Re­treat draw­ing guests from around world

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By GRANT BRYANT

The de­ci­sion to build the $30 mil­lion Aro-Ha health re­treat near Glenorchy came about af­ter a globe was spun and stopped on New Zealand. The globe spin­ning ses­sion hap­pened af­ter a long lunch in Zurich be­tween Aro-Ha founders Damian Cha­parro and Chris Madi­son, when the spark to start a cut­ting edge fa­cil­ity stick­ing to time­less prin­ci­ples of holis­tic health struck. Af­ter six months spent scout­ing New Zealand lo­ca­tions, the choices were nar­rowed down to Kaik­oura and the win­ning lo­ca­tion near Glenorchy, past Ben­netts Bluff. Wa­ter, moun­tains and a dra­matic and in­spir­ing, but ground­ing land­scape were all qual­i­ties the duo needed, but in the end close prox­im­ity to an in­ter­na­tional air­port and Queen­stown’s huge in­ter­na­tional pro­file won out. Aro-Ha had its open­ing cer­e­mony on Jan­uary 9 and last week fin­ished its first run of five-day and seven-day re­treats. Mr Cha­parro said he was thrilled to have peo­ple take up the fresh and unique op­por­tu­nity Aro-Ha had on of­fer so quickly. ‘‘So far its been a great mix of Ki­wis, Aussies and Amer­i­cans, but I would ex­pect that will shift over time to a more New Zealand and Aus­tralia fo­cus,’’ he said. ‘‘We don’t tar­get or mar­ket to­wards any one de­mo­graphic, but what we see is that 70 per cent of our cus­tomers have been women be­tween 40 and 60, but we ac­cept peo­ple aged from 18 to 70.’’ Clients pay $1000 per night for a holis­tic ex­pe­ri­ence that cov­ers many ar­eas of phys­i­cal health and well­be­ing. There was a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that Aro-Ha was a yoga re­treat, Mr Cha­parro said. ‘‘Aro-Ha is about much more than yoga, and is a phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally chal­leng­ing ex­peri- ence that is de­signed to be highly ben­e­fi­cial to those who take part. ‘‘Our pro­gramme is quite reg­i­mented, and I think a lot of peo­ple are sur­prised by how phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally chal­leng­ing it is.’’ Days start at 5.30am, and by 6am a Vinyasa Flow Yoga ses­sion has started in a stu­dio with sweep­ing views of Lake Wakatipu’s Pig and Pi­geon Is­lands. Break­fast is at 7am, fol­lowed by a quick change of clothes for a three to four hour hike led by Queen­stowner Bas Smith. Lunch is fol­lowed by spa ses­sions and a few hours of down or ‘‘me’’ time, then it’s time for classes. At some point in the af­ter­noon clients are pulled into an in­ten­sive ther­a­peu­tic mas­sage ses­sion. Din­ner fol­lows, and evenings are taken up ei­ther by spa time or classes. Meals are a high point, and ma­jor point of dif­fer­ence to spa and health re­treats world­wide. ‘‘Our meals are pre­dom­i­nantly raw, pa­leo-based en­zy­mat­i­cally ac­tive, pro­bi­otic foods and we fer­ment a lot of our own in­gre­di­ents. The food has proven to be a real high point, and peo­ple have been re­ally sur­prised at how happy and sa­ti­ated they feel af­ter our diet.’’ Aro-Ha is ‘‘off the grid,’’ al­most self-suf­fi­cient, with New Zealand’s largest pri­vately owned pho­to­voltaic ar­ray, which har­nesses so­lar power, and a non­burn­ing of petroleum prod­ucts pol­icy. Aro-Ha was built from the ground up us­ing sus­tain­able per­ma­cul­ture prac­tise, and fea­tures mul­ti­ple green­houses grow­ing or­ganic food. While clients have so far come from afar, Aro-Ha’s re­source con­sent al­lows for 10 sin­gle-day re­treats per year, which will be a good op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple from the Wakatipu and sur­round­ing re­gion’s to sam­ple what Aro-Ha is all about. ‘‘The sin­gle day events haven’t been sched­uled yet, but we are def­i­nitely look­ing for­ward to see­ing more lo­cal faces here when that hap­pens,’’ Mr Cha­parro said.

Pho­tos: GRANT BRYANT/FAIR­FAX NZ 628932878

Holis­tic site: Glenorchy’s $30 mil­lion AroHa well­ness re­treat co-founder Damian Cha­parro out­side the cen­tre’s main yoga stu­dio. Inset: Hot tub with a view.

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