My earliest memory of Eden Park is sitting in the now-demolished South Stand, watching Martin Crowe confidently step forward to belt a ball for four. As it sailed across the boundary line and into the fence the packed stands erupted in a cacophony of flailing arms and screams. He’d go on to score a blistering century against the men in green and gold to open the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
The hallowed turf of Auckland’s Eden Park has formed an iconic part of the New Zealand landscape for over a century; a ground consecrated by blood, sweat, mud and tears.
From swamp to international stage
Eden Park has existed as a sports ground since 1900. Back then it proved more testing swamp-land than test match arena. Auckland’s early settlers named the area Cabbage Tree Swamp, and what was swamp most of the year became a fully-fledged lake with winter flooding. But by 1914 the ground was drained, pasture sown, volcanic litter cleared and two magnificent ovals were formed.
Almost since its inception the park has served a dual sporting role. Cricketers initiated playing there, with the ground becoming the home of Auckland Cricket in 1911. The Auckland Rugby Union leased the turf in 1913, officially making Eden Park its headquarters in 1925.
World-wide the word ‘spa’ has changed: it was once used to describe a healthy environment in the European Alps where sickly children and adults were bought for the brisk clean mountain air. Other spas were the hot mineral springs such as in Rotorua, New Zealand where arthritic aches and pains could be eased and Bath in England was a place for bathing and drinking the mineral rich water to ‘cure’ many complaints.
Today, establishments that range from beauty salons with one or two hours ‘treatments’ through to retreats where you can stay for a few weeks, have appropriated the word ‘spa’.
Ko Samui, an island the east coast of Thailand uses the word in its new sense and the spas there contribute to the western world’s mania or need to indulge, pamper, de-stress and detoxify ourselves.
From a relaxing massage on the beach to mediation, or fasting, facials, scrubs, body wraps and colonic irrigation – this island has it all. If you are looking for a holiday destination that will encompass some self-indulgence, this island is perfect for you.
On entering a spa you will be transported into a world of soft lights, sweet scents, gentle sounds and pure pleasure. For me the two hours of massage by a woman who’s only task was to concentrate on me and my body was heaven.
In a busy life such indulgence is often hard to justly. However it’s a real pleasure, your mind drops all its concerns and sinks into an awareness only of the touch by the masseuse.
Thai massage concentrates on pressure points and is quite different to the more commonly known Swedish oil massage. I found results differed according to the skills and knowledge of the practitioner – and this had nothing to do with price or location!
When travelling self-care is important and a massage is one of the quickest ways to feel better when jet lagged – a shower and a massage during an airport stopover is heaven and you re-board the plane a new person . . . well I do … I love that Thai Air (www.thaiairways.com ) gives free hands or feet massage in their lounges in Thailand.
In Kuala Lumpur I was able to indulge in some self-care at a day spa where for the first time I had Hot Stone Therapy and became an instant convert. The soothing smoothing relaxing and rejuvenating black stones, the skill of the Philippine masseur and the atmosphere there all combined to give me the best massage I have ever had!.
Although the only curative water in some spas may be in the Jacuzzi, these so-named ‘spas’ can certainly can cure you for a day as they certainly allow you to escape the ‘busyness’ of life with its often self- inflected stress and – overload. Sensory gratification from a massage or other such treatment certainly cures me for a period of time.
So while the promise to ‘rejuvenate me’ and leave me glowing, younger, or healthier after treatment with the traditional herbs and practices, they do not always live up to the hype (and my expectations) they certainly leave me with a sense of well being and a promise to myself to do this more often.
A New Zealand Spa I can recommend is the in the Southern Alps village of Hanmer Springs (http://www.hanmerspa.co.nz/) Christchurch is just 90 minutes away) and as someone who has spent many hours days and even weeks in this village, I can certainly recommend the whole area. Many people go there as a day trip, however, it has great places to stay – from holiday parks and B&B -from simple to classy – to a grand historical hotel and a NZYHA, this area has it all. For more accommodation info see here.
Other local spa’s I have used and loved are the Champs Elysees here in my home city (Christchurch) and in Rotorua where the Wai Ora Spa is part of Hells Gate and which includes one of nature’s gifts – a mud bath, and just recently I had a stone massage with James Wyatt at Release Therapies in Wellington (at Pearl Day Spa)
At the Wai Ora Spa fine mud is suspended in the warm water, and in a private room, but still under a blue sky, I smooth the silky mud over my face and body – it’s simply superb. Twenty minutes later I’m relaxing in a geothermal pool before having the uniquely New Zealand, Maori massage, with a relaxing sulphur spa to follow.
So wherever you are, in sand or sun or a cold country, some time at a spa will rejuvenate you.