Gaia Retreat and Spa is Olivia Newton-John’s place. 20 chalet style rooms from standard to executive suites and a major focus on wellness. And for the record, I have it on very good authority that all these rumours about her ex showing up? Rubbish.
I flew into Ballina from Sydney, picked up a car at the airport and proceeded to head north toward Byron Bay. Inconveniently the signs coming out of the airport direct you either left to Ballina or right to Tweed Heads. Nothing said Byron Bay and nothing said north. I chose left because that was only 2kms away – and as per usual, got it wrong. But at least I found someone within 10 minutes who could put me right.
The next navigational trick is to know that Gaia is in a tiny farmlet community near Bangalow and is a sudden left off the motorway before you get to Byron Bay. If you get to Byron Bay you’ve gone too far. I went too far.
Feeling like MaGoo I phoned Gregg Cave – Gaia’s other co-owner and Olivia’s bosom buddy who pretty much grew up with her – and he gave me directions back. Arriving exhausted, frazzled and in need of Nurofen, I was also clearly in need of some of the relaxing tonic this place is renown for. And man, did they deliver.
First I had the healthy organic lunch platter that was on the menu for today. A selection of delicious hummus, beetroot spread and something else the hippies in these parts live on. Accompanied by wholemeal pita bread and a salad grown in the garden. No wine allowed at lunch time, but organic wine is on the menu for dinner.
People come here to detox, relax, retreat and can embrace the nutritional lessons, yoga, meditation, spa treatments and eating plans – or not. Only smoking is not allowed on site.
I was in a semi embracing state of mind now that the headache had gone, so after lunch I toured the property with its sweeping views over the Byron shire (such a quaint name) and cosied up on a day bed in the sun before joining a bunch of fellow detoxers for an organic cooking lesson with chef Todd Cameron. Very delicious is a statement he uses often and very delicious was the macadamia nut satay sauce he prepared – and which I have already practiced at home with prawns. (If you want the recipe, just make a comment below and I’ll post it up – this blog is getting mighty long and I haven’t got to the incredible spa yet…)
There are 35 spa therapists and I’m not going to lie, I experienced the best treatment in my life here. These guys (and girls) are not only masseurs but “healers”, Gregg told me. A treatment here is an holistic experience and I tried their signature Body Polish and Massage.
I was quite unprepared for the steam room and water experience. I lay on the bed in a room with showers and a sarong for modesty, then the room filled with steam. (I kept peeping from under my eye mask until the room was white-out and my skin was wringing.) Tamara, my healer, then weaved her way in to start the exfoliation. I had chosen the wattle seed scrub made from seeds picked on the property, mixed with lemon myrtle and oils whereupon she scrubbed all my dead skin cells off and I was left to marinate for another ten minutes while the room turned white again.
In she came this time dressed in a lycra/swimsuit dress and with a hand-held shower, massaged the seeds off and worked the oils into my skin. It was truly sublime and I almost wished I could be bed-ridden for life if this was what bathtime was like! But the hour-long kahuna massage that followed with long, relaxing Hawaiian strokes tipped me into nirvana.
It was 6pm by the time I staggered out for a wine and a chat with Gregg then drove the ten minutes to Byron at Byron (you can read that review here).
For the full comprehensive guide to Aussie, check out Australia.com.