Escape for a day at The Lost Spring
The old hibiscus-behind-the-ear cliche
All the ambience of a tropical resort
A swing bridge across the largest pool
The outside deck area seen from behind a waterfall
Swimmers can glide into this cave of changing colours
A corner of the lounge area overlooking the pool and waterfall
Another discovery I made while travelling last year was at the other end of the geographical scale to an alpine environment—a wonderful daytime retreat in New Zealand that looks as if it has been transported from Shangri La. This small pocket of delight is in Whitianga and although it is called The Lost Spring, its allure was not lost on me. Even in mid-winter, the place held the promise of warmth. Equatorial looking trees waved their broad leaves in welcome and the sound of a ukulele resonated from speakers hidden in thick foliage that border the carpark. In the bar and restaurant area, the illusion was heightened. They open to poolside decking and the sight of a rocky waterfall surrounded by ferns, palms, and tall broad-leafed trees. I sat in a wicker cane chair to absorb the ambience and ordered a coffee from the bar. As I sipped, I tried to conjure up a slimmer, younger me, my tanned torso draped in a bikini and a hibiscus flower tucked behind one ear as I slipped elegantly into the pool’s clear warm water like some sort of nymphet. That was an even bigger illusion. Located up on the next level is a day spa. A robe-wrapped lady was coming woozily down the stairs as if returning from another planet. She plunked herself down in the cane chair opposite mine. “Fantastic,” she said, although I hadn’t asked the question. “An hour-and-a-half of massage and worth every minute.” She nodded towards the pool. “I think I’ll take a dip. Who was it who said ‘there must be some things that a hot bath wouldn’t cure but I don’t know many of them’?” She didn’t know and nor did I. I googled it. It was the illustrious writer, Sylvia Plath. The thoroughly kneaded lady sashayed off along the path that leads through native and foreign foliage to one of the several quietly steaming pools that are set among large fern gardens, rocky caverns or tunnels studded with as many gemstones as Aladdin might have hidden in his cave. There are three main pools of varying temperatures and an elevated pool in the crater lake of an erupting ‘volcano’. Although, it is man-made. Much of the The Lost Spring environment looks natural, as if created by God. In fact, it was a dairy farmer called Alan Hopping who, with help from his wife, brought this amazing complex into existence. The venture began when the couple bought a Whitianga camping ground in 1980, on the spot where The Lost Spring Retreat now resides. Captivated by legend and local hearsay that the “lost spring of Tapatapatea”, which had disappeared 90 years before, was somewhere on the property, Alan set about finding it. Water diviners were brought in and convinced him that he was on the right track, and so he took the plunge and started the big dig. Eight years later, clear water gushed to the surface from 667 metres below the ground. It was not only hot but also sparkling with minerals and full of promise. It took Alan 20 years, millions of dollars and a lot of hard yards to design, build, and finish the ambitious project that today spreads over four-and-a-half hectares of land. The largest pool has an adjacent terrace that is spread with recliners and tables. Cocktails, drinks, tapas, or even a full meal from the restaurant can be ordered and served poolside. I preferred to eat at a restaurant table where I ordered up a Thai yellow banana curry. As I tucked to this delicious fare, I gazed out on the lovely setting, dreaming I was in a Fijian resort. And then it came to me—I’d just as soon be at The Lost Spring in this small seaside town on the Coromandel Peninsula. As this issue of MCD hits the shelves, yet another of my birthdays will be hovering; not hard to guess where I’ve decided to go as a treat.