron stove, and sipped tea by the fire as the temperature fell, day by day. The trees dropped their leaves, and then the frosts came. A roaring fireplace and a warm bed, were a welcome change from hiking through freezing rivers, and muddy forests. Not to mention all those home cooked meals we shared. Instead of paying rent, we tried to give back by helping around the main house. We painted the spare bedroom, we built some containers to store horse poo in. But mostly, we shared meals and conversations, late nights with puzzles, and Cluedo and hiking stories. We were a welcome addition when friends and family were cut off from each other. And when we continued our hike, we left with a new family, a second home and a life of shared memories to come. We learnt a valuable lesson about kindness. To be generous, like Denise and her daughter Holly. To give when we can and to share what we have.
‘Life in a Hobbit House’ is the first of a series of adventures documented by Louise Coghill during her extended hiking trip of New Zealand north to south