It’s been forty years since I was last in New Plymouth. The hometown of my first love. Oh how I remember those clandestine snogging sessions parked up by the Fitzroy Life Saving Club. However, the love was not reciprocated, and life moved on. New Plymouth is now memorable to me for all the right reasons: scaling Paratutu, the peaked rock jutting from the coastline, Mount Taranaki giving us a shy glimpse of her beauty from beneath a veil of cloud, the ever-so-shiny, rolling, convoluted curves of the Govette-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre with it’s mesmerizing, shaking, quivering, oh-most-famous art work “The Blade”, and those 200+ parks and gardens full of rhododendron and other exotic species. It is no wonder that New Plymouth was voted Lonely Planet’s Second-Best Region in the World to visit in 2017.
There is nothing about this area that doesn’t enchant and energise me. Art adorns walls and buildings in the form of giant murals and towering Len Lye kinetic sculptures, historic buildings like The Gables in Brooklyn Park give a hint of the past and opportunities for exercise are everywhere: yoga in the lupins, cyclists and walkers vying for position on the 11km coastal walkway (although I wonder if it is aptly named as the cycles far outnumber walkers), nippers paddling surf skis furiously and surfers alongside stand up paddle boarders riding long swells.
Strangely enough we chose to visit New Plymouth for none of these reasons. We came for the Floatation Sanctuary, a chance to experience the sensation and healing therapy of floating. Not that either of us are unwell, just that we like to experience different things. Eleanor of the New Plymouth Floatation Centre welcomed us into her very professional premises. We filled in a few forms, listened to her briefing on the benefits and processes and then were taken to the floatation room. In the subdued lighting emanating from Himalayan Salt Lamps was a large ‘egg-like’ capsule. I immediately envisage Robin Williams in the ever-popular series “Mork and Mindy” stepping out of his egg space capsule and saying ‘Nanu Nanu”. My little chuckle was fortunately interpreted as nerves by those present. While my partner had the first session I used the time to bike the short distance back into town for a wonderful tea drinking experience at the Empire Tea Rooms. If you ever go, they have the most amazing cinnamon pin wheels which I will pretend I didn’t eat as it is best to ‘float’ on an empty stomach. Back at the centre it was sooon my turn. I began with a thorough shower, ridding myself of any grime or beauty creams or in this case the grim that had stuck to beauty creams as I climbed Paratutu. Then cautiously lifted the lid of the capsule. An alien glow illuminated the water. Ever-so-carefully, I step in. It’s not deep, just deep enough to float in and float you most certainly do, aided by 30kg of Epsom salts which will help replace minerals lost. Just a tad nervously, I pulled the lid down and when I felt safe in this wee nest, reached for the button and switch off the light. Even with earplugs I could hear the hypnotic music being played, soothing me, calming me, lulling me into nothingness and sending me floating into space. I was not aware of when that music stopped but once deprived of all senses and supported by the water my mind shut off and there is nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sometime later I become aware of where I was, music played once more, it was time to emerge from my cacoon, wash off the mineral water and burst forth into life with a renewed energy or …..not.
Like having a long bath in the middle of a summer’s afternoon I felt the need to go back to the bus and sleep. And I did. A deep exhausted sleep. The effects and benefits of Floating are said to be varied and many, for some they are instantaneous, for others, it takes a while to recognize the benefits. Whether it was the float or the sleep afterwards, I was soon ready to head into the city again to experience more of its culture, history and people. I loved it.
There is an air of affluence about New Plymouth but not in any poncy way, it simply feels like a city that knows it’s past, knows where it’s going and has a positive outlook for the future.
New Plymouth, you rock!