Brian and I spent five days at Gwinganna, an upmarket “lifestyle retreat” set in 200 hectares of native bushland high above Australia’s Gold Coast. We stayed in the Billabong Villas.
I was apprehensive about being woken at 5.30 a.m., deprived of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy and gluten (any guest caught smuggling in such items is sent away without a refund), and having only limited access to my iPhone. I had cut down on coffee and tea beforehand in the hope of avoiding withdrawal symptoms but, in common with several of the other 50-odd other guests, I had a mild headache for the first two days. Then I felt well for the rest of the course.
The environment is beautiful, with walking tracks traversing the woodlands and valleys, and two outdoor swimming pools. There are plenty of wallabies and birds, the occasional koala and one sociable peacock.
The morning timetable is intensive, with just a cup of herbal tea at 6 a.m. before the qi gong session held in a field overlooking the sea. Then a choice of activities: an energetic walk, a gentle walk, or a guided tour of the orchards and vegetable gardens. A substantial breakfast at 8 a.m. is followed by a stretch class, then again a choice of activities such as yoga, Pilates or dance. More herbal tea at 11 a.m. and then a talk on nutrition, exercise or managing stress. Lunch at 1 p.m. includes fish or chicken with large salads and sometimes vegetable soup. Afternoons are free to rest, swim, or experience one of the many special therapies. A massage and a facial are included in the price of the retreat, and over 80 other modalities ranging from Reiki to colonic irrigation are available at extra cost. Missing my own animals, I had a session of Equine Assisted Therapy.
Dinner is at 7 p.m. with fish or meat or vegetarian options. After that most people are ready for bed, though on some evenings there are group meditation sessions.
All the staff are passionate about Gwinganna’s approach and most have worked there for many years. Several of the guests are also old hands, attending once or twice each year because they are stressed by high pressure jobs or coping with chronic illness. Brian and I had already been feeling alright before we went there, but we both enjoyed the experience, and returned feeling refreshed and relaxed. Pleased that my body composition analysis showed a normal bone mass and low belly fat, I decided that my usual diet and lifestyle are healthy enough, and do not intend to make any major changes although I feel less desire for coffee and wine. My muscle mass was a bit on the low side so I am back to cold water swimming.