Our retreat leader Chris leads us through a flow practice, and as the class draws to a close, I can now see Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding snow-capped mountains out of the large glass window. As a busy mum of two little boys, I sit for a moment, and take in the breathtaking scenery and the moment of solitude.
This is how days begin at Aro Ha Wellness Retreat, a ‘transitional space’ located at Glenorchy in the sub-alpine glacial valleys of Central Otago about 40 minutes from Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island.
My morning yoga class would usually be followed by my beloved double shot flat white but I’m going to have to settle for a herbal tea as coffee is banned at Aro Ha; so is wine, refined sugar, gluten, meat and dairy, for that matter.
That being said, chef Jenny Lomas prepares delicious, nutrient-dense vegan cuisine, using produce grown onsite and sourced locally, and the three plant-based meals each day are one of the highlights of the five-day retreat.
Every day, breakfast is followed by a three-to-four-hour hike; some of which have me cursing my decision to visit, especially on day three when the 6km trek up Mount Judah is practically vertical.
Afternoons at Aro Ha involve lunch, strength training, therapeutic massage – which sounds luxurious but more of a necessity for my aching muscles – a range of workshops, contrast spa therapy [saunas, a spa and an icy outdoor plunge pool] in the plush Obsidian Spa, a restorative yoga class followed by a group dinner.
Aro Ha embodies minimalist luxury so while the rooms are Scandinavian chic, bathrooms are shared with a flat mate.
In fact, all activities and meals at Aro Ha are enjoyed as a group, which helps build a sense of community and friendships that get you through the challenging moments.
Admittedly, Aro Ha isn’t for everyone – there was a day of silence and a juice fast involved - however for those who have an open mind and a genuine desire to disconnect from technology, immerse themselves in nature and make changes to their lifestyle, this Zen-like utopia is the ultimate place to reset.