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Review of the Wellness Week in September 2012


In September 2012, Pinetrees hosted 35 guests for our inaugural Spring Wellness Week. We offered a daily program of yoga, fitness, spa treatments, wholefood cooking classes, organic gardening classes and organic wine tastings, as well as our ‘normal’ repertoire of swimming, snorkelling, diving, surfing, kayaking, walking, golf, biking and mountain climbing. With three gourmet ‘wholefood’ (well, mostly) meals every day and a complete disconnect from the outside world, our guests experienced a week of wellness and rejuvenation unlike any other.

Each day started at 7am with a yoga class taught by Charlotte Dodson. Charlotte is one of Australia’s most recognised and respected yoga teachers, and we were lucky to entice her away from her regular client list of Miranda Kerr, Lara Bingle, Kit Willow, Leah Wood, Phoebe Tonkin and Sally Singleton to name a few. Our guests were rewarded with Charlotte’s knowledge, enthusiasm and generosity. Her new ‘yoga web TV’ is worth a look!

Yoga on the boatshed deck - Lord Howe IslandCharlotte Dodson teaching head stands - Lord Howe Island

After yoga, guests enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of fruit, cereal, yoghurt, fresh juice, and hot ‘wholefood’ breakfast options such as poached eggs on sprouted spelt bread with mushrooms, spinach and hazelnut, quinoa and asparagus frittata with rocket pesto, and smoked salmon, asparagus & caramelised onion tortilla with herb yoghurt. Most guests soon decided that there was a difference between ‘weight loss’ and ‘wellness’, and many took a ‘wellness through moderation’ approach to the week. After all, 6 hours of activity each day requires an appropriate intake of calories.

Natasha Krupitza was busy in our new day spa from her first appointment on Monday morning. She used LI’TYA products for her massages and ASPECT products for her facials – both are considered luxury eco products. Some guests had multiple visits and our visiting journalist said that Tash’s massage was one of the best she had ever had. Other guests were equally positive.

The mornings were mostly fee time and guests explored the island by bike, foot, kayak and boat. Despite the persistent southwest wind, everyone soon discovered the beauty of Neds, Middle and Blinky for a morning swim. Some were seen lying in the sun with a book, which of course fits well with the concept of ‘wellness through moderation’.

It’s a good thing some guests relaxed in the morning because they soon needed the energy to complete the daily fitness class with Jim McFadyen and Bryan Jackson. Both were trainers of the elite NSW Tactical Response Group and Bryan is still the Seargent-in-charge. Part physical and part mental, each fitness session was shrouded in mystery until the first apparatus appeared. Over the week, guests hauled logs up Transit Hill, carried water buckets up the Middle Beach stairs, dragged tyres through the sand at Neds and explored the weight range of various Lord Howe rocks and boulders. There was swimming, running, a game of flags (remember those bits of hose when you did nippers?) and commando crawling through the tidal zone. It’s fair to say some guests didn’t have as much fun during the classes as they did during, say, the wine tastings, but they certainly felt good afterwards – and that’s the point! They also earned some serious respect from guests and staff, and each day we knew who had completed the fitness class – they had a swagger of confidence.

Bootcamp got creative - Lord Howe IslandStair climbing - Lord Howe IslandWhy lift weights? - Lord Howe IslandPuch ups in soft sand - Lord Howe Island

By 12.30pm, guests were feeling a bit peckish. Some chose to have BBQs and picnics at various spots on the island (and yes, some enjoyed a glass of wine with their BBQ kingfish), while others sat in the sun at Pinetrees and enjoyed a buffet of homemade bread, fresh salads and cold cuts, along with daily offerings from our chefs such as vegetable curry with brown rice and coconut sambal, grilled Lord Howe Island kingfish with green beans, semi-dried tomato and olive tapenade, and smoked chicken and cous cous salad with harissa yoghurt.

After lunch, the wellness theme continued with organic food gardening classes at Luke and Dani’s house. Luke Hanson is a former United Nations agricultural ecologist and avid organic gardener. Over the week, guests learned about garden design, soil improvement, composting, plant varieties and selection, successional planting, and organic pest and disease control. At the end of each class, guests took some detailed notes to help with their gardening at home – here's an example . Some days we returned to Pinetrees with produce from the garden – that rocket pesto was good on the breakfast frittata!

Organic gardening class - Lord Howe IslandGrow a garden like this - Lord Howe Island

It was normally a quick transition from gardening class with a cup of tea in the sun to cooking class in a busy commercial kitchen. Luckily, our chefs, led by Paul Brown, eased into the class with a quick demonstration of the day’s afternoon tea - being a ‘wellness week’, the sugar, flour and chocolate were replaced by yoghurt, almond meal and goji berries. Paul has spent 20 years working at the top of Australian cooking with chefs such as Neil Perry, Tony Bilson and Peter Kuruvita, but he has also worked as a personal chef to elite athletes and families with strict dietary requirements, so his knowledge of ‘wholefood’ is exceptional. Each cooking class demonstrated techniques and tricks that guests could use at home, and provided some insight into food groups and the concept of a balanced diet. Of course, guests got to taste everything he prepared – “learning by doing” is the expression that best describes Paul’s classes. We do have a confession to make. The last cooking class was hijacked by a dominant group of inner-west mums, and Paul was soon making chocolate soufflé, chocolate mousse and ice cream gateaux. Despite being a ‘wholefood’ cooking class, there were no complaints from other guests!

