Steam Your Cares Away - The Polynesian Spa
I thought it was meant to be good for your skin, but mine was starting to shrivel up and take on decidedly prune-like qualities. However, this didn't stop me from just lying back a little while longer, letting the warm water envelop my body like a big warm tongue. The water had been hot to begin with, almost too hot to lower my body into, kind of like a bath when you first climb in. But it wasn't long before my blood got used to it, and I became one with the thermal water bubbling around me. It was so relaxing that nothing could have dragged me out.
I was at the Polynesian Spas in the city of Rotorua, smack bang in the middle of the thermal region of New Zealand's North Island. It is a region well known for its volcanic activity - the city is surrounded by areas of boiling mud and geysers. A walk through the park will surprise visitors when they realise that the ground below them is steaming, as if Hell itself is about to break loose from its shackles. But the thing most people remember from their visit to this town of 68,000 people is the smell. The air is filled with the pungent aroma of rotten eggs, the result of hydrogen sulphide gas escaping from the ground. It is a stink you can not hide from, and can cause a bit of a headache at first, but you soon get used to it.
Rotorua has been a major destination for people wanting natural spas since... well, since tourism was invented. As far back as 160 years ago, people would travel from all around the world to visit the region, especially the famous Pink and White Terraces (said to be the Eighth Wonder of the World). Unfortunately, the Terraces were destroyed when Mt Tawarewa erupted in 1886, but people continued to flock to the many natural springs.
The Polynesian Spas are situated on Government Gardens, about 5 minutes walk from the city centre, and are built on a site famous for its healing water. In 1878, a local Irish priest named Father Mahoney was cured of arthritis when he bathed in the Springs every day for 3 months. The Polynesian Spas were built on the site of the springs in 1931, and have now been voted in the Top 10 best medicinal spas in the world.
The Polynesian Spas offer 26 different mineral bathing pools and many natural therapies. The pools are beautifully landscaped with rocks and native plants, and remain at a constant temperature of between 36 and 43 degrees C. There are also 13 private pools which can be hired by two people at a time for 30 minutes. A large family pool overlooks Lake Rotorua, with a toddlers pool and hydro slide.
The brochure tells me that they also offer mud wraps and packs, as well as New Zealand Manuka honey polishes and wraps. But since I am a man, I have absolutely no idea what this means. I just want to get back on that hydro slide.
The Polynesian Spas are open from 8am till 11pm daily, and the entrance prices vary between $12 and $35, depending on what pools you want to relax in. [more ]