The headaches begin around about the time the talk turns to the quality and quantity of our collective poos and as I start throwing down cups of herbal tea like they’re bottles of Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru. Detox tea, dandelion tea, chamomile tea, it matters little, just give it to me; it’s liquid and wholesome and surely it’ll help temper the ache that just won’t quit some place deep behind my eyes.
But truth be told, it’s not entirely unpleasant, after all, isn’t it supposed to hurt a little to have the 21st century seep out of your body? Besides, this is as bad as it gets. Gwinganna general manager Sharon Kolkka says today – terrible Tuesday – is the day we might try to flee this place; from here on in, she assures, it’s an easy ride to euphoria. Or something like that.
But Sharon doesn’t lay it on thick. In fact, nothing’s laid on thick around here; this place is more under-stated than I’d anticipated. Just because a Hollywood actor (Hugh Jackman) part-owns it doesn’t seem to mean we’re all going to have our childhoods analysed for clues to our depression or drug dependencies or general feelings of inadequacy.
So far I haven’t sat around in any rooms chanting “ommm” with complete strangers. On the contrary, the strangers here don’t seem particularly strange at all. There’s housewives from Sydney, a flight attendant from Melbourne, a doctor from Auckland, even a champion horse breeder I’m trying to coerce tips from for the next Melbourne Cup. I should confess; I was concerned before I came. I had preconceptions about health retreats, and the kinds of people who pay this kind of money to come to them. I pictured a retreat full of stressed-out, red-faced executives and wanna-be hippies munching on pumpkin seeds. As we climbed the steep hills of the Gold Coast hinterland into “Gwin-world” and I noticed the heavy gates that locked us in (they say they’re to keep the world out, but who can be sure?) six days seemed a life sentence. Oh…and did I mention the no alcohol, no caffeine policy?
But Gwin-world is a pretty okay place to be. There’s something about living organically in five-star comfort in the Queensland bush while looking out over Australi’s glitziest tourist strip. On the first morning I picture myself down there, perhaps on Main Beach’s Tedder Avenue, sipping lattes and contemplating a champagne lunch. But my fantasies begin to subside and by day four I discover (with some shock) I’d prefer a cup of dandelion tea, a massage and a long, hot soak in the bath overlooking my own private pond.
Gwinganna is billed as an organic lifestyle retreat. They also say it’ll soothe your soul and inspire you to live a healthier life. There are 10 different retreats set out over two to seven days to choose from; I’ve opted for a five-night Optimum Wellbeing program.
Most days I start with a session of qigong (a form of tai chi) on the sprawling green lawn overlooking the Gold Coast. Then I attend group chanting and primal scream classes. No, no, no…there’s none of that. On the contrary, the morning activities are fairly mainstream – there’s brisk strolls across the property’s 200 hectares, yoga, pilates, boxing, water aerobics and spin classes. Strangely enough though, it’s the daily 11.30am workshops that I begin to look forward to most. Strange because I’d have thought the idea of paying to sit in a room while someone tells me about the things I’m doing wrong in my life sat on about the same level as a six day visit to my dentist. But these soon become my highlight; I learn so much, but not once am I lectured. I discover I’m a shallow breather, that my yang outweighs my yin, that I haven’t digested a single meal since I was a baby, and much more – and it’s not all bad. They’re workshops run by attractive, hip, young nutritionists, doctors and personal trainers who seem to have all been to hell and come out the other side. Thoughts keep spinning round my head. I know that in a few weeks the desire to fix everything in my life will be superseded by the temptations of fun late-night booze sessions and the tasty kebabs served on the way home; but for now, the desire to better myself is far more exhilarating than any naughty temptations in life.
But that’s where the brain strain ends. I switch right off after lunch – that’s when Dreamtime starts, a time for sleeping, slow walks, long baths and spa treatments. There are over 100 treatments at Gwinganna’s spa – from simple massages and facials to Chinese medicine and acupuncture and myofascial cupping.
I should level with you: there are sessions at Gwinganna that allow you to travel back through your life to understand problems you have now. In fact there’s numerous options for people who like things a little cosmic (soul path reading, anyone?). But that’s the true appeal of Gwinganna – this place is like some sort of choose-your-own-adventure; there’s people here who’d much prefer a pedicure or a hair cut. There’s a woman here who thinks I’m an idiot for trying reiki healing, she just comes here for the peace and quiet. Gwin-world is what you want it to be; it’s as cosmic as a month in Nimbin as or mainstream as a family resort, its up to you to decide.
Villas have private plunge pools