The Haast River, just down from Haast Pass

An Exclusive Experience

An Exclusive Experience

In case you know anyone putting together "exclusive experiences", often preceded by words such as "ultimate" and "discerning", it might be worth putting this one in front of them...

Our clients wanted a taste of "real New Zealand". They liked mountains, wildlife, food and real people. We suggested Silver Pine Lodge on Lake Hawea. Everything except the wildlife in one location! After a lovely breakfast (the cuisine there is a nice relief from the superlodge offerings - lighter, imaginative, less complicated, very high quality) the helicopter landed outside. Yes! Another helicopter to the coast!

The pilot had been carefully selected - a deer recovery, greenstone recovery, accident victim recovery specialist who got into places where no one else could go. So, a good pilot. Social skills too. And knowledge, sense of humour etc. We've heard that some of our competitors select pilots solely as drivers. Tut tut. They're missing something there.

We flew past snowy mountain peaks, over a number of valleys, heading north, looking for a break in the clouds. We found one and ducked under, heading down the valley, enjoying the lovely turquoise colour of the glacier river. Spotted and investigated a couple of majestic bull tahr - yes - our pilot had an idea where they might be, as he was the right pilot and properly briefed. Then headed to our rendezvous with our jetboat.

Not a big yellow one with roller coaster bars. A little dark green one with a genuine West Coast driver with a genuine West Coast reputation. We skimmed logs and ducked branches until we reached an estuary and pulled the gear out onto a sandbank. Meanwhile the helicopter was supporting two divers on a small island a kilometre away. They came back with a bagful of crayfish. No paua today, unfortunately.

We gathered some driftwood, dried seaweed and set a fire going, cooked up some whitebait fritters (95% whitebait), then boiled the crayfish in salt water. Minutes later we were standing round holding a cray and dipping it into the butter sauce. In my best "operating" tradition I'd melted some butter on the lid of the pan and cracked some salt into it to make a butter sauce.

Once we'd finished, we repeated everything in reverse. It was a tough day.

The man who put the day together for us has lived most of his life on the remote West Coast. It took him 9 years to be invited out to this particular spot. It took me and him a year to create, plan and run this day.

That's a real "experience". Truly "exclusive". Wonderfully "ultimate".

Tags: wildlifesouthern alpsjetboathelicoptersilver pine