From the moment my flight descends over the snow-capped mountains and lands at Queenstown airport, I sense I’m in for a treat.
After a 45 minute scenic drive to Glenorchy, we arrive at our ‘home’ to Aro Hā where I will spend the next 5 days on their ‘Invigorate & Enrich Signature Winter Wellness Adventure.’ The sustainably-built facility blends seamlessly into the dramatic natural beauty and energy of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and has become the new gold standard for Zen-inspired luxury detox.
Opened in January 2014 by Chris Madison and Damian Chaparro, Aro Hā is the first wellness centre of its kind offering life changing, body morphing, spirit lifting retreats. No stranger to the wellness scene, Damian has worked for years in the industry at some of the most renowned health retreats in the world. Between the two entrepreneurs an investment of 30 million transformed their vision into reality. Aro Hā was conceived as an environmentally sustainable adventure luxury health retreat to foster the connection between nature, self-awareness development and fitness in body and mind. These 5 days ahead promise to be revitalising, even life-altering, and provide a template for optimal health for when I return to my real home, Australia.
Entering the zen eco-surroundings, I am warmly welcomed and treated to a snack of avocado salsa on a crisp beetroot slice with a shot of green juice. If this delicious morsel is an indication of the food for the coming days, I’m excited. I’m asked to ‘play the game’ and limit my laptop and telephone use to ensure a completely authentic experience during my time here with the goal of immersing myself into a new mentality. So I play along and switch off my mobile…
I’m taken to my King room with beautiful views over the shimmering glacial waters of Lake Wakatipu and then it’s immediately off on my first hike with guide Chris and, wow, what a spectacular and peaceful walk it is.
A day at Aro Hā means living well and living in balance. In this unique setting, which only New Zealand can offer, each morning begins with a friendly wake up by Rafa at 6:30am. Sunrise yoga starts at 7am in the yoga room with its huge opened floor-to-ceiling window providing a jaw dropping inspirational view of the tranquil landscape.
Following yoga is a nourishing breakfast and then it’s preparation for our 3.5 hour hike. Each day our hike takes us on a steep scenic mountain climb. The hikes gave me an opportunity to chat and get to know our intimate small group of 8. At other times we would walk in silent mindfulness, listening to the sounds of the fauna and flora and enveloped deep in our own thoughts.
At the end of our hike we were eager to return to Aro Hā to find our dining table set with lunch prepared by Rani and Toni, two amazingly talented chefs who deliver Michelin presentation and flavour without the Michelin calories. (I wanted to take home these magicians of the kitchen!) They made it easy to give up caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, meat, gluten in a bid to cleanse the body of urban stress.
Lunch was followed by either a massage, which always helped sooth our aching muscles, a Pilates class which taught great technique, or a dynamic playground strength class, which was both challenging and fun. The cooking demonstrations were informative and we were given the recipes of all the tasty dishes prepared to incorporate into our daily routines back home.
Each day ended with a much needed restorative yoga class and meditation. As always, a creative plate of flavoursome nutritious food awaited us at dinnertime. Some short group discussions followed our dinner and then we headed to the spa area for a sauna, cold pool plunge, hot bath and infrared light.
This 5-day winter wellness retreat left me feeling leaner, stronger and with a clear head ready to return to life outside of this fabulous escape.
By Caryn Reichenberg