What to expect in a day at Gwinganna
With the prospect of overseas travel far out of sight for travel enthusiasts Kerri and Stirling, 2020 seemed like the best possible time to cast their attention inward and refocus on themselves.
Discover how a typical day at Gwinganna’s Organic Living retreat unfolds, as told by Kerri and Stirling.
How our day unfolded at Gwinganna
We are up and at it early. There’s one thing for certain. We are in tune with the circadian rhythm, the cycle of getting up with the birds and going to sleep with the sun that all programs at Gwinganna are designed around. Mornings are loaded up with activity, giving away to a more gentle run into the evening as our bodies start to wind down.
The day kicks off with some meditative exercise in the form of ancient Qi Gong. Standing out on the grassy field, we watch the sun rise over the mountain and let our bodies and minds relax. Our program director Sharon, who has been practising Qi Gong for over 20 years, leads us on a discovery of intention and attention.
Why are we here this morning? What are we trying to achieve? What are we focussing on? As she takes us through a series of slow, intentional movements, we hand ourselves over to nothing but the sounds of the birds and the feeling of the wind on our face.
As we close our eyes and focus on deep breathing, the mantra of “I’m here to recharge my energy and my life force” repeats over and over in my head. It’s a beautiful way to start the day and perfect for someone like me who finds it difficult to sit still and relax my mind and my body.
We grab a cup of herbal tea and a piece of fruit before heading off onto a walk. Around 15 walking tracks are woven throughout the property here. They offer a chance to explore the rainforest and ancient trees that have lived here for centuries, whilst getting your heart rate up.
Like everything at Gwinganna, there are walks to suit everyone’s level of fitness, mobility or state of mind. Ranging from easy walks that amble over some of the flatter terrains right through to the steep walks that will see you climb up some very steep hills. If you are feeling adventurous, you can grab a guide later in the day and hit the “not so beaten path” through the scrub.
Always up for a challenge, and having been walking 15 kilometres on average every day for months, we were keen to tackle the more energetic walks. Like Brown’s cows, the large group that had joined with us, were climbing the very steep driveway that was once the original point of entry to the retreat.
I don’t think there was a whole lot of looking at the trees and surrounding natural landscape as I focussed on my breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, we came to the Yoga Deck and some magical glimpses through the trees of the Gold Coast.
We backed up the next day with the “Driveway Climb”. The driveway at Gwinganna comes with its own reputation. As you drive it for the first time on your arrival it seems a little arduous, but walking it is a whole other matter.
Our walk started with a long descent – what goes down must come up – until we reached the bottom of the driveway. Guide and trainer Anthony, proudly stated “only the first bit is a pinch, then it flattens out into some undulating sections!”
Anthony, I soon realise, is completely mad (or just very fit). The pinch is definitely that. A sharp incline that has you working your little heart out. The promise of rolling hills doesn’t eventuate and when Anthony says “run” you know you are definitely putting in the big ones. Still, at the top, when Anthony states we have done it 15 minutes faster than a previous group, we know we’ve earned our breakfast.
Returning from our walk, we find a tray of apple cider vinegar portions outside the dining room. Organic, unfiltered and with “the mother”, we take this 15 minutes before eating to aid digestion. There are a few funny faces pulled as guests take the shot glass to their lips and swallow.
A solid morning of exercise makes us more than ready for a healthy breakfast. Fruit and homemade muesli or quinoa porridge is likely to adorn our table. This will be followed by avocado and tomatoes on nut bread, buckwheat crepes or poached eggs.
During breakfast, the Program Director lets us know what is in store for our day. At Gwinganna, timetables and scheduling is kept to an absolute minimum and on a need to know basis.
Even with time-specific events like spa treatments or wellness sessions, guests don’t find out the time until breakfast each day. This stops people like me always being switched on, and allowing guests to be a little more free-flowing.
After breakfast, we have the opportunity to break out into some yin and yang. For approximately two hours, we can let our bodies succumb to the gentler and mindful rituals of yoga and pilates (the yin) or get our heart rate going some more with high-intensity yang sessions.
Even though I know I should head over to give the yin activities a try when the trainers tell us what they are doing in their yang sessions, I’m instantly drawn to them all.
My overworked leg muscles require the stretching sessions each morning. Different trainers run the sessions each day, offering their own insight, experience and training practices. We do weight sessions using our own bodies, stretching with thermabands, boxing, BOSU ball training and deep water running.
By the end of it all, we are completely spent, but as I look around the training room, everyone has a smile on their sweaty face. Everyone is here because they want to be, and everyone has just achieved something, even if it’s just turning up!
Morning tea comes next. It’s a chance to have a quick breather if you’ve been attending all the morning sessions.
Following morning tea, there is a wellness session. The nature of this will depend entirely on the program that you are on. For us, being on the Organic Living program meant we got to hang out with resident food gardener, Shelley Pryor.
Shelley is literally Gwinganna’s ray of sunshine, with a smile that runs from ear to ear and a personality that would make gardening exciting even to those who have never had the desire to grow anything in their life.
Shelley is a Gwinganna long-termer too, having started her working life here as the resident chef. These days, she spends her time working across the four gardens and liaising with the chefs for daily menu planning.
Under the bright sun, we walk with Shelley through her gardens, her pride and joy. From the Gwinganna organic vegetable garden to the chef’s kitchen garden, the herb garden and the orchard, we leave no stone unturned when it comes to improving our knowledge on how to grow our own food.
A delicious lunch is served as everyone gathers in the dining room to discuss the morning’s activities. There’s plenty of homegrown salad items and vegetables on our lunch plate along with a lean protein for us.
This is officially known as “rest time”. Every afternoon at Gwinganna is entirely free to organise as little or as much as you like. It’s the time when guests head to the spa or wellness centre. It’s the time to head back to your room to relax, read or sleep. Or for those with energy still to burn, you can head off on one of the walking tracks yourself, have a swim or hit the gym.
Dinnertime. We look forward to this each night. Usually, it’s because I’m hungry, but it also means I’m not far away from going to bed. Dinner rounds out the day with beautifully cooked, fresh food and a cup of herbal tea, usually made with various items picked from the gardens. It’s the final health component for the day to aid with digestion.
Dining at Gwinganna means you never have to apologise for leaving the table early. There’s no judgement here. Everyone is as exhausted, or relaxed, as the next person, and everyone wants their own space at the end of the day.
Without any screens to watch, we have the evening to relax, reflect, chat and read without a care in the world. Our deep bath provides relief for our weary muscles, as does the plunge pool. With the blinds drawn and only the natural sounds of the bush, we are gently lulled into a deep and welcome sleep.
To gain a deeper insight into Kerri and Stirling’s experience, explore the full article here.