CanTeeners treated to girls' night of luxury

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 09:06 14/09/2012
Canteeners
Ian Allen

Fresh start: A scene from the coming series of Bucket Wish features, from left, Maori Tours Kaikoura operator Maurice Manawatu, CanTeen members Charlie Claridge and Catrina Hunter and TV presenter Adventure Aaron planting a karaka tree as part of their stay at Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses. Two cameramen record the early morning action on Wednesday Aug 29

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American television presenter and adrenaline junkie Adventure Aaron doesn't spend too long in one place.

The Florida native has completed two laps of New Zealand in little over eight months shooting scenes for two different TV shows.

But one region has truly captured his heart - Marlborough.

The thrill-seeking Yank, aka Aaron Carotta, even considered buying a house here.

A busy filming and production schedule meant that never happened but Carotta has returned to Marlborough for his new programme, Bucket Wish.

In the 13-part series CanTeen members embark on a list of the most extreme adventures New Zealand has to offer such as black water rafting, glacier climbing and flying a microlight plane.

However, in a change of pace for the usually frenetic TV star, Carotta has given two of the charity's sibling members, whose brothers both have cancer, the ultimate girls' night in Marlborough.

Catrina Hunter, 22, and Charlie Claridge, 20, joined the American at Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses near Kaikoura for a night of rest and relaxation.

The Canteen members, from Christchurch, even got to make their own icecream with the lodge's head chef and two-time MasterChef contestant Fiona Read.

They also tried crayfish for the first time.

Carotta said he first spotted the luxury accommodation during his last trip to Marlborough shooting scenes for his Catch and Cook series.

"I was passing through Marlborough and noticed this bizarre structure next to me," he said. "Only in New Zealand can you stay in a real-life tree house."

The girls' stories struck a note with Carotta, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2008 and started his own bucket list.

Catrina was six and Charlie just three years old when their brothers were diagnosed, Carotta said.

Both felt guilty for wanting more attention from their families, he said.

Although he hadn't planned for a chilled-out couple of days during Bucket Wish, a trip to Hapuku Lodge seemed right.

"I thought this would be a great way of giving the girls their special day, making it all about them," he said.

The girls also talked about "new beginnings" in their stories, the American said.

Hapuku Lodge's commitment to be eco-friendly, by planting a tree for every guest, made it the perfect setting, he said.

And the five-star stay wasn't wasted on the CanTeeners.

Catrina, who is vice-president of the cancer charity's national board, said she had never been treated to such luxury before.

"It's something else," she said. "Every detail is perfect, even down to the lamp shades. Everywhere you look [from your room] is special. I suppose the mountains do most of the work for them."

Charlie said she was really grateful to be chosen for the relaxing Bucket Wish experience.

"I would have been amped if we were doing something energetic too, but the big bath and bed just make you feel so centred."

Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses general manager Chris Sturgeon said it was a privilege to have the CanTeen members stay.

"To give these guys a night that is all about them is fantastic," he said.

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"We like to give something back [to the community]. Yes, we get footage of Hapuku Lodge [on Bucket Wish] but after listening to their stories that's not important. It really tugs on your heart strings. When you have a place like this, I think it's our responsibility to make sure people get to experience it."

Planting their own trees inside the lodge's 153 hectare reserve, overlooking an old Maori cemetery, represented a fresh start, Catrina said.

"Seeing the cemetery reminded me of all the people I have lost."

Bucket Wish is the first original series for Choice TV in New Zealand and the first episode is scheduled to air on September 29.

Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses will feature on Adventure Aaron's second series of Catch and Cook, which starts filming next month.

- The Marlborough Express

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