By Mei Anne Foo
Jan 1, 2020
KAWAKAWA A.K.A “the pharmacy of the forest,” is an important element in rongoā Māori—traditional Maori healing. Considered one of nature’s most versatile remedies, it’s used for everything from eczema to joint pain to toothaches. Growing wild in coastal forests around New Zealand, this organic wonder drug naturally finds its place among a holistic array of curatives at the new Earth Energies Sanctuary, a wellness retreat an hour’s drive from Auckland.
Proprietors Marie Latus and husband Duncan McKenzie not only prescribe kawakawa to guests, but use it as an active ingredient in the artisanal creams and ointments of their Earth Energies Botanical range. They forage for the plant’s heart-shaped leaves on their 80-hectare plot, where, Marie tells me, every step from harvest to manufacture is carried out with purposeful intent. “From blessing the plants and earth to handcrafting the products in our own product rooms—lovingly built by Duncan—it’s all undertaken in an incredibly peaceful environment,” she says.
That all-permeating sense of serenity is evident from the moment we turn onto the property, to be greeted by Duncan rolling down a gravel drive on a farm tractor, flashing a megawatt smile. We follow him for a good 10 minutes down a snaking dirt road that contours fertile hills and rolling paddocks, past dams and native plants, kawakawa no doubt among them. It is within this undulating farmland that Marie has grounded her rustic retreat. Drawing from Western, Eastern and Antipodean natural therapies, Earth Energies Sanctuary is her vision of a global zigzag of holistic wellness that is firmly rooted in New Zealand — both physically and culturally.
After a nomadic and stress-filled 20 years in the mining industry, Duncan and Marie moved back to New Zealand a decade ago, and Marie soon became drawn to the healing modalities of natural wellness remedies and physical therapies. She spent the last 10 years honing her skills, training with leaders in alternative practices such as zero-balance therapy and the art-meets-massage method Alchemy of Touch. A talented craftsman, Duncan hand-built all the timber fittings and furniture on the property, and together they opened the Sanctuary on their family’s working farm last May. While Marie plays hostess and dedicated personal therapist, Duncan manages their sustainably developed farmland and tends to their herd of Red Devon cattle—when he’s not combing through the brush for kawakawa.
My husband and I have signed up for the half-day spa program, and it’s packed with goodness. Marie first performs zero-balance therapy on me, utilizing light pressure to address the relationship between the structures of my body and its energy flow. The powerful body-mind treatment is rooted in Western anatomy and the Eastern understanding of energy channels for bone-deep relaxation. After the treatment, my head feels lighter and my body more languid, yet there there is a heightened sense of balance and stability. Next is floatation wellness therapy in the only custom-built float orb in New Zealand, shipped over from the U.S., and filled with Epsom salts to keep me buoyant. The body-temperature water enhances a sense of weightlessness, but though the experience is meant to enable inner peace and mindfulness I find my mind wandering instead—musing about trivial topics, like the weather.
But then it is time for a hypnotherapy session to really tap into my subconscious. Marie has a diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy from Alpha Hypnosis in Auckland, and guides me to a place of safety and protection. I can’t help but let go as Marie’s gentle voice leads me to a sunken place, one where negative thought patterns are subdued and a sanguine, more optimistic me rises to the surface. Who needs those Epsom salts anyway?
After a life-affirming and deeply soothing afternoon—my husband was actually relaxed enough to doze off while floating in the orb—we retreat to our charming cottage. It’s the only guest accommodation at Earth Energies, with two bedrooms, a full kitchen and loft providing ample space for four. Perched on a remote hill in the heart of the property, the cabin’s open-plan concept ensures you’re awash in breathtaking views of a leafy gully. Waves of every shade of green are framed by super-sized windows and glass doors. A mezzanine carries the master bedroom, the comfy entertainment area has a wood-burning fireplace, and a big bathtub overlooks foliage, completing the bucolic feel. We feel far from civilization here, despite the highway being just below.
Photos courtesy of Earth Energies Sanctuary (5)
To keep things down-to-earth, the kitchen is stocked with easy-to-assemble ready-made meals. We prep our own scrumptious entrées of beetroot and gin-cured salmon with lemon crème fraîche, radish and fennel, and a main course of pork belly with carrots and kumara rosti with apple-tart syrup. Such a setup means guests can come here and completely cut off from the world, without the need for room service or a restaurant down the road. Though, we really didn’t mind finding a smiley Duncan at the front door, delivering some freshly made sesame-and-linseed bread he’d forgotten to leave behind. As for dessert, besides glutting on the gluten-free brownies, we set our eyes on the sweetest view of the Milky Way we’d ever seen. Sitting on the porch outside, an abiding calm radiating from within, the depthless evening sky cast its own hypnotic spell—a universesized float orb we couldn’t help but drift away in.
About an hour’s drive from either Auckland Airport or Hamilton, on the edge of the Waikato district on State Highway 2, look for a plain wooden farm gate and a small signboard. Its strategic location makes it suitable for post- or pre-flight respite while in New Zealand.
earthenergiessanctuary.com; from NZ$590 per night for two, excluding therapies.