She indicated right and with that single motion turned off the busy highway and pulled on to a rougher road with no markings. Another few kilometers and she would reach her destination, Gaia.
As she drove around the first bend, the most magnificent trees towered over her pearl coloured car to the right. An antique shop appeared seemingly from nowhere to her left on the edge of a tiny town that almost looked out of place; like time had forgotten it. Considering Newrybar was founded in 1881, I suppose in ways it had been. As she continued on, the fauna became more diverse – fig trees, palms, gums –a few scattered frangipanis lined the old wooden fences by the roadside boasting bursts of pink from their creamy centers. Then she was there.
Gaia Retreat and Spa is perched beautifully on the edge of what seems like a hundred rolling hills in all directions flanked by a myriad of plant life, some native, others there for effect. She could smell the change in the air, literally, the scent from the trees was strong and with a deep breath she filled her nose with it. Ahhh, she exhaled. This was the smell of peace.
Tyres squelched on a rocky ground at the top of the steep driveway. She parked the car and took another breath. This was home for the next five nights.
A man named Tim dressed in what looked like the most comfortable brown pants and olive shirt she had ever seen greeted her as she entered the Kukura House. He offered her a seat, some delicious chicken kofta’s and salad with a lemongrass iced tea. It felt good if not a little odd sitting in the dining area at a table by herself looking around at the décor, so perfectly suited for where she was. Natural hues of brown and green made up the bulk of the design with muted whites and black stripes here and there. There were peach coloured curtains adorning the wooden beams and bamboo standing tall in the centre of the space. The restaurant was at the far end of the room, the library, a gift shop and Indian inspired nook closer to the entrance. It was really quite beautiful, like a very fancy version of someone’s expensive home.
It was Tim who showed her to her room when her plate was cleared and check-in process completed. Lucky number 13, a Sura Terrace room entered through a big brown wooden door with intricate detailing. The room was complete with day bed, beautifully striped in the most calming yet energizing colours of maroon, lime green, lemon yellow, black and watermelon.
Next to the daybed was a wrought iron table with two chairs. A hedge and other green plants offered privacy. The bed inside the room was large, perfect for spreading out head to toe and adorned with squishy pillows. Hidden inside the wardrobe was the ‘restore’ section of the room, a little fridge and herbal tea station complimented with a plate of fruit. The bathroom boasted a sunken tub and a view to an outside reading table. There were plenty of options inside the room for reading too; a chair here, one there with a foot rest. She was glad because reading was something she had come here to do.
She had also came here to find herself again. To reconnect to that deep spiritual center of herself and ease the stresses of modern day life. She had come to learn how to enjoy her own company, revel in doing things only for herself and to simply sit back, shut out the outside world and breathe again. The anxiety that had crept up on her like a disease was lurking behind her forehead, her heart and she wanted to push it out. So what better place to come than here?
A few hours, a brief run and bath later she ventured to the Gaia Day Spa for a wellness consultation; a half hour meeting with Naturopath Grace to chat about her goals and treatments for the week. When Grace asked her what she hoped to achieve in these five days the girl had to choke back tears. An overwhelming sense of purpose hit her hard. The walk back to her room was one of raw beauty, an unusual and rare experience in a life as busy as hers. She saw the same palms again that towered over her on the way to the spa, but this time their fronds danced in the breeze, the grass was a little greener and at the exact moment she smiled the heavens opened and sent down the most beautiful sun shower. The cool water on her cheeks, her lips made her smile even harder.
By the time the clocked clicked over to 5pm she had herself a berry and green tea, pen and paper in hand awaiting the talk by Naturopath Grace on stress and nutrition. One and a half hours of realisations as she scribbled notes and drank in the information that seemed so simple. She learned how the digestive and endocrine system is intertwined and connected with the immune system as well. All these questions about her own inner workings seemed to be answered in some small way. Gratitude was what she felt toward the woman with a glowing smile, long slim legs and a mess of beautiful brown hair wearing the female version of Tim’s comfy attire.
At dinner that night she sat by herself at a beautifully set table with three candles and a single white lily. It was a strange feeling sitting down to a three course meal by herself, but at the same time it didn’t feel wrong. Like most other women in the room she grabbed a magazine and flicked through its glossy pages in between the courses – asparagus salad, swordfish, poached peach in jelly – but just sitting staring at the surroundings almost felt more natural.
She put into practice what she had learned that afternoon, chewing 20 times for protein, 10 for carbs and sipped slowly on a glass of bubbles as the sun sank out of sight and the candles flickered brighter.
After dinner and a short wander back to her room dodging cane toads that had positioned themselves on the red brick path, she sunk deep in a warm tub, book in hand and sprinkled the sea salts and rose petals around her. Dark had arrived but instead of feeling homesick she felt empowered.She heard her husband’s words in her head ‘you deserve it, make the most of it’ and so she did.
(chapter 1 in a 6 part series – my time at Gaia by Lahnee Pavlovich)