Beyond The Bungee
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  Wonderfully weird wilderness, trekking, kayaking, being outdoors, adventure sports, wine country, juicy lamb, The Lord of the Rings landscape and of course, the ubiquitous sheep. When I was told that I’m going to new Zealand that’s what I imagined. And that’s exactly what I got with a couple of whale sightings and a day of swimming with 300 dusky dolphins thrown in. All this was exhilarating, exciting and expected. What surprised me, and delighted me, were the luxurious lodges and the fashionably styled boutique hotels. Who would’ve thought such pretty things would exist in exceedingly(albeit charmingly) casual NZ? Not I.
  But I’ll happily admit how utterly erroneous I was. I got into a water taxi in Picton, an adorable harbour town in the north-east corner of the South island, fully prepared to be taken once again to the untamed outback to do the whole living in nature with bare essentials thing as is customary in NZ. Man, was I in for a treat! Bay of Many Coves, accessible only by boat or helicopter, is in the lap of nature but is far from basic. The couple who run this 5-star resort greeted me with saying, “welcome to a place where there’s lots to do and nothing to do.” They were not wrong. Set deep in the woods of Marlborough Sounds(an adventurer’s paradise) the activities you can indulge in boggle the mind. Horse riding, kayaking, swimming with dolphins, scalloping, clay bird shooting, bird watching, excursions through the world-renowned coastal Queen Charlotte track of towering native forest and regenerating bush, trekking over ridges and into beautiful coves, motor yacht cruising, eco cruising… the list goes on and on.
  The cherry on top for someone like me who hates group and/or package anything, is that you can do it all in your own time, away from the crowds and with minimal hassle. The hotel will arrange it all for you and send you off happily with an expert guide and a gourmet picnic.
  After spending a vigorous day of discovering magical waterfalls and Alice in Wonderland like plants and insects, I felt virtuous enough to try the doing the nothing part. I lazed in the hot tub, soaked in the sun by the heated pool and pretended to read my book in between spa treatments. Then I guiltlessly polished a chilled bottle of organic Seresin sauvignon blanc from the local vineyard and ate a specially prepared steamed salmon with a lemon and shellfish foam on a cluster of white asparagus—it exploded like spring in my mouth.
  The next little gem of sumptuousness was to be found up on a tree. The über modern but romantically rustic rooms in Hapuku Lodge, 20 miles from the buzzing little seaside town of Kaikoura, are suspended 30 ft from the ground in the canopy of a native Manuka grove. The room is encased in 360 degrees of glass wall and the vista is unique. From one side you see the snow-capped mountains and green valley dotted with sheep and on the other you see the blue expanse of endless ocean. I had the most memorable exhibitionist shower gazing out into the vast open for all the world to see but of course being nZ there is not a soul to play voyeur. All this comes at a price and will set you back about NZ$ 700 per night but who said good things come cheap? If you do end up there, make sure you notice the bespoke wooden tables in all different shapes and sizes that have been funkily created from a single piece of log.
  En route my search for the next lush stop (this time perhaps a castle balanced on top of a rock), I made a tiny detour to the omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim. I have no great interest in flying machines but this particular one is chaired by filmmaker Peter Jackson. He is a world war I enthusiast who has the best personal collection of aircraft memorabilia from that period. Being an award-winning director of the most technically unflawed trilogy, he has cleverly got his special effects team to design and construct the displays which are so dramatic that they easily shock and awe. The museum is a real life hangar as well as a flying club, so many of the ancient aircrafts are not only the real deal but are in good flying condition. My favourite was seeing how ridiculously primitive and utterly dangerous some of the early flying contraptions were. To keep warm at the altitude the open craft was high enough to fly, they had to wear layers of sheep skin and fur, a lot of flyers froze to death before crashing! We’ve come a long way to have our flat beds in our individual egg like suites. The mind shudders at thought of doing delhi-Auckland back then!
  On my way back home I needed one last luxury fix, so I checked straight into the wonderfully modish Hotel de Brett in the centre of Auckland. The building is supposedly iconic and has been ‘reinterpreted’ into a 25-room boutique hotel. The rooms are chic; white with an art deco-meets-new age minimalism that is quite arresting. Each room has been individually designed but they all have the thick, handwoven striped carpet custom made by Michelle deery. The bathroom floor is heated and resembles Prem Chopra’s opulent den in the ’70s!
  There was a beautiful big mama singing the blues in the famous Housebar, as I sat in front of the roaring open fire, downing one too many of the aptly named cocktail Fallen Angel. This stylish haunt within the hotel has three adjoining rooms all providing an inimitable ambience so you can choose according your mood. As the crooner climaxed to crescendo, the cheer of the Kiwi merrymakers too travelled through the leafy courtyard, engulfing the elegant dining room and rising right up to the glass roof atrium. When I awoke I was nursing my head in the egg cabin 30,000 ft above solid ground. I waved goodbye to the enchanted land of richness and said a silent prayer of gratitude to all those daredevils who had bravely defied gravity in their crude machines so that today I could hop across the globe in, and to, luxury.
  FACTFILE
  Getting There
  Delhi/Mumbai-Singapore-Auckland on Singapore Airlines. Fare: 53,000 approximately
  When To Go
  October to April, though there is much to do through the year.
  PLUS SAYS
  Stay
  Bay of Many Coves, Marlborough Sounds; www.bayofmanycoves.co.nz
  Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura; www.hapukulodge.com
  Hotel De Brett, Auckland; www.hoteldebrett.com
  Eat
  Must try the wines of New Zealand, especially from the Marlborough region. You must also try pavlova, a meringuebased dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer ánna Pávlova.
  Shop
  Check out the various arts and crafts markets in all the cities, where you can get Maori wood, bone and pounamu (jade) products.
  See/Do
  Well, you can’t come to NZ and not try bungee jumping! But don’t forget there is much to do beyond it. For further information, log on to www.newzealand.com

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