You might have heard the saying: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”. What codswallop, I thought, as Cara Larter administered the best Swedish massage I’ve had (I’ve had many).
My body learned a fair bit about itself under her strong, intuitive hands. I often fall asleep during a long massage but I was trying to pay attention as knots and niggles were expertly released.
The same could be said for Mbali, Zinzi, Sarah or any of the therapists at Brookdale Health Hydro, just outside Nottingham Road village, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
It’s not just the therapies that are taught. The lecture room is a busy place. Brookdale’s concepts and systems are holistic, balanced, integrated, well-researched and most effective - or so my detox headache informed me. Happily, it was mild and intermittent, and soon cleared as plenty of water, treatments, a couple of aquacise classes and brisk walks took effect. Chef Juliet Stephenson’s wholesome, delicious food also helped.
I imagine many are apprehensive before visiting. Will they survive on the odd lettuce leaf and clear consommé? Trust me, it’s not like that. Yes, there’s no caffeine or alcohol and if you need to smoke or make a cellphone call, you will have to traipse off to the rose garden round back.
Not a bad spot by any means, with views over the brook of cherry trees and hillside.
You won’t go hungry though - and the food is delicious. Juliet has produced two successful cookbooks but I was thrilled to attend her cooking demonstration in the unusually simple kitchen, especially when I found that the food prepared was not in either book. Actually, no cooking took place (apart from the toasting of nuts), but the “carrot cake” was as good as any from an oven - a baked version a little later served as a comparison.
Bathtubs out back, repurposed during the recent bathroom refurbishments and now full of herbs and veggies, are evidence of Juliet’s recycling knack.
The popular day spa has been considerably enhanced with the addition of a conservatory - a great place to keep warm on draughty days, considering guests are almost always in robes.
My mother weaned me on the dietary advice of Adelle Davis, who preached the benefits of whole grains and breads, fresh vegetables, vitamin supplements, limits on sugar, and avoidance of packaged and processed foods in the 1950s and 1960s. Those tenets have developed considerably since, I learnt while attending talks by owner Wendy Somers-Cox and dietitians Caryn Davies and Tanya March - a real eye opener on gut health.
All the best places I’ve visited are run by involved owners who lead by example. Dynamo Wendy is one such owner, imbuing consistency, quality, energy, confidence and other qualities on staff and guests alike.
Almost all of the staff live on the property and it’s a highly skilled, drilled and motivated team with a purpose: your wellness. The high percentage of long-termers, or returning staff, is a recommendation in itself.
You choose how much you engage but I suggest falling in step to get the most out of your stay.
Answer the wake-up knock - with a pot of Rooibos tea at your door and take advantage of the fact that all of the packages, apart from specific therapies or activities, include morning walks and aquacise, guided relaxation, yoga, Pilates classes and Clarins demos.
The gym is open to all, the indoor heated pool (there’s an outdoor pool too) is open until 9pm, with Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room alongside.
There’s time to relax on a lounger, wind along the reflexology path, navigate the labyrinth or meander alongside the brook and in the forest. There is a wi-fi hotspot and DStv, whether you’re in a standard room or luxury suite, though my TV stayed off.
I’m as much a fan as guests who keep coming back and urge you to explore Brookdale’s discounted packages in celebration of its 25th anniversary. October’s three-night Culinary Getaway would be one recommendation, the Gut Rehab week another.