I like Godzilla movies and 49ers football. Donica likes massages and spas. What can I say? We’re very different people. As you can imagine, when my wife asks me if I want to visit this high-end spa facility with her while in Rotorua, New Zealand, I’m a wee bit skeptical. “It seems kind of expensive, Donica. And you know, I’m not really into this whole pampering thing.”

Boy am I wrong (on both accounts).

For one thing, Waiariki Hot Springs and Spa isn’t all that expensive. At $155 NZ, that’s about $77 US dollars for a unique, 2-hour thermal experience. Very good value. As for the pampering thing, I am a converted man, and here’s why. I LOVE variety, and Waiariki’s “Restorative Journey (Wai Whakaora) offers variety in spades. The pampering journey starts with “Te Iringa,” the 4 waterfall showers. Each shower is a little bit different: one hot, one cool, one a stream, the other mist. As the brochure describes it: “the soft streams of water energize the body and open awareness to the present.” Pretty relaxing stuff. Next up are the saunas, three of them in total, each kept at different temperatures (and, I suppose, humidity levels). Between each sauna, we’re encouraged to walk through a cold, semi-circular wading pool. After the saunas, we’re allowed a chance to pour a bucket of cold water over our heads, which I respectfully decline, in spite of the promise of a “a symbolic connection to the ancestral lands of the Ngati Whakaue people.” Does it make me culturally insensitive if don’t like being cold?

After the saunas, we amble outside for a long, leisurely soak in the three, lovely, geothermal pools—each maintained at a different temperature (including, of course, a cold plunge). Interestingly, one of the pools is an herbal tea bath, which strikes me as a bit humorous. Chamomile and a bubble bath anyone? Our final stop is a room with heating chairs, upon which we find our own, personal bowls of brown, creamy mud to apply to our bodies. Intended merely to the dry the mud for easy pealing, the heating chairs are also deeply restful. Ahhhh. The end of the journey is the rinsing room where, miraculously, the dry mud washes right off, leaving my skin baby-bottom soft —pretty much the way I’m feeling inside as well.

Am I giving up giant monsters and NFL football any time soon? Certainly not. But I’m definitely more open to the pleasures of pampering. My body is feeling “energized,” my awareness more “open to the present”. And with the low cost of the spa, I’ve got some money left over for another round of Zorbing (see Wow Place #189). What a great day in the North Island of New Zealand.

(Parallel to the danger of high expectations is a similar peril: negative assumptions. Would I have enjoyed a few hours of freedom to catch up on some TV? Sure. Nevertheless, I’m glad I rejected my resistance to pampering and took the spa plunge. To be sure, boundaries are important in life. When you don’t want to do something, by all means say No. But if you’re on the fence about a new experience, consider saying yes. Sometimes a little mud can be cleansing.)