Imagine my unbridled joy when I was offered a trip to the Relais & Chateau’s Whare Kea Lodge and Chalet
in Wanaka on New Zealand’s south island
. Now this place is seriously magical and majestic
. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful and the lodge has prime position perched overlooking the glacial Lake Wanaka. The view from every single vantage point is astonishing. Have I gushed enough yet?
The fun is only just beginning. We get a rundown on the history of the lodge, which is owned by heli-skiing fanatics Louise and Martyn Myer, as well as the snow chalet, which is nestled up in the mountains
, more of that later. Now the rooms ain’t cheap ($NZ1583 for a deluxe double room), but you do get bang for your buck – pre-dinner drinks, canapés, five course degustation dinner
cooked by the remarkably talented James Stapley and a la carte breakfast. Yum!
Try this for size: Fresh Sweetcorn Veloute with Cloudy Bay Surf Clams, local saffron and Chorizo. This was followed by Chestnut Mushroom Carbonara with Quails Egg Pancetta, Reggiano and Smoked Cream. Followed by Fresh Koura Taco with Avocado, Mango, Chilli and Lime. Followed by Sous Vide Cadrona Lamb with Young Carrots, Jerusalem Artichoke Puree and Lamb Jus. And finally White Valrhona Chocolate and Espresso Semifreddo with Chestnuts, Fresh Figs and Poached Pear. Every single morsel was delicious
Now, for the adventure portion. We get picked up by Chris Riley
, who is a combination of the Bush Tucker Man and Bear Grylls. He takes us by boat to Mou Waho island
, home to the hilarious, shameless and flightless Buff Weka bird. This bird was on the verge of extinction until it was introduced to the predator free island and when we meet Sally (the matriarch of the island) it is easy to see why. She has no fear and attempts to break into a biscuit pack before our very eyes.
We have a cup of tea perched overlooking an internal island lake. Again the views are nuts
. You can see why they have returned here to shoot The Hobbit
after the visual feast of The Lord of the Rings
. Next is a chopper ride, with the fabulous and trusty James from Aspiring Helicopters
, to the Whare Kea Chalet, which seems to be perched on top of the world. The mountains are dusted with snow and the sun is brilliant. Our ride back is awe inspiring
as James guides the helicopter over the glacier and through the mountain peaks
Hungry all over again we couldn’t wait to see what Chef James has on the menu. And my favourite wine of the trip has to be: the Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Marlborough
. Soooo good.
Day two dawns and I’m going to be flying in a Tiger Moth (Classic Flights +6434434043). OMG, I’m pretty sure my father-in-law learnt to fly in one in the Second World War. So this plane is OLD. Pilot Peter lands the plane on a grass runway at the back of the lodge. I get kitted out in overalls and flying jacket - it’s my Amelia Earheart moment. Now this is seriously amazing: flying in the open air is like nothing else. I supress the desire to reach back and hold Pete’s hand in an Out of Africa
moment. And I also resist the offer a “roll” of the plane. Not so good with G force!
Also on offer with artadventures.co.nz
are sketching class for the artistically inclined. But, my final adventure is with Carole, who cooks the lush breakfasts when she’s not horse riding
. I ride a pony called Sprite and we wander through the vineyard next door. Again crazily amazing views.
What can I say, it’s a tough assignment but someone has to do it. Air New Zealand has regular weekly services from Sydney to Queenstown, and also via Christchurch. The airline also offers flights from Sydney to Christchurch, with a daily connection to Wanaka. For further information go to tourismnewzealand.com.nz.
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