I always feel like I can breath deeper and more easily the further away from the city I get. And heading towards Yarck over the weekend was absolutely no exception.
We arrived just before dinner on the Friday night, being greeted at the Andana Executive Country Retreat (thank you very much!) at the car by Adrian of Take Shape Adventures. He very quickly offered to carry our bags for us, which set up the tone for the weekend. We really were treated like royalty for the entire weekend - a nice break for busy mums and women to have!
As we walked passed the main entertaining area of the lodge, amazing aromas wafted towards us. The entire, freshly prepared and healthy menu was cooked by Tracey for the whole weekend. Dinner on the Friday night was Bipimbap, a fun little rainbow in a bowl that was as incredibly satisfying on the belly as it was the eyes!
As we enjoyed the first meal together, meet and greet began to happen. What an amazing group of women! We would soon get to know the strength and determination that all members of the group possessed and I feel a better person for having met them all. From so many different walks of life, we were brought together to experience this amazing weekend together.
A very 'brief' getting to know you game ensued as we relaxed on the couches after dinner. It was here that hilarious and awkward experiences were shared - particularly the question about wearing men's underwear!!
Thankfully, Sarah took us into the blissfully calm side room for some relaxing Yin yoga. What a lovely introduction to the yoga component of the weekend. Gentle stretching poses melted away the day and the meditation at the end really helped set the tone for the weekend.
We awoke to an amazing sunrise view warmly making its way across the hills outside our window. The gentle bird calls waking up the day followed us as we made our way across the paddock to the Great Victorian Rail Trail. It was here that we learnt what Tracey meant the night before when she told us of the 'game' Run Rabbit!
Run Rabbit really taught us to push our limits by either walking, jogging or running our way along the Rail Trail back towards Yea for 25 minutes. The beauty of Run Rabbit is that it doesn't matter how fast you travel, because at 25 minutes, you turn around and make your way back to the start point. Everyone finishes together! Tracey encouraged everyone to have a go at running, even if you had never run before. The sense of achievement and wonder at what our bodies are truly capable of was evident on each and every smiling, slightly red-cheeked and slightly out-of-breath face as each lady made her way to the finishing point. And all before breakfast!
Of course, breakfast was another lovingly prepared meal of bacon and eggs with a super tasty Greek-inspired salad. The sun gently warmed us as we shared the meal together outside on the expansive front veranda with views of the green, rolling hills laid out before us.
After breakfast, we made our way out to the soft, green grass of the front lawn for a strength-based yoga session. Much more physically demanding than the night before, Sarah encouraged us to try many different poses. We all surprised ourselves with what we could get our bodies to do! I felt a bit like a human pretzel at times, but I loved that with a bit of direction, I could complete many poses that I really didn't believe that I could.
After a refreshing morning tea, we were split into teams of three-four for a team building activity. Written by Adrian (it is important to note here, that Adrian was actually not present for this, as he was off on another walk), parts of the scavenger hunt were equally as hilarious as they were challenging! We all got to giggle as we climbed round hay bales, tried out our yoga poses, ran around the property and tested our general nutrition knowledge. This was a rather interesting way to get to know the other ladies!
Yes, we found ourselves eating again after this activity. A beautifully prepared lunch of salad and homemade sausage rolls satisfied our tummies. Tracey took us through a nutrition goal setting chat after lunch, where we were challenged to think of our top three 'hurdles' as far as our daily nutrition goes, and how we are going to change those. We were then allowed some down time to reflect on the day so far (or shower, or Nanna Nap as the case may be :-/ )
After this, we were invited into the kitchen to help prepare some overnight oats, which would be our breakfast in the morning. In true Tracey fashion, we were educated on the nutritional components of our meal, learning that some of the 'healthier' options are still very calorific and that portion sizes are incredibly important.
Phew! Talk about a workout for the body and the mind. By this stage, it was only 5pm on the Saturday!
Thankfully, the next part of the day was another yoga session with Sarah, this time back in the side room. More stretching than strength, but more movement than Yin, this yoga session was just what I needed after the day we'd had! However, this yoga session was cut short to allow us to enjoy the majesty of the pink and purple sunset that was on display for us out at the glowing fire pit. A beautiful glass of wine was shared as we unwound from the day and enjoyed the natural show in the sky.
Dinner was a succulent, slow-cooked lamb and lentil stew, served with baked, stuffed pumpkin and a variety of salad. It was at this moment that I thought I'd be waddling out of the weekend! Talk about amazing food. Tracey very clearly enjoys cooking, is very good at it and is a natural entertainer.
Luckily a few glasses of wine where shared over dinner, as we had a more intense and more personal getting to know you activity around the campfire after dinner. Many, many laughs and some tears, we really were given the chance to cement new and old friendships around the 'bush TV'.
Another, albeit slightly chillier, beautiful morning greeted us as we slowly made our way into Sunday. A relaxed breakfast of our overnight oats was enjoyed before we had our last yoga session of the weekend.
As much as it would have been nice to just stay in the meditation for the rest of the day, we still had our hike ahead of us. Cars were quickly packed and soon we were saying goodbye to Andana as we made our way to the Fraser Park section of Lake Eildon.
Our hike began on sealed tracks around Stockyard Bay and everyone was chatting away and enjoying the fresh air and 'serenity' (I had to go there!) However, we were chatting so much that we all overshot the Merlo Lookout Track and had to double back on ourselves to get back on track. It wasn't long before were were all making the climb up to the Merlo Lookout - a 400m rise over 3km (read: steep AF) left us all breathing very heavily with burning calf muscles.
But, what a sense of achievement! The look of absolute pride on everyone's faces as they reached the lookout was just priceless. Smiles of pure joy were captured in many, many selfies and even a few normal photos. Tracey to the rescue again, with a fuel stop of fresh fruit, bliss balls and a slice. Refueled and ready to go, we continued on with our hike, enjoying the many sights and sounds that only Lake Eildon can provide (thankfully, our little section did not seem to have any boats on it).
Before we knew it, the 9km was over as we trekked up the track to the cars. Once everyone was back, Tracey led us through a mindfulness practice, which gave us the chance to reflect on our amazing weekend together. Truly, I couldn't have asked for a better bunch to spend the weekend with.
After a delicious lunch of wraps with three different salads, we all bid our fond farewells and left the weekend behind as we made our way home.
I'd love to give an extra special shout out to Abbey, Kerryn and Jules for taking the chance on a weekend away. You were taken out of your comfort zones many times over the weekend and you all met it head on and with grace. I am just so humbled by the strong women that you are and I am forever grateful that we got to share this experience together.
Also, a big thank you to the other amazing ladies that we go to meet over the weekend.
To Tracey, Sarah and Adrian. You are amazing people doing amazing things and I hope more and more people get the pleasure of experiencing what you have to offer!