Beginning north of Auckland with New Zealand's most popular commercial thermal springs (Waiwera at 300 000 visitors per year), Sally wends her way through a fascinating collection of baths, beaches, pools, riverbed scrapes, and giant-size bungs. 94 entries later, she concludes in a damp West Coast valley with New Zealand's premier wilderness pools at Welcome Flat.
While a brief introduction describes culture, etiquette, geology and health issues, the majority of the pages are devoted to the extensive listings, which are written up in a very personal style and make for amusing reading. Contact details, directions, and descriptions of each thermal area are included.
It is interesting to notice the distinctive differences between the islands. Many of the South Island springs are undeveloped, adjacent to riverbeds, often washed out, silted up, changing from year to year. Conversely, there are many more commercial areas in the North Island, as well as DIY solutions or semi-developed remnants from past times:
Just before reaching the river, the stream cascades over a rock shelf into an area surrounded by large boulders where the two [bath]tubs have been placed. . . .
Beside the delapidated little red changing shed [in a farmer's paddock] a 3 metre square by 80 centimetres deep boarded tub has been built into the ground. . . .
Perched above the river are two large concrete tubs. . . . On my last visit to these springs the tub was a perfect 42°C, the kowhai trees were flowering, and tui, wood pigeons and fantails kept me company while I soaked. . . .
This warm-hearted book is a welcome reminder that life can be as simple as a warm bath in the bush, and a worthy addition to any good home or glovebox library.