Six hours before I head to Billabong Retreat, I accidentally smash my iphone on the unforgiving concrete platform at Clovelly beach.after 10 seconds of therapeutic swearing, I decide to take this as a sign, book my device into an Apple store for repair and leave it there, banished, for the weekend. It’s not as if the staff at the yoga retreat, an eco resort in Maraylya near the Hawkesbury River, about an hour’s drive from Sydney CBD, exactly encourage the use of phones anyway. Pre-arrival notes tell you devices aren’t allowed in public areas, there’s no Wi-fi, alcohol is “strongly discouraged”, and if you want to smoke you’ll be doing it in the car park.but that’s about as bossy as it gets (read:not very,compared with other, more hardcore detox retreats). Everything here is gentle and nourishing, from the yoga classes (the instructors are very experienced, but the skill level is fine for beginners), to the magnesium aqua-therapy outdoor swimming pool, to the seasonal vegetarian comfort food. And rest assured, no one will bang on your cabin door to make sure you’re at 7am yoga, although given that your evenings will likely consist of a relaxing stroll by the billabong (yes, there is an actual billabong, scattered with picturesque lotus flowers, no less) followed by an outdoor bath in the tub on your deck, getting up for some easy flow in the morning won’t be a problem.
The days here follow a reassuring rhythm: morning yoga, followed by breakfast (think chia porridge or frittata and, yes, coffee if you want), and a themed workshop starting at 9am (in my case it was mindfulness). At 11am there’s personal time (now’s the moment to swim in the pool, get a facial or massage at the spa, or read in the relaxation hut by the billabong), followed by lunch (vegetable bake and delicious salads), more yoga at 3.30pm (only if you want to), dinner at 6pm (ratatouille and a salad with avocado and mint dressing), and then either meditation or a movie at 7.30pm. I am living proof that once you follow two days of this schedule you won’t know yourself. And you certainly won’t care about your smartphone. – Clare Maclean
An outdoor bath in a Deluxe Cabin. Above right: breakfast.
The verandah at Billabong Retreat. Left: a Deluxe Cabin.
Treetop Yoga Room.