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Feel the Spirit - in New Zealand
Feel the Spirit - In New Zealand
Kia Ora (welcome) to New Zealand’s Rotorua, where the catch-cry is Manaakitanga – Feel the Spirit.
Rotorua is in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island in the Bay of Plenty. And there is plenty - plenty of everything - lakes, rivers, mountains, and dramatic geothermal activity. Steaming Rotorua, wherever you look clouds of white vapour curl into the air.
The city is situated on the southern shore of Lake Rotorua and is renowned as the heartland of Maori culture
Eighty years ago Roturua was the place for taking the cure; the water even then was renowned for healing properties. The old Bath House is today the Rotorua museum where you’ll find a display of the remaining baths including the mud bath basement and a bizarre electric tub.
It’s intriguing to see how they once piped the water from the springs – treatments were for many ailments, arthritis, rheumatism, gout, plethora and corpulency, congestion of the viscera, and yes, sexual impotence.
Visitors were asked to “Please sit quietly in the water so as to avoid unnecessary disengagement of the gases.” Some things don’t change.
The Modern Way
QE Health (formerly Queen Elizabeth Hospital) continues the tradition of holistic health and provides rheumatology and rehabilitation programmes.
QE Health is still housed in the temporary building of 1942, which remains an officially accredited hospital where you can be treated as a patient or just enjoy the facilities.
You name it they’ve got it. Aix Relaxation, Therapeutic massage, Pyrectic Stema bath, Watsu, Sole therapy, Lithos therapy, mud, hot mineral pools and numerous programmes aimed at enhancing mind, body and spirit.
I’ve rushed around all day and succumb to a massage to die for; my hands and feet immersed in hot paraffin wax to alleviate joint pain and stiffness. Mmmm, how I’d love to stay but duty calls.
In the name of research I carry on. Not difficult. For sheer bliss there’s the Polynesian Spa situated by the Rotorua Lake, voted a World Top Ten spa (medical and thermal) by Conde Nast Traveller magazine.
Take your pick here from 26 hot mineral spring pools, offered in four areas. More therapies – how about a Body Polish with Manuka Honey and Lavender or a Rotorua Mud Wrap?
It’s having a strange effect on me – on a cool dark evening, I’m outside in my bathers, soaking in a hot spring water pool gazing at the lights reflecting on Rotorua Lake. I can definitely feel the spirit – we all need to indulge now and then.
Gates of Hell
I’m off to hell. Hell’s Gate boasts being the most active geothermal field in the Rotorua area, proudly owned, operated and treasured by the local Maori people.
When author George Bernard Shaw visited in the 1900s and saw the heated pools, the boiling mud, the sulphurous waters he quickly decided this is what the gates of hell would look like and aptly named the place.
It’s a remarkable experience wandering through the geothermal park, but wise to stay safely on the designated paths. Hot mud pools bubble in excess of 100 degrees Celsius
Onsite is the Wai Ora Spa. Mud! Mud! Glorious mud. Mineral volcanic mud from the reserve. And like a hippo, I’m wallowing in it all warm and gooey.
Then the recommended shower – oh ouch, a cold one; good for the pores I’m told. Ah, then I’m wallowing again, in the hot sulphur spa, again from the reserve.
Finally a massage, elements of Mirimiri, or Maori massage. As lovely Rupine works her magic on this tired body I decide to rename the place. This is not hell – at all – It’s Heaven.
The Spirit Continues.
Most of the Rotorua accommodation properties have thermal pools for their guests. And when you’re not taking the waters there are heaps of other activities.
A visit to Tamaki Heritage Village ensures an evening of time honoured tradition and entertainment, a glimpse of the Maori culture past and present.
The experience begins with a ceremonial welcome, followed by a walk through the forest lit by blazing bonfires. Meet the people, the families, stories to share with warmth and hospitality and a passion for their culture.
Dinner is a traditional hangi meal cooked beneath the earth on hot rocks. The floor show is sheer energy – a performance of singing and chanting in authentic tradition.
Out and about
There are many geothermal walks and parks and geysers to explore. The Pohutu geyser can be found in Whakarewarewa thermal reserve and erupts at various times throughout the day. Over at Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland the Lady Knox Geyser erupts daily at 10-15.
Te Urewera Treks is magical as Maori guides take you through the Te Urewera National Park and the Whirinaki Forest Park .
It’s so peaceful as you share knowledge of native birds, plants, trees, wildlife, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls.
Choose from a one day walk or trek for several days – these conclude with the option of a dip in a natural hot pool - the end a perfect day.
Rotorua has much to offer in a spiritual sense – I’ve just named a few – I hope I’ll return to discover more.