North Island – Days 3 & 4
New Zealand is filled with cows, sheep, goats, rolling hills, lush green pastures, lakes and streams. The highways twist and turn. There is minimal signage to verify that you’ve stayed on the correct highway at any given round-about; I am sick of round-abouts. You don’t “yield” you “give way.” There seem to be no street lights (or stop lights) except in cities or for single land bridges. I’m glad I only planned for day time drives.
Side note: Natural Disasters happen. A major (7.8) earthquake hit New Zealand the day before. Earthquakes are common here. There is a website that tracks those > 1.5 of which there have been 101 in the last 30 days. I’d planned a tour of South Island including a few days in Marlborough (wine country), Christchurch, Dunedin and then finally to Queenstown. The road I’d planned to drive, route 1 along the eastern coast, was heavily damaged and mostly closed. Locals were predicting it would be months before it was fully repaired and passable. I changed my internal flight. Air New Zealand was amazing and let people change internal destinations at no cost, even if the new route was more expensive. All of the hotels except one were willing to refund my prepaid stays. That one hurt since it was to be another one with a 5 course wine dinner (also prepaid). Ouch.
Lodging: Huka Lodge.
Exhale. I never know I’m holding my breath until I walk into a place like Huka Lodge and let it go.
While early into my New Zealand Adventure, Huka Lodge was planned as the pinnacle. It’s one of only six destinations in New Zealand in the Relais & Chateaux family.
Huka Lodge embodies peacefulness. Everything moves in an unhurried fashion. Check in, such that it is, confirmed my name, and my beverage of choice – champagne? Perhaps a glass of wine? Why don’t I sit by the crackling fire and the manager will give me a tour in a few moments. Would I like to freshen up with a visit to the cloak room? Huka Lodge reservations require prepayment in full, but still, they don’t swipe a credit card on arrival for incidentals, all of that will be handled later, discreetly, upon departure.
The tour – and seriously who still plays croquet? – ends at my “room” – my bungalow, complete with wet bar/kitchenette, walk in closet, veranda (I can’t call it a porch), amazing bath with heated floors and of course towel warmers. Gluten free cookies (homemade) were on prominent display as they’d inquired re: food restrictions many months ago.
Touristy things: Several muddy hikes in the rain. Walk to Huka Falls.
Walk the trail from Huka Falls to Spa Park.
The falls are not tall but they are powerful, and apparently power several hydroelectric plants further down stream.
Food & Wine: Stays at Huka Lodge include breakfast, cocktails and 5 course dinners.
So my fitness coach (I’m 4 months into a year-long Precision Nutrition Coaching program) does not understand why I love this kind of thing or would not be willing to give it up to hit/retain my fitness goals. Mostly I don’t think she understands that while there might be 5 or even 11 courses of food at one of these places, you’re still likely to leave somewhat hungry. Each course is a bite, maybe two, but it’s a rare combination of tastes and textures. Worth every calorie.
Each day I was presented with a menu – all gluten free – was the menu to my liking or did I need changes? I kept them as is, though on the second day I asked them to double up the protein on some of the courses, at the recommendation of another guest who mentioned doing the same.
I added a bottle of Dry River 2011 Pinot Noir – split between both nights. I am sticking to New Zealand wines this trip.
Huka Lodge Menu Monday, 14th November 2016
- Kingfish, Lightly smoked, with coconut, poppy seeds & passionfruit
- Bill’s Green Asparagus “Salad” with cream of macadamia, Italian salami & verjus dressing
- Nelson Crayfish, pan fried, with orange juice caramelized heirloom carrots & citrus sauce
- Ben’s Organic Free Range Chicken, Marinated & roasted, with braised Savoy cabbage, Pine nuts & Raisins
- Strawberries & Rhubarb, Jasmine rice ice cream, sake gel & dill
Huka Lodge, Monday, 15th November 2016
- Taupo Beef, tartare, with white anchovy, horseradish & gherkin, bone marrow cream & crisy onions
- Manurau Farms Quail, roasted breast & leg in pate, charred endive & mulled wine sauce
- Ora King Salmon, poached in olive oil, with Swiss chard, Agria potato & Buddha’s hand
- Eastherbrook Farms Duck, roasted in fragrant spices, with smoked beetroot, fresh raspberry, black olive & merlot vinegar jus
- Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter, manjari 64%, granola & milk, “Inspired by breakfast”
Breakfasts were simple & hearty – pretty much whatever you desire – until you stop asking for more.
Random conversations: I met a celebrity, and his wife: George Brett (yes he has a wikipedia page) and his wife Leslie. I don’t follow professional sports so I only knew this after the fact. Leslie runs the Little Flower Shop in Kansas City. Lovely people who invited me to join them at dinner one night. One meal not solo this trip. Thank you. Not shown in the menu above were some specially prepared sashimi amuse bouches from fish they caught that day.