Touch of glass in remote pod

The main room houses a large bed, dining table and kitchen area. The clever use of mirrors and clear Perspex furniture avoids interrupting the views out to the hills. Photo: Supplied
The main room houses a large bed, dining table and kitchen area. The clever use of mirrors and clear Perspex furniture avoids interrupting the views out to the hills. Photo: Supplied
It is hot, the kind of hot that bakes the ground, so the heat radiates from both above and below.

We're in Canterbury and the Port Hills are on fire - literally. Thankfully, the fires are mostly under control now, but the hills continue to smoulder and the sky is filled with a smoky, purple haze.

Tonight we're staying in the hills behind the Greystone vineyard in the Waipara Valley, a wine-making region about an hour's drive north of Christchurch. Greystone Wines is owned by the Thomas family and is named after the limestone hills on which their vines grow.

After a leisurely lunch in the sunshine at one of the Waipara Valley's many delicious winery restaurants, we set off for Greystone. At the cellar door, we stop to pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy during our stay, an indulgence that's definitely worth our while. We continue through the vineyard, following an unsealed road up into the hills.

Rows of vines flank the road on one side, the pencil-straight lines playing tricks on my eyes as we pass. The road heads uphill, then curves around behind the hilltops.

The grass has browned off and everything is bone dry. This land is used not just for growing grapes, it is also an organic sheep farm. Groups of the woolly white creatures hightail it when they see us coming up the road. We have yet to see another car or two-legged being out this way.

We reach another block of vines and spot a small shed - this is our cue to ditch the car and head out on foot. The instructions we've been given tell us that the shed holds gear for inclement weather, though we won't be requiring it today - the rain that is clearly so desperately needed doesn't look likely.

Up the paddock, down to the fence, then over a stile we go. A narrow path winds through a patch of regenerating bush.

Cabbage trees, or ti kouka, stretch up from the hillside, their narrow trunks defiantly hoisting their spiky-leaved heads high.

We steer clear of the barbed-wire prickles of the matagouri bushes, a native whose thorns were once used as tattooing needles by Maori.

The path meanders up and down around the edge of a hill and below us a stream trickles along.

Just as I begin to wonder how much further we have to go, we round a corner and the land levels out. This flat spur allows us sweeping views over the vineyard, across the Waipara Valley to the Southern Alps, and back up behind us to the sun-bleached hills.

Nestled in the middle of the flat, behind a neat row of pines, is a compact transparent glass box. Called a PurePod, this will be our home for tonight.

PurePods is an innovative New Zealand company that offers luxury accommodation on a select range of sites in the South Island. Its pods allow visitors to become fully immersed in the natural environment, while still being protected from the elements. Essentially, the pods are private, self-contained luxury hotel rooms made entirely of glass.

A later conversation with PurePods CEO Stephanie Hassel reveals the research and design of the structures took eight years. ''It's not just about how you make a transparent building, but how do you do it with sustainable energy, and how do you minimise the use of non-renewable energy sources? And how do you deal with it over winter? It's not just the glass building that you see - it's the engineering that sits beside it. That's what a lot of the technology has gone into.''

This reveals the heart and soul of PurePods - a real commitment to sustainability. While allowing us to experience the environment, the pods don't impact it. This approach includes using solar power, sustainable water sourcing, organic cleaners and a waste system that uses worms and natural organisms to filter waste until it's clean enough to irrigate the surrounding land.

The pod even has native ground-cover planted underneath it. ''That's the whole reason why it's floating above the landscape, so it's having the smallest footprint on the landscape that it can,'' Stephanie tells me.

''It's actually better than being in a tent.''

The glass structure means the plants beneath it get plenty of light, and rainfall is captured off the roof and returned to the plants through a watering system.

The beauty of the PurePod is that this commitment to sustainability doesn't compromise luxury. Its crisp, clean lines give it a slick, modern feel, and the fitout and furnishings are equally considered.

The main room houses a large bed, a dining table and a kitchen area. The clever use of mirrors and clear Perspex furniture avoids interrupting the views out to the hills.

There's something liberating about the large glass panes in the bathroom which takes up the other end of the pod, although there are blinds for those more modestly inclined. Comfort has also been prioritised, with heating for the winter and well-thought-out shade and airflow for the summer.

Big sliding doors open the pod on three sides, allowing the breeze to travel through.

While the view out across the valley's river plains is breathtaking, my favourite vista is behind the pod, through the long, dry grass to the soft, yellow hills beyond.

A wander through the vines in the evening, glass of wine in hand, is the perfect way to unwind. The walk in, though not particularly lengthy, definitely makes a difference psychologically. Being unable to see the car and having only the belongings you can carry is freeing.

As we sit among the vines, a mob of sheep comes running over the ridgeline in front of us. They stop and start, sometimes breaking into a short-lived canter, but for the most part they mosey along, not in any rush. We hear a whistle and a farmer appears at the top of the hill, two sheep dogs swinging around the side. He spots us watching, and gives us a nod of the head and a wave of the hand.

On the downhill stretch the sheep speed up, before waiting contentedly at a closed gate. Once it's open, they stream through at a steady clip. Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they are gone.

As the sun sets, the sky lights up. I don't know whether it's the particles of smoke in the atmosphere or whether it's just this vast open landscape, but the colours are truly spectacular. Purples and pinks are painted in great big streaks across the sky.

It's so rich and pretty and fleeting that it leaves behind something of a reflective melancholy. The sky darkens in inky swirls, before pinprick stars poke through.

Lying in the pod's cloudlike bed, I watch the sky happily until I finally drop off to sleep.

Extract reproduced with permission from Hideaways. Written by Hilary Ngan Kee. Photographed by Sam Stuchbury.

Published by Penguin NZ; RRP $55.00. Out now.

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