It’s every writer’s fantasy: while slaving over mind-numbing data entry a few weeks ago an email from my editor arrived, inviting me to do a feature on the operator of a luxury day spa centre at Flaxton. “To get the inside story, you’ll have to have a massage. And possibly a facial. And you’ll need to take your bathers to go into the pool,” he instructs. Thus, ladies and gentlemen, may I illustrate the numerous perks of writing for the Hinterland Times (another of which is that Faith makes great coffee). I’d met Sue Broughton about a year ago at a Montville Chamber of Commerce function, where she had described her enterprise, Casa Di Natura at Ensbey Road in Flaxton. “Come and visit,” she’d urged. “We have lots of fun!” A spa that’s fun? It sounded intriguing.
Fast forward a year and I’ve found my way down, down the hill, amongst towering gum trees, almost to the bottom of Ensbey Road. The 8-acre property borders rich green virgin rainforest, and includes a waterfall and rockpool formed by one of the many tributaries travelling west to join Obi Obi Creek. Landscaped gardens guide visitors from the top of the concrete driveway down to the spa nestled at the bottom of the hill. The peace and quiet combined with the world-class natural surroundings and beautifully appointed facilities strike me as the perfect location for a private sanctuary.
Sue greets me with a big smile and shows me around. It’s clear she’s put a lot of thought and energy into the design, colour schemes and furnishings. “I wanted to create a space in which my clients feel relaxed; a lovely place where we can nurture them,” says Sue, pointing out the large fluffy bathrobes, scented candles and range of oils and skin products. Casa Di Natura’s facilities include a hydrotherapy spa, infrared sauna, two healing rooms (that can be joined to form a conference room), and a sparkling magnesium swimming pool. “We use only rainwater and two forms of magnesium, which help to relax and detoxify your body,” Sue explains. I can’t take my eyes off the pool so I nod dumbly and wonder how soon I can jump in…
First, however, Sue gives me an introduction to her 12-year passion, BodyTalk, which purports to be “the fastest growing healthcare system in the world today.” It is based on the theory that the body can heal itself but stress causes the natural communication lines in the body to break down. BodyTalk identifies these breakdowns and restores communication. Using a logical process of asking questions and checking my body’s reaction, Sue finds, among other symptoms, that I have issues with my lymph system that stem from a specific emotional reaction. It’s a fascinating process, augmented by Sue’s depth of knowledge and caring approach. I find myself opening up and sharing personal experiences that support the insights gained by her analysis. The session finishes with some visualisation and gentle tapping.
With the pool twinkling invitingly nearby, I’m next introduced to Janelle, one of Casa Di Natura’s therapists. Janelle specialises in naturopathy and massage – like Sue, she is trained in a number of modalities – and it’s time to get down to my underwear and get down to business. My theory is that while Janelle is massaging me, I can interview Sue and find out a little more about this dynamic, funny woman. In practice, I lie there in a state of bliss and let Sue do all the talking… She begins: “I come from Brisbane and worked in the corporate arena, where I worked my way up to senior manager in Telstra. But I became disillusioned and was looking for something to do that ‘felt good’, so I took off for two years to volunteer in Kenya, Nepal and Thailand.” In Kenya, Sue worked in remote areas where few white men – let alone white women – had ventured. One placement was at a boarding school for children suffering from epilepsy, a misunderstood condition surrounded by stigma and superstition. While there, she set up massage clinics (“I’ve been massaging for decades”), helped design and construct a huge fish farm, and worked with witch doctors.
“I’ll remember that six months for the rest of my life!” she exclaims with a big smile. Integrating back into western society after two years of living in third world conditions was difficult – “I was really feral” – and Sue decided that construction was the most suitable industry in which to work. For the next eight years, she managed power transmission ‘erection’ crews that built enormous power line towers in remote parts of Victoria and Tasmania. It’s an image that is hard to reconcile with her current life as the immaculately groomed manager of a luxury day spa. But Sue loved the adventure of playing with “really big meccano” with her teams of men from around the world. It, too, was a job with benefits: it was in Tasmania that she met her partner, Marco, an Italian who specialises in building the foundations for the towers.
Meanwhile, thirsty for knowledge about natural therapies, Sue continued to study various modes of healing and would try out her new techniques on the sceptical crew. “I’m a bit of a stirrer and I’d pretend to lay my hands on their heads and ‘read their minds’ while we were in a cherry picker together, 20 metres off the ground,” she recalls with a chuckle. One can only ponder the WH&S implications… Her dream for nearly 30 years has been to create a spa that offers a range of natural therapies while providing exceptional service in a loving, energising and beautiful environment. Six years ago, realising that dream got a little closer. Sue explains: “We were looking for an investment property that some day we could live in. Then in 2006 we found this beautiful property in Flaxton. For the next few years we rented it out as holiday accommodation and would visit from time to time.”
Two years ago, Sue and Marco moved to the property permanently and began redeveloping it as a day spa. It’s been a long process with numerous hurdles – not least being weeks of continuous rain while the house was being renovated – but Sue’s commitment to her dream is evident. “If you‘ve got a conviction, a strong belief system or a strong mind, it will overcome anything,” she states firmly. Time up and massage over, Janelle comments that my back is “like concrete”. It is clear to me that in the not-too-distant future a repeat treatment is required, one that includes a swim in that sparkling pool… Written by Julie Shelton on behalf of the Hinterland Times. To see the article in the Hinterland Times, visit this link http://www.hinterlandtimes.com.au/2012/11/11/heaven-on-earth-casa-di-natura/