We began our wellness retreat with a fight, which I guess is as good a way to start as any. A hectic day of work for my boyfriend meant we were late getting out of Auckland, which meant I was snippy and silent, and he was angry I was angry, and we therefore didn't talk until we reached the Bombays. Fun!
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It's probably over the top to recommend a night at a wellness retreat as a cure for a domestic spat but it's no doubt effective. By the time we were welcomed into the warm, hilltop cabin by smiling host Marie Latus, all crustiness had melted away and we were making ourselves at home.
Relaxation is the aim of the game at this small sanctuary on Marie and Duncan's property, an hour south of Auckland. Marie calls it a "retreat away from the hustle and bustle of life".
"For me, this is my life purpose work, it's more than just a business," she says. "I really enjoy focusing on everyone's specific needs and tailoring the right therapies to help achieve a guest's desired outcomes."
If you avoid such escapes like the plague out of fear of a raw vegan menu and only Kombucha on tap, don't fear. Pre-prepped meals and a bottle of wine awaited us, with a local chef leaving instructions on when and how to heat up our three-course dinner.
There's no rabbit food here: we dined on master stock cooked pork belly with carrot and kumara rosti, and beef fillet with mustard mash, roasted tomato and shiraz jus. Pudding was beetroot and dark chocolate brownie, and cereal milk panna cotta. There was so much food we were left in a full, warm coma, and Kyle fell asleep on the couch while I went off to run the absolute monster of a bath.
The next day we awoke to this view, which was pretty fabulous.
At Earth Energies Sanctuary, customised therapy packages offer a range of relaxation therapies to help with stress release, anxiety, emotional stress, wellness and a better sleep.
I have to admit, we were a little nervous about what to expect when it came to our treatments. We had already received an emailed itinerary which raised a couple of questions. One of the therapies was called Secrets of the Skull which sounds a bit like an Indiana Jones movie, and in a pre-retreat phone call with Marie, she asked if me or my boyfriend Kyle had any phobias.
I told her he had a fear of needles which she said she'll tackle if we got the time, but when I recounted that to Kyle he was less than pleased. "Will she put me into a bath of needles when I get there?" he asked nervously.
But it was no such severe exposure therapy when we began our therapies on the clear, crisp morning. Instead, we started with a tingly peppermint oil foot soak, before heading in for a half hour stint in the infra-red sauna.
The sauna, made from local timbers, was constructed by tradies usually used to building cow sheds but has been crafted to look more like something from a European spa rather than a shed down the back of the farm.
We also got to float in Float Orb, the only one of its type in New Zealand. Warning - float tanks are phenomenal and will leave you feeling zen, but I would not recommend re-watching Netflix's Black Mirror the week beforehand. If you can get past those intrusive 'robot' thoughts, there's nothing better than bobbing around in the heavily salted water, reaping numerous health benefits to boot.
'Zero Balance' turned out to be an osteo-esque bone manipulation performed by Marie, which cracked out all the kinks from my back. And Secrets of the Skull was equally relaxing, getting into that little knot right at the top of my spine (you know the one). Apparently Kyle's head was very full of fluid - heaven knows how he was walking around all day.
Our morning was finished off with Clinical Hypnotherapy where we ended up in such a deep state of relaxation we could barely stand up afterwards. It leaves you feeling snoozy and smiley: like the 'sunken place' in Get Out, but in a nice way.
Marie will even record the relaxation and send it to you afterwards, so you can continue the good work at home.
We left Earth Energies Sanctuary dozy with contentment, which is what it's all about for Marie and Duncan. After decades in the mining industry, the pair have seen first-hand what the toll of stress can do on the body.
Stresses of daily life do not discriminate.
"It doesn't matter if you're a stay-at-home-parent, athlete, builder, hairdresser, farmer or city corporate everybody feels pressure," explains Marie.
"A busy, over-stimulated brain can mean no peace and sky-rocketing stress levels. Taking a step back and re-setting can be essential for mental and physical health and wellbeing. The Earth Energies experience is about deep relaxation, finding peace and helping our guests to rebalance."
Marie says everything they do on their land is based around "the right energy".
"Working with nature on the land, growing native Kawakawa for our ointments, nurturing the beehives, looking after our guests - we try to keep everything in a natural balance," she says.
And indeed, there the change in energy on our drive back into Auckland couldn't have been more different than the journey there. Traffic wasn't a bother, the scenery seemed greener and prettier, and there was definitely no silent snippiness.
We did get KFC on the way home which probably isn't EES approved. But after all that wellness, surely a few wicked wings wouldn't hurt.
Sarah and her partner stayed at Earth Energies Sanctuary courtesey of Marie and Duncan. More information about EES can be found here.