At stunning Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, we explore the “womb of Springbrook” and enjoy two days of uninterrupted mother-daughter time.
Words KATE DUNCAN
We’re lying in a hammock strung over a bubbling brook of pure, crystal-clear mountain water. Without pause, the water flows underneath us, streaming down from the Tweed Valley. Around us, saplings shimmer in the sunlight, striving to reach the canopy of thick rainforest trees above. Autumnal oranges, reds and greens blur into one colour as we swing together in the breeze. Blue sky peeks through the leaves and we laugh as the birds sing melodies over the creek’s gushing stream.
I turn to look at my mum and grab hold of her hand. Her fingers are cold, but they warm up quickly as we sway in our hammock, cocooned together like butterflies. In unison, we take a breath of clean, fresh rainforest air and smile at each other.
Before I continue sharing the experience of Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, nestled in northern New South Wales between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast Hinterland, I have to introduce you to my mum.
Ever since I can remember, Mum has woken up at 4.30am to do a few hours of marking before work. She’s an extremely devoted high school teacher as well as the head of science and a mentor. Her dedication to education makes Mum popular among students and parents. She’s passionate, engaging and offers education at an exceptional standard.
Mum teaches with the same passion and vivaciousness she had when she started more than 30 years ago. Since then, she has given so much energy and focus to others, not to mention countless hours of her life. Mum’s unwavering dedication is not just towards her students; she also gives herself fully to my dad, my brother and me. More than anyone else I know, Mum needs a retreat. She needs to relax and take a moment of pause. I knew the perfect place: Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat.
We arrive at the retreat one sunny Thursday afternoon after driving an hour north from Byron Bay. We’re both excited to be spending two full days together and, in the car, we start to untangle some knots we have accumulated from work and life. The healing has already begun.
As we walk towards the entrance, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat’s general manager Mark van Renen meets us at the door. He welcomes us to the “womb of Springbrook” (the lodge we’re residing in is aptly named after this) and shows us around.
Across 100 hectares of rainforest, 13 superbly designed bungalows sit bordered by three World Heritage-Listed national parks, one of them being Springbrook National Park. As we open the door to our architect-designed open-plan private bungalow, mindfully placing our feet on the recycled French oak floorboards, Mum and I squeal in delight; never have we stayed somewhere so exquisite.
Floor-to-ceiling windows cover the whole front side of the sustainably minded cottage, offering spectacular views of the towering mountains outside. A double- sided fireplace crackles away as we cosy up on the couch wearing matching white robes and slippers. A huge marble bath sits in the corner and, naturally, has to be enjoyed with chocolates and a glass of Moët champagne. Then dinner is served: a delicious vegetarian red curry with haloumi and soba noodles and chocolate cheesecake for dessert.
After a night of sharing deep conversations and admiring our surroundings, we climb into the spacious king-sized bed and fall asleep, watching the moon rise over the mountains.
As we crack our eyelids open the next day, we’re greeted with a magnificent sight through the skylight above our bed: the clouds, lit by the sun, move fast across the sky. We lie in bed for hours, chatting, reading and drinking freshly brewed coffee — simply soaking up the feeling of doing nothing, but doing it together.
Our only task for the morning? A massage each.
Around mid-morning our masseuse arrives and we take turns enjoying an hour-long massage. Afterwards, Mum shares that she feels the most relaxed she has been all year and with that comes clarity around ways to ease her workload. This is music to my ears.
In the afternoon, we pick up our picnic basket from the chef and find gourmet salmon sandwiches, fresh fruit, juice and chocolate. We add these to our backpacks and set off on a rainforest hike.
Mum, being a biology teacher, is amazed by the fern-lined gullies, giant strangler figs and 400-year-old trees, and I am amazed by her. As we hike, I listen to Mum share her knowledge on the different types of trees, mosses and fungi found in the rainforest. I listen intently; her dedication to learning is infectious.
When we return to our bungalow, we find dinner in the fridge: a gourmet seafood hamper with salmon, prawns, salad and a delicious dessert. After indulging in another gorgeous bath each, we fall into bed observing the starry night sky and feeling protected within the womb of Springbrook.
Before closing my eyes, I look over at Mum. She’s the most selfless and dedicated person I know, yet here she is, dedicating quality, wholesome time to herself. I will forever be in debt to her; she has shown me how to live a life of deep intention and devotion. With that thought, I fall asleep feeling even more connected to the woman who grew me within her womb so many moons ago.
Kate Duncan, the assistant editor of WellBeing, was a guest of Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat.