Detox for beginners at Gwinganna Health Retreat

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



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