We are not fans of eco-resorts. We’ve stayed at five of them on four continents and as I said after one stay, “Eco-resort is a term derived from Latin which means ‘We will charge you a small fortune for services that are considered far below the standard of ordinary hotels and if you want something additional, we will bend you over and take our payment in the most painful and creative way possible.’”
Or words to that effect.
So when you make reservations at any eco lodge, always remember that eco is on one end of the spectrum and lodge is on the other end. And it’s a very wide spectrum.
On on positive side of our ledger was the Udawalawe Eco-Resort & Elephant Sanctuary in southern Sri Lanka. We arrived just before the onset of typhoon season and happened to be the small resort’s only guests. As a result, 100% of the staff’s attention was focused on us. The luxury eco-tents the resort had advertised were, in fact, just as luxurious as promised. It promised hot showers and delivered on that promise. We were taken on morning and afternoon safaris and were greeted upon our return with warm, moist eco-towelettes to wipe the eco-dirt and eco-sweat from our eco-brows. We were met at our eco-tent by a friendly, smiling eco-lad who had prepared buckets of warm eco-water and eco-rose petals to soothe our aching eco-feet. He brought us eco-cookies and eco-hot tea. It was eco-magnificent.
On the other side of the eco-ledger was an eco-resort in a remote corner of New Zealand’s South Island. It looked more like a former military barracks than a resort, eco or otherwise. The highlight of the stay was when an eco-guide took us on an early morning eco-expedition during which he threw buckets of eco-bacon to a swarm of morbidly obese eco-eels. It was clear that this was a daily event and that the mere scent of distant bacon sent the eels into a feeding frenzy long before we reached the river. But it was an eco-lodge, so I must believe that eels in the wild also consume vast quantities of eco-bacon. I’m just a little hazy on how that might work.
But our current eco-lodge here on Easter Island has taken the proverbial eco-cake. Now let me begin by admitting that I am getting older and my tolerance for inconveniences is beginning to fray. I was willing to overlook the fact that the distance between the eco-resort and the town is considerably greater than indicated. I was willing to overlook the fact that at least half that distance is a rutted, red dirt road with pot holes deep enough to devour economy cars. I could overlook the fact that they provided us with lovely coffee cups and packets of coffee, but no way to brew coffee to put in those cups. No pot, no kettle, no receptacles of any kind. But what I cannot overlook is the simple fact that we had no hot water for the first 48 hours of our stay.
On our first night at this so-called eco-lodge, Jamie discovered the variable nature of the water’s temperature when she attempted to take a shower. When the steaming hot water suddenly turned cold, she let out a screech and exited the shower with an impressive display of dexterity I would never have guessed that she possessed.
Since she was now wrapped in a towel, I trudged up to the office to explain our plight. The manager led me out to a water heater more ancient than any of the island’s carved heads. She poked at a button, vigorously twisted the only dial on the contraption, and pronounced the problem solved.
That, however, was merely a cruel deception on her part. A few minutes later I had to once again trudge back to the eco-office to tell the eco-manager that we still had no hot water and she once again visited the water heater in an attempt to fix it by pushing the same button and twisting the same dial.
Needless to say, the problem was not solved and this scene repeated itself several more times over the course of the next twenty-four hours.
After the third or fourth or fifth attempt to fix the water heater, the assistant manager came to our door. Note that I said we were now dealing with the assistant manager, because the manager had given up and turned the repair task over to her subordinate.
“It’s a problem here on the island,” she said. Sometimes we have hot water, sometimes we don’t.”
No, I pointed out, that is not acceptable. It does not seem to be a resort-wide problem, much less a island-wide problem.
She looked confused.
“Does room number one have hot water?”
“Does room number two have hot water?”
“Does room number three have hot water?”
“Does room number four have hot water?”
“Does our room have not water?”
Sometime later that night we heard voices and the sounds of tinkering (something more substantial than the mere poking of buttons and cranking of dials) behind our room. It was clear that executive management had gone into action here at the eco-lodge and called in professional reinforcements.
Very late that night there was a knock on the door and there, again, was the assistant manager.
“Your hot water is fixed,” she said. The worry lines on her face clearly contradicted the conviction in her voice.
Sure enough. We had hot water. We were actually able to take showers in steaming, ecologically-damaging hot water.
The manager approached us the next morning at breakfast to discuss compensation for what she euphemistically called “our troubles.” Her solution? A free rental car for the last two days of our stay — an elderly eco-car, a Suzuki Jimny, that belched out clouds of black smoke unseen in the western world since the shuttering of Pittsburgh’s last steel mill.
I was in no mood to eco-negotiate so I accepted. The Jimny got us around the island and that’s all that really mattered.
Addendum: As always, I asked Jamie to read my ramblings to assure that I have been reasonably accurate and haven’t crossed too many boundaries of good taste. She insisted that I add an addendum and said, “C’mon, be more positive. At least we’re not sleeping in the dirt.” (I really want to work on upgrading her standards, but if I am successful I fear she may someday realize how poorly she married.)
OK, here’s the good news. Great bed. The people were very friendly. If you stood on your tiptoes in the doorway, you could see an ocean view. And we were only about a two minute walk from the nearest moai.
Fine. I’m trying to be more positive. But it wasn’t me who screeched in the shower.