Yet all that we learned in class paled in comparison to the extracurricular activities, which included everything from horseback riding to a 300-foot waterfall, where we went abseiling (for the uninitiated, attaching yourself to both a guide and a rope and rappelling down the side of a mountain) to sky-diving from 12,000 feet, to zipping in a helicopter from the beaches of Queenstown to its snowy peaks. Every last one of these was arranged by a debonair Brit named Jean-Michel Jefferson, a well-established provider of VIP tours. The resorts we stayed in during those adventures – places such as Treetops Lodge in Rotorua and Eagles Nest in the Bay of Islands – were gloriously indulgent.
We had a group of 6 VIP ladies and 6 international journalists and turned on an experience-based visit to several parts of the country. Main points were:
- Seamless integration with a learning programme where our activities precisely complemented course content
- Provision of transportation, security and logistics management together with an experienced team of three special forces operatives
- Helicopters, jetboats, horse riding, abseiling, mountain biking, self defence training
We also spent one memorable week-end where we visited a spiritual marae (our marae, Roma Marae up at Ahipara) and heard first hand from a serial offender with a 30-year CV of serious crimes how re-connection with base Maori values had allowed him and 27 others to find themselves and attempt to start a new life. This was together with an introduction to Maori culture, spirituality, and celestial navigation. A little different, that one!