HELICOPTERS, VOLCANOS & THE HAKA
Helicopters, Volcanos & the Haka - Luxury Travel Magazine
Helicopters, Volcanos & the Haka
|By: Susan Borham, Issue 44 – Spring 2010|
|(Rotorua, New Zealand) |
|THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A HELICOPTER RIDE TO THE CRATER OF A VOLCANO TO DISTRACT THE KIDS FROM THEIR GAME BOYS. SUSAN BORHAM VISITS TREETOPS LODGE IN NEW ZEALAND ON A FAMILY HOLIDAY.|
|Heiko Kaiser, the General Manager of Treetops, tells the story of a young family who came to stay. Each morning after breakfast the mother, father and son came to the Great Room and sat in a row on one of the oversized sofas. They each set up their screens; the mother had an iPhone, the father a laptop, the 10-year-old a Nintendo device. They happily sat for hours, each engaged in the business of their own screen, occasionally exchanging comments.|
On the third day Heiko suggested he take the boy into the great outdoors fishing from the bank of one of the property’s lakes. The boy was keen and the father thought he should go along too. That, the story goes, was the end of the Great Room sofa morning line-ups. Each day of their stay thereafter they set off from the lodge on a new outdoor adventure. When they arrived home in New York the mother wrote to Heiko expressing her gratitude for what their time at Treetops had brought to her family.
I chose this story because it was the shortest but Heiko has a few stories on the same theme as this: family life made richer and deeper connections forged through the shared outdoor experiences arranged and hosted by Treetops. Noone would suggest that if a family spends a lot of screen time on holidays there’s something less than rich or connected about it, but who needs a reason to spend a few days at a luxury lodge, getting out in the fresh air doing fun things together.
When the conversation is about helicopters and volcanos, you don’t have to try much harder than that to distract a five-year-old boy from his gameboy. So when the helicopter pilot joined us in the conservatory for coffee towards the end of our breakfast to talk about where we might fly that day and which local volcanos we would see, our five-year-old was paying attention. We took off from the helipad on the Treetops estate and flew to the top of Tarawera volcano and could have landed and walked along its crater if we’d been more adventurous.
We watched others who had climbed the high sides to do just that. We landed on a thin strip of sand on one of the hot beaches of nearby Lake Tarawera, itself the crater of a volcano. We were warned that some sections of the sand were so hot that if you stood in the one spot for longer than 30 seconds the soles of your feet would blister; such an exciting prospect for a kid. Although it was winter, a local family was swimming in one of the lake’s natural spas in bubbly water as warm as a bath. We joined them but not for long; our fishing boat had been waiting for us to board since our arrival on the beach.
Rotorua fisherman John Hamill would be our captain and coach for a trout fishing trip on the lake. All aboard, we headed to a fishing spot in the middle of the lake where he put on an electric jug and rigged up our lines. There’s a ban on commercial trout fishing in New Zealand so the only way you can eat trout is if you catch one yourself or a friend gives you one. Lake Tarawera is stocked each year with freshly farmed baby trout for tourists to catch in the following years. The number of trout in the lake is constantly monitored by a local authority and during our visit the catch rate was on average one trout per fisherperson every 1.5 hours.
We sipped our tea, dunked Nice biscuits, relaxed into the calm and breathtaking beauty of the lake, chatted quietly and waited. Heiko from back at the lodge called the boat phone to ask if we’d caught anything yet. We’d had one false alarm before I felt the big tug and reeled in a three-kilo trout. John could tell its age by which fin had been cut off; alternative fins for each year of release. Given the current catch rate, it really was only a matter of time and my trout came about 50 minutes into the fishing trip. John told us to turn our heads, then clubbed and gutted it and slipped it into a vacuum-sealed bag on ice for the homeward boat ride. On the wharf we were met by one of the lodge’s chauffeurs in a four-wheel drive BMW and the trout was transferred to another esky in the boot. The next time we saw it was on the kitchen bench at Treetops where the chef was suggesting he dress it in herbs for dinner that night.
Treetops is set on two and a half thousand acres of wilderness land and the hosted activities at the lodge are all about ways to get out amongst it. One way is on horseback.
Diddi Rice, a Maori elder and long-time friend of the lodge owner New Zealand multi-millionaire John Sax, runs the stables at Treetops. He’ll saddle up the right kind of horse for the skill level of the rider and lead a ride through the property’s paddocks where he points out wildlife, tells stories and whistles loudly to himself. Our ride was a slow walk while Diddi held the reins of our five-year-old’s horse. We rode along trails that wound through native bush and across open grassland and saw a rushing stream, deer, buffalo and huge, grunting bush pigs.
Instead of riding back along the same route we were met in a clearing by Eru Tutaki, a young chef from the lodge who took us for a Maori Indigenous Food Trail walk. For 800 years before the arrival of Europeans Maori harvested the forest here for food and medicines and as we walked Eru pointed out the traditional plants. We arrived at a spectacular waterfall deep in the estate where Eru unloaded a gas cooker from his backpack and prepared a lunch using some ingredients he’d harvested on the walk and sirloin he’d prepared earlier. It might have been the uplifted feeling apparently created by negative ions in the air around the waterfall, or that our morning horse ride had created hearty appetites but I swear, the lunch we shared with Eru was one of the best I’d ever eaten.
And then, deep in the New Zealand wilderness, on a rock ledge with the rushing waterfall just behind us, Eru performed a spirited Haka in praise of the NZ landscape. He looked every bit like an All Black from the TV. Our little boy was elated.
|NEW ZEALAND’S SUPER LODGES|
|Treetops was the first of New Zealand’s super lodges. Typically they are set in jaw-dropping locations and offer fine food and wine and great site-specific outdoor experiences. Others on the North Island include the two golf super lodges of Kauri Cliffs and Cape kidnappers at Hawkes Bay, Huka Lodge at Taupo, Wharekauhau at Wairarapa and Lake Okereka Lodge also near Rotorua. On the South Island there is Blanket Bay near Queenstown, Otahuna Lodge near Christchurch and Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses on the Kaikoura Peninsula. Also just outside Queenstown is Matakauri Lodge, the newest New Zealand luxury lodge.|
Not all of the lodges are suitable for family holidays but those that will host children generally offer family and children’s activities.
|351 Kearoa Road RD1, Horohoro Rotorua|
Tel: +64 7 333 206
|Rates: From A$385 per night per person. Children from A$195 per night. Rates are inclusive of accommodation, full breakfast, pre-dinner drinks in the Great Room around the open fire, four-course dinner and selected lodge activities.|
|Emirates flies daily to Auckland from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as daily to Sydney from Christchurch. Return airfares start from A$1,411 in Business Class and A$2,511 in First Class, inclusive of taxes and charges. Contact Emirates on 1300 303 777 or visit www.emirates.com/au Emirates’ inflight entertainment system has more than 1000 channels including dedicated children’s channels, interactive games and also offers meal options suited to the tastes and requirements of young travellers, includes meals for babies. Treetops can arrange helicopter transfers from locations within New Zealand or private vehicle transfers from Rotorua Airport (A$180 plus GST). |