My (first) Yoga Retreat

When you’re surrounded by lush rainforest, and the gentle hum of cicadas replaces the buzz of your busy everyday life, it’s pretty hard not to relax.

Add to that you don’t have to even think about what to eat, much less cook anything, because a chef is preparing three nourishing meals for you each day.

Nourishing meals. Image copyright Liana McCluskey 2017.

And then there’s the yoga – the restorative classes and workshops your hosts Kara and Merryl will lead you through in the mornings, in the day time and at night.

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Yoga at dawn. Image copyright Liana McCluskey 2017.

This is My Yoga Retreat – a chance to escape the daily grind, get back to basics and take some time out for yourself with like-minded people.

1. Prepare to be nurtured

Thoughtful touches. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

I first experienced My Yoga Retreat at a time when I was busy trying to juggle work and life, strung out from overthinking and – like many people – simply in need of a rest.

Gymea Eco Retreat – tucked away in a quiet nook of Uki near Wollumbin (Mt Warning) in northern New South Wales – was just the place to do that.

The location was tranquil, but I arrived feeling far from serene and needing all the help I could get to simply slow down.

Lush rainforest surrounds. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

Words cannot express just how nurtured I felt on retreat.

Sometimes when you won’t be gentle with yourself you need to at least accept the warmth of people around you, and that’s exactly what happened.

Great company. Image copyright Liana McCluskey 2017.

Kara and Merryl went to every effort to make their guests feel welcome, relaxed and free to just let go of everything for a few days.

There were little notes on the doors, clear timetables, opportunities to give feedback and even a jar of uplifting ‘thoughts for the day’ in the dining room.

2.   Expect to simplify

Getting back to nature. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

For starters, expect that you won’t need to bring much ‘stuff’ with you on retreat.

Take it from a first-timer who lugged an over-packed cabin bag plus a shoulder bag of ‘just in case’ items up to her room.

You simply do not need to bring many material possessions with you.

Yoga facing Wollumbin (Mt Warning). Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

Instead, expect to simplify.

Expect enriching yoga classes up to three times a day.

Expect the opportunity to take a relaxing dip in the pool or reconnect with nature on a gentle bush walk.

The magnesium pool at Gymea Eco Retreat. Image copyright Liana McCluskey 2017.

Expect the time and space to slowly enjoy a cuppa in peace and quiet, or maybe with new friends you make on retreat.

Expect to eat well, sleep well and get back to the basics of looking after your well-being.

In short, leave all the ‘just in case’ items at home. Bring your yoga gear, a swimsuit, some walking shoes and a journal to write down your thoughts.

3. Gain useful insights

Time to reflect. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

What I took home with me from My Yoga Retreat was a deepened sense of valuing quietness and stillness.

It wasn’t an entirely silent retreat but there was the option to have times of silence.

Beads for each guest. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

We each received a set of wooden beads which we could wear around our neck to signal to the others if we were having quiet time – and some people chose to do just that.

Whether you chose to be in silence or not, the generally slower and more gentle pace of the retreat served as a reminder that we don’t always need the busyness in our lives.

Sure, we can’t always be on retreat, life gets busy and tough times are inevitable.

But what My Yoga Retreat reinforced to me is that there is value in rest and there is wisdom in making the time to slow down, particularly during the busy times.

For more information or to book a retreat, visit

Cover image by Liana McCluskey

Yaddamun Trail – the path less travelled

On the verge of Ipswich suburbia, just a short drive from Brisbane, sits a pocket of true blue Aussie bushland just waiting to be explored and appreciated on foot.

The 19km Yaddamun Trail, situated in the White Rock Spring Mountain Conservation Estate, seems to be a bit of an untouched gem for bushwalkers.

When my walking buddy (and other half) Zac and I checked it out recently, we certainly got the sense we were taking the path less travelled.

It’s common to get the path to yourselves on the 19km Yaddamun Trail. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

We saw plenty of cars in the Paperbark Flats Picnic Area car park when we set out, but didn’t come across any fellow hikers on the trail itself.

This could be because the Yaddamun Trail neighbours the more popular and iconic White Rock hike.

White Rock is popular for a reason – it’s beautiful, it’s a good challenge and, at just 6.5km return, it’s easy to knock over in a few hours.

The humble Yaddamun Trail has plenty going for it, too, and it’s well worth the effort and the time.

The Yaddamun Trail is well worth the effort and the time. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

Here are some reflections to help you out if you plan on attempting it yourself.

1. It’s a long walk

Obviously 19km is not just your average walk in the park.

Even if you keep a cracking walking pace, the Yaddamun Trail will take at least half a day (in fact, the official recommended time is 8 hours).

