In the year 2020, where borders are closed, lockdowns are looming and plans are constantly on the brink of cancellation, sussing out a relaxing getaway is no mean feat.
Thankfully, New Zealand is a literal paradise and we're spoilt for choice when it comes to places to stay that aren't too far from home. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you a getaway option for the age of COVID-19, a 'bubble' experience that has nothing to do with being trapped in your house and trying not to throw things at your loved ones.
Behold, Te Tuhi Dome.
What is it?
A glorious geodesic glamping structure - or, if you want to keep it casual, a big beautiful dome - with a luxurious bed, wood burner fireplace and a perspex window that looks out over green rolling hills and Lake Taupō during the day, and lights up with a night sky glittering with stars at night. Prepare for your friends and family to get sick of you saying "geodesic dome" for the next two weeks.
A stone's throw away, there's a well-kitted out kitchen with everything you'll need to self-cater until your heart and stomach's content. Weber BBQ, gas stove, several big serving boards for all those cheese platters you'll be rustling up - it's all covered.
Perhaps most importantly, the semi-outdoors bathroom area features a two-person bathtub so big you'll feel like a tiny noodle in a giant bowl of ramen while you breathe in the country air and marvel at the sunset. After a night of soaking, you can start your day with what may well be the most restorative and uplifting shower of your life, taking an alfresco rinse in total privacy on the sunny hilltop.
Such remoteness means you'll need to quickly get used to the composting toilet - easily done, even for a city slicker - but there is little structural separation between the bathroom and the bedroom, so you'll want to select a dome-mate that you're fairly familiar with.
Where is it?
Te Tuhi perches at the peak of a large farm, near Kinloch Bay, about 15 minutes drive from Taupō. The dome is surrounded by lush paddocks, native bush and of course that gorgeous lake, twinkling on the horizon.
Once you're greeted by one of the lovely hosts, Emily and Joe, the space is totally yours, save for the farm animals grazing nearby - horses, cows, sheep and if you're lucky, a few little lambs. You might run out to say hi to some of the four-legged farm residents one morning and find they're entirely uninterested in you. Don't take it personally - they've got grass to eat and other important animal stuff to do.
Why is it so great?
Um, have you been paying attention? See above.
What should I do?
Play scrabble by the fire, drink wine in the kitchen area looking over the lake, stay in the bath until you become vaguely reptilian. Then read a book in the hanging hammock chair and fall asleep with the fireplace glowing and the stars winking down at you.
Take so many Instagram photos your partner starts to give you raised eyebrows every time you reach for your phone. In fact, probably put your phone down for a bit and just drink it all in.
If you feel like getting out and about during the day - the surrounding area is a wonderland of natural sights to see. The thunderous power of the Huka Falls, the bubbling geysers of Orakei Kokoro Thermal Park and the steaming hot pools of the Wairakei Terraces are all nearby.
What shouldn't I do?
Don't underestimate the weather - it does get bloody cold in winter. Don't think the host's advice about packing warmly means your new Glassons jumper will do the trick - bring thermals and slippers!
Don't wait too long to get the fire going, either - it's a bit of a fine art, and you want it roaring by the time the sun goes down. After learning your lesson on a particularly cold and stormy first night, you'll take to the task of fire-lighting with a burning passion on the second - discussing log placement and kindling usage with a strangely enjoyable vigour.
Finally, try hard not to spiral into the post-holiday blues when you're woken by your phone alarm on Monday morning after two days of being gently roused by the first rays of the sun streaming through the dome to warm your face.
Monika and her partner stayed as guests of Te Tuhi Dome.