Near Lake Sumner in New Zealand, the Maruia Resort is a green jewel. It can be hard work.
On the banks of the Maruia River,in a sheltered valley, eight kilometres west of Lewis Pass, there is no mains power: the resort relies on a mini-hydro system, gravity-fed water and generator backup. Last year, snowfalls and landslides ruptured the inlet pipe, cutting off water for several weeks. Since then, owners Akira and Takako have not only replaced the pipes but upgraded the resort’s decor, giving it a more Japanese look. The aim is to give Kiwis a taste of an authentic Japanese onsen, a thermal resort.
Accommodation at Maruia Springs, including unlimited use of the hot pools, is priced from $129 a night for an eco package (bring your own towels, soap, shampoo, and rubbish bags). Private pools and Japanese massage are also available.
Japanese meals, including dinner and breakfast, are served at Shuzan Fusion restaurant.
Chef Peter Vernon serves up some mouth-watering dishes: green- lipped mussels with a fennel, lemon, parmesan panini gratin; Asian marinated chicken with Japanese chilli seasoning and a Korean barbecue sauce; a daikon radish and vegetable roll; homemade tortellini filled with homemade ricotta cheese, manuka-smoked tomato essence and parmesan; slow braised pork belly with a crab-apple and thyme jus, pickled cabbage, and crispy potato cake. Feeling hungry yet?
Waipara Springs riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir are all excellent. I am a riesling fan. I can’t quite decide between the standard riesling gold-medal winner and the premo dry double-gold winner. The only solution: enjoy both.
Akira and Takako live in Christchurch and are passionate about action and adventure. As well as flying helicopters, Akira is also a former race car driver and has done motorcycle tours.
The day dawns fine and frosty and after breakfast Akira fires up the helicopter. A friend, Duncan Storrier (a businessman and jet boater who won the 1996 world river racing championship), has joined him in another R44 and they will do air-to-air videography. Akira loves flying. “It’s a magic device to connect the city and the middle of nowhere, and the view from the air is a totally different experience.” For specials, including wine tastings, see maruiasprings.co.nz and waiparasprings.co.nz. You can join the Maruia Springs Onsen club for special offers.