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May 3, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                     Treetops Lodge, NZ

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Treetops Lodge is built on 2,500 acres of restored and native virgin forest. Much of the property was bare and bleak, because in the old days it was used for forestry. But in the past 10 years Mr. Sax has nurtered the land back to life by breeding wildlife, creating lakes and planting more than 70,000 trees. They released over 5,000 pheasants, and wildlife has returned in abundance. To build the lodge they cleared only a few trees, and even kept a stream running directly below the main entrance (there are seven trout streams on the property). The lodge, completed in 2003, is made of schist, stone and timber. Everything is from New Zealand -- except the shingles. They were imported from California.

The entrance to the lodge takes guests past a manmade waterfall near a small path over a trout stream, and to a double-door entrance big enough for Sasquatch. This is definitely a guy’s place. The lobby -- appropriately called the Great Room -- has 35-foot high ceilings, cozy furniture, hand-carved beams depicting Maori folklore, local artistry, fly fishing poles, and a giant stone fireplace with two stuffed animals on the top. This is where all the guests gather for the 6:30 p.m. cocktail hour. (It’s also the room with the strongest wireless internet signal, though most guests use the free computer in the day room). The other rooms in the lodge include a library (with plenty of books and trophy heads), games room (there’s a giant antique billiards table), conference room (the lodge is a popular host to small conferences), dayroom, conservatory (a bright, airy space where breakfast is served), open air "interactive" kitchen (guests can watch the chefs make their dishes), and an unforgettable dining room. Most guests dine together at 7:30 at a 22-foot table, with a willow branch chandelier hanging above. Those looking for a more romantic setting can dine in the library, or their own villa.

The food at Treetops is delicious. One chef was quoted as saying: “In keeping with Treetops’ eco-friendly ethos, a key focus of the fine cuisine that is prepared for guests with locally-grown produce includes sourcing and utilising native herbs and ingredients found on the property that were traditionally used by Maori.” Everything is fresh, and the game is locally grown. Each night a 5 course meal (soup, salad, meat/fish, cheese, dessert) is featured. Before guests head out for the day, the staff -- mostly from Germany and nearby European nations – describes the menu. If there is anything you don’t like, they will make something you do. For breakfast guests can order typical dishes, or a New Zealand specialty: salmon and eggs. I really loved the Eggs Benedict and cereal with the most incredible-tasting dried fruit (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries…) I’ve ever had. They were addictive! But my favorite meal was a small picnic packed by the kitchen so we could dine on Day Dream hill, overlooking the valley. It is magical at sunrise.

Treetops can accommodate up to 40 guests. There is a choice of rooms. One option is a 4-bedroom suite (twin share or double) located down the hall from the Great Room. It comes with a kitchen and living room. This is where I stayed. It’s perfect for families or friends traveling together, because it felt like a house. For ultimate privacy (two of the four bedroom walls are kind of thin at the suite), choose one of the eight private villas. Some are so far away, they entail either a long walk or a 3-minute golf cart ride. Each guestroom is built with its own unique style and design, but all have a homey feel. Each villa has fireplaces and spas (the bathrooms are really nice). Maids clean the rooms twice a day, and at night they leave handmade chocolates beside the beds. Mmmm! There is no minimum age (some exclusive lodges have one, so double check), so this is a great place to bring the family. When I was there the lodge was filled primarily with couples from North America and Europe (many from the U.K.). However, at dinner one night I sat next to twin 13-year-old girls from Beverly Hills. They said they loved Treetops, and were sad to check out because everyone was so nice and there was so much to do.

Treetops’ service starts the moment you book your trip. Prior to your arrival an email is sent with questions like: Are there any particular foods (New Zealand lamb, seafood, Treetops venison, pheasant, trout, New Zealand beef, vegetarian, other) you would like to experience at Treetops? Are there any particular health issues we should be aware of? How can we help organize the ultimate setting for a special or romantic experience? Please indicate any activities you would like more information on, or ones you would like us to pre-arrange for you. Choices are: 4WD experience, 4WD motorbikes, abseiling (a dangerous climbing technique), archery, bird watching, black tie pheasant, clay target shooting, eco-tours, fishing at Treetops, fly fishing, fly fishing tutorial, hiking, hunting, horse riding, kayaking, Maori Indigenous Food Trail, mountain biking, photographic safari, sailing, waterfall walk, wild animal spotting, wilderness fly fishing, yoga, and zorbing (I will explain this next week).

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Pictures From

The Trip


Backyard of Treetops


"Jenny" the Deer


The Great Room


Fly Fishing




Dining Room Table


Day Dream Hill




Living Room


My Room


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