Wholefood cooking class - Lord Howe IslandChef Paul Brown - Lord Howe Island

Charlotte was initially horrified that guests in her sunset yoga class had only just finished a mid-afternoon wholefood degustation tasting, but she soon embraced the ‘wellness through moderation’ mantra and took guests through some dynamic yoga each afternoon – presumably to help burn calories. I always thought that yoga was a peaceful, relaxing and serene activity, but judging by the grunts and groans of the guests (yes, the noisy ones were the guys), it looked like hard work. Not for Charlotte though – her yoga practice is amazing (see below) and she soon had novice students looking straight and composed.

Charlotte Dodson at Lovers Bay - Lord Howe IslandHeadstand at Lovers Bay - Lord Howe IslandYoga on Blinky Beach - Lord Howe IslandA perfect setting - Lord Howe Island

Yoga finished each day in time for sunset drinks on the boatshed deck. Some guests drank mineral water with a wedge of lime, but most enjoyed a crisp white wine or cold beer. It’s not often you get to watch the sunset over water with a group of new like-minded friends, so the evenings were mostly festive - particularly on the three nights when we tasted a variety of organic and biodynamic wines. The bad old days of ‘grape juice’ organic wine are well and truly behind us, and after some research we sourced some very good organic and biodynamic wines from Henschke, Tamburlaine, Gemtree, Lark Hill and Battle of Bosworth. Each winery had at least two exceptional wines, and of the 15 wines we tasted, only one was considered by our guests as ‘not very good’. It was a great learning experience, and most guests will be looking for organic wines when they’re in the market for something new or ‘healthier’.

Dinner each night was a four course affair, although those guests exercising restraint could limit themselves to one course such as pumpkin, spinach and ricotta rotolo with parmesan butter, grilled polenta with asparagus purée, stuffed zucchini flowers, and chive béarnaise, broad bean and Jerusalem artichoke tagine with labna and preserved lemon, and Lord Howe Island kingfish en papilotte with jasmine rice, green curry, and Asian greens.

All up, the week’s activities (and down-time) helped rejuvenate mind, body and soul, and guests learned a range of new skills to help continue a healthier lifestyle at home. It seems we struck the right balance between physical exercise, mental stimulation, social interaction and, well, some of life’s more enjoyable treats. The ‘wellness through moderation’ idea evolved among the guests and stuck. We were ready to swing towards hardcore low calorie cooking if required, but after a few days, guests were enthusiastic about the balance. On the final night, one of the week’s most devoted organic gardeners, cooks and wine tasters read a poem about his experience at Pinetrees to a packed dining room. I couldn’t help but think that the week had been a success when a ‘reluctant wellness husband’ found his inner Banjo Patterson. It’s one of the best poems we’ve received and worthy of sharing:

The “Wellbeing” of Lord Howe Island Pinetrees - by Stephen Knightly

A trip she just booked, to a place called Lord Howe.
My wife says it’s a wellness week – oh goody, oh wow!
We’ll finish trim, taut, terrific and go home real lean.
It’s the wholefood, organic and yoga, though boot camp sounds mean.

Just a quick flight over and we settle in with ease.
So friendly and helpful they are, our crew at Pinetrees.
Smiling hello, they pass me wine to drink.
Wine in the afternoon, wellness maybe okay, I think.

But what is it really, Denise has booked me in for.
Should I knuckle under, or head for the door.
I see looks of trepidation and fear in all eyes.
As most of us are yearning for cold beer and fat pies.

Wholefood sounds scary, but I learn it’s done my way.
We kick off with muffins, and scones, already I’m astray.
Dinner is meat, cheese, cake, more wine and lots of good stuff.
Ah!! Wholefood’s an abbreviation – a whole lotta food, don’t do it tough.

It’s cold beer and fine wine of what I do choose.
Guess I’ll have to go home before the weight I will lose.
And now off to cooking and gardening doing a fun filled class.
Will finish off with yoga – bend and stretch, oh look I can see my a… (bottom!).

Lord Howe is tranquillity, peace, beauty and bliss.
Wellness is everywhere in such a fantastic place like this.
Basically what we had is a bloody good time.
So to you all I say – visit Pinetrees, they’ll do you just fine.

Our holiday closes, I have ridden, walked and swum.
Spiritually I’ve grown and so has my tum.
So now I am packed and on my way home.
Too full to move at the moment, might write this poem.

Thanks Stephen, Denise and all wellness week guests for having such a great time! We hope to see you again next year.

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