The seemingly endless, steep driveway mentally prepares you to escape into another world. In fact, you are advised to leave your baggage (emotional, that is) at the large sliding gate at its summit. I’ve only driven 40 minutes from home, yet I feel hours away. As I mingle at the welcome afternoon tea, I notice that apart from a couple of other Gold Coasters, guests seemed to be mostly from Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand. Many singles, a few couples and refreshingly, some family groups. Some come for health and fitness, others for healing, some to strengthen relationship bonds but in fact the reasons are as many as the people there – and this weekend is full-house at Gwinganna Health Resort.

This is not my first visit, I confess I am a recidivist – I don’t intentionally go out and reoffend, it is just the craziness of the highly competitive, tech-saturated, fast-paced outside world that causes me to stray. Gwinganna gets me straightened out, from the exquisite, picked-fresh, organic food, to the multitude of available health and wellness activities packed into each visit. I love the fact that technology, smuggled-in chocolate and alcohol and newspapers are contraband except in emergencies (and I don’t mean an alcohol emergency). It’s one less decision I have to make, I can’t check on home, answer a family or friend request, this time is for me.

Each return visit has been with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I want it to be as life-changing as it was the first time. I anxiously look for consistency, that breathtaking surprise when I enter my room to find luxury rather than adequate. However, I secretly hope for something inspiring, something new that will widen my world and in turn who I am. That has always been my experience and this time did not disappoint.

I have been assigned the Lychee Orchard Suite and as I have zero sense of navigation I follow the cobbled, bush path carefully focussing on landmarks. The silence of Tallebudgera Valley is deafening at first, then the sounds of the Australian bush work their way into my consciousness. Four or five wallabies flank my path and stop their foraging to ascertain my threat level, they are so close I could touch them. Two magpies stop their squabbling over a plump seed to do the same, but as I move slowly towards my villa they soon ignore me and get on with their business. The native Australian birds clearly claim Gwinganna as their own and they constantly add a narrative to your journey there. Later that day in the spa my therapist whispers Ayurveydic chants as she performs her aromatic ritual, but it is the whip bird outside, constantly calling to me for the 80 minutes of my treatment that sooths my soul. In my deep-water running class, small brilliantly-coloured birds mischievously bomb dive between us showing off their skills and excitement to mock our hard workouts.

Gwinganna is not a place of ‘halves’, or ‘nearly theres’. Every dish is laden with exotic herbs and greens that are now on my grocery list for life, every mouthful a delight to everyone at the table. Meals are a sensual time of enthusiatic groans and murmers, the men amongst us especially delighted at some alternate dishes they may not have willingly ordered had they the choice. The mornings are filled with Bosu and boxing, yoga, drumming and bush walks, you create your own journey. In the spa, which is the Dreamtime prescribed each afternoon, massage oils are warmed, pink desert sands softly sprinked and silky clays applied with long strokes that finish at the tips of the fingers and toes. Each treatment is skillfully executed and we all willingly succumb then report back at the evening meal. “They really have it mastered here, don’t they?” someone offers enthusiastically, we all agree as we sip on our 100mls of organic wine and anticipate the first tantalising dish.

So, what was my intent for this weekend? Let’s just say, I left feeling slimmer, lighter, cleansed inside, skin buffed and muscles and nerves soothed. My mind is clear and relaxed and I’m yet again inspired to live a better life and be a better me. Thank you Gwinganna, you never disappoint.

By Nicole Tujague

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