The Yaddamun Trail is a great opportunity for long-distance walking enthusiasts to stretch their legs. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

The distance is part of what makes this walk so special. It’s not that common to be able to walk for 19km off-road so close to civilisation.

If you do the Yaddamun Trail be sure to plan ahead with the standard food (think high-energy snacks), water (at least 3 litres per person – there’s nowhere to refill) and breathable, sun protective gear.

Mentally prepare yourself too. The Yaddamun Trail doesn’t boast a spectacular lookout or grand turn-around point. It’s almost as though the old saying, ‘it’s about the journey and not the destination’ was written with the Yaddamun Trail in mind.

2. Embrace the sweat and the dirt

The Yaddamun Trail takes you along 19km of fire trails used by the local rural fire brigades. You’ll walk along exposed rock and often go for kilometres at a time without encountering shade.

The Yaddamun Trail traverses 19km of fire trails in the White Rock Spring Mountain Conservation Estate. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

It’s an undulating path and, no matter how fit and experienced you are, it’ll get your heart rate up and you’ll work up a solid sweat.

I say embrace the sweat. With the steamy climate comes the sensory delights of the Australian bush. A few kilometres in, you’ll discover that the song of the cicadas drowns out any sounds of traffic on the suburban fringes.

The reddish dust you kick up off your boots will filter into the crevices of your face and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll kind of enjoy the grubbiness.

Walkers on the Yaddamun Trail are bound to work up a sweat. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

The promise of an afternoon storm will hang in the air and, every now and then, a south-easterly breeze will dry the moisture on your skin. It’s a heady feeling if you allow yourself to embrace all of that.

3. Keep an eye on the signage

There are handy yellow posts with the abbreviation ‘YT’ which pop up quite frequently on the track telling you which direction you should take next.

Signage on the Yaddamun Trail points walkers, horse riders and cyclists in the right direction. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

As the path continues, some of the YT posts tell you how many kilometres you’ve walked. The kilometres marked didn’t match up with the mileage on our GPS watch but the posts still served as good guides.

We discovered when we reached the 9.5km marker – the logical turnaround point because it marks half of a 19km round trip – that there was nothing to tell us we should turn around.

There is no distinct halfway point on the Yaddamun Trail, but 9.5km is a logical spot to turn around. Image copyright Susie Cunningham, 2017.

In fact, there was a yellow ‘YT’ post with an arrow signalling we could continue along the path. We wandered a little further – until we’d walked about 11km – but there was no official end in sight and we didn’t have much extra time to explore further along the path. It would be interesting to see how and where the path ends.

4. Keep it pristine

I was impressed that we didn’t come across any rubbish on the track. We didn’t spot so much as a single beer can. Instead, we found little treasures along the way.

Natural treasures abound on the Yaddamun Trail. Image copyright Susie Cunningham, 2017.

We spotted a white and yellow cockatoo feather, an intricately woven nest, a big old gate, some impressive ant mounds and even an official Geocache capsule put there by Scouts Australia.

There are plenty of cool things to discover on the Yaddamun Trail. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

We also took note of a few signs along the way reminding us that the Yaddamun Trail is a bushland reserve and a conservation estate and requesting visitors take their rubbish with them and leave their pets at home.

The Yaddamun Trail is a bushland reserve set aside to preserve native flora and fauna. Image copyright Susie Cunningham 2017.

It was so heartening to see people respecting this little bush haven enough to follow those rules. My hope is that, as the popularity of the Yaddamun Trail grows, people will continue this great habit of cleaning up after themselves.

In conclusion

The Yaddamun Trail isn’t a walk to a brilliant lookout with sweeping vistas. Sure, you’ll catch glimpses of Ipswich, Brisbane City and Moreton Bay. But on a walk like this one, the views aren’t the point.

The Yaddamun Trail is about the journey and not the destination. Image copyright Susie Cunningham, 2017.

The Yaddamun Trail is a walk for the pure enjoyment of walking. It’s about getting in to a rhythm and keeping at it for hours until you reach the end and relax into a state of satisfied exhaustion.

The most amazing thing about it all is that there is a walk as long and as pristine as this so close to the heart of Ipswich. To find out more, visit the City of Ipswich website.

*All images copyright Susie Cunningham 2017

Welcome to what Susie saw – there is so much to discover

Welcome to what Susie saw. There are endless opportunities for us to experience delight. An early morning walk in our own neighbourhood. Eating local produce. Shopping locally to support the little guy. Trying out a new bush walk. Volunteering with a local club. Attending a community event. I created the blog what Susie saw as a platform to celebrate and share some of those delights and, in turn, to encourage others to get out there and enjoy the little things in life.