As my car rolled over the last cattle-grid, the day’s tensions slipped off into the dusk. Less than two hour’s drive from the city, I was well and truly in the countryside and looking forward to a long-planned celebration.
The last 12km had been on a narrow, winding and unsealed road. I was glad it wasn’t yet dark; startled wallabies were hopping alongside and across the road as I drove by.
My destination was Spicers Peak Lodge, one of Australia’s top luxury lodges and the venue for my friend Annette’s birthday celebrations, perched on top of Cedar Mountain in south-east Queensland’s Scenic Rim.
Special events in life should not be allowed to pass unnoticed. That’s my belief, anyway. But that does not mean they must be heralded with great fanfare. Sometimes the most special celebrations are low-key…and so it was for Annette.
She was adamant: no party. What she wanted was to spend the day somewhere spectacularly beautiful. Somewhere remote and quiet, in a dramatic landscape, with just a few good friends. She had asked for my help in brainstorming to choose the right location for an overnight “girls” retreat, with the stipulation that it could not be more than two hours away from Brisbane (either by car, plane or train). After tossing around a few ideas, we came up with Spicers Peak Lodge, a luxury lodge about 90 minutes drive from our homes.
Neither of us had been there before, but its reputation preceded it, with a slew of awards for luxury accommodation.
Our overnight stay was planned in detail. There would be four of us: all old friends who had met when our children were toddlers. We would indulge and celebrate with a picnic lunch, perhaps some cocktails by the pool, a slap-up dinner and spa treatments. But as sometimes happens, life (and work) intervened and the others headed out under brilliant blue skies without me. I followed later in the day, driving up the winding mountain road through Cunningham’s Gap and putting my car into a crawl for the final 12km along the pot-holed one-lane mountain track into the bush.
I arrived at the door of our luxury cabin to the sound of peals of laughter and the sight of my friends all clad in fluffy white bathrobes, gathered around a log fire, drinking champagne. At 1150m above sea level, Spicers Peak Lodge is the highest non-alpine lodge in Australia, and so although it was late October, it was quite chilly enough here for a fire.
Soon we were at dinner (not in the robes!) at The Peak enjoying a seven-course degustation with matched wines, prepared by young Kiwi chef Mark Collings, who works under head chef Doug Innes-Will. There were few other diners, so we had undivided attention from the helpful staff. And as the courses rolled out, I was surprised to see such attention to detail; Annette is a vegetarian, but every dish delivered looked exactly the same, the only difference was the ingredients. Simply wonderful.
Over dinner, the others regaled me with an account of their afternoon: a gourmet picnic lunch at a table perched high on the escarpment under a cloudless blue sky, and cocktails around the pool. I was envious, but at least I’d caught them up!
Overnight, it rained. Morning broke with dull skies and drizzle. Breakfast was delivered to the house we were staying in below the main lodge. During a break in the showers, I walked out the French doors, past the spa bath on the verandah and into the bush to spy on grazing pretty-face wallabies and drink in the country air.
Wet weather wasn’t going to spoil our plans for the day. Spa treatments and lunch were booked; we emerged feeling well pampered, indulged some more in lighter but no less delicious fare (sans wine for the drivers) before tackling the journey home. On the driveway out, shaggy Highland cattle barely turned their heads as we departed.
It had been (for me at least) 24 hours of sheer indulgence. Very expensive and not something to repeat too often, but absolutely perfect for a special birthday. Well chosen, Annette…now, what have you got planned for next year?