Not many luxury hotels in the world could get the gal, who actually has always suffered from vertigo, to climb over 30 feet up a tree, a real tree. Well done Six Senses Douro Valley, you did – just that. Actually there was not much choice. It was Sunday morning and, anyway, no-one in their right minds, or otherwise, would dare to say no to the luxury hotel’s very-English GM, Nick Yarnell. ‘Would you like to go tree-climbing?’ was the question. This was not a young lady’s idea of tree-climbing, up a couple of branches to reach the perfect mulberries before the birds get them, as at home. No, this was more serious rock-face climbing with only a tree trunk that kept on wanting you to spin round and round it, as if doing a maypole dance. But, in retrospect, it was not only a challenge but worthwhile, and ringing the bell at the top was almost as much of an achievement as finally passing my driving test. I was helmeted and harnessed and shown what to do. One of two black ropes had a pink guiding rope that could be pushed up, but not down.
Push it up, push a pulley attached to my harness up, push down on my right foot, in a blue loop attached to my harness. This meant I effectively stood up, but I only seemed to move a couple of inches with each stand-up so it did take about 45 minutes to get to the top. I would never have got down without the help of Lisa Yarnell, who had done this ten times before and right up there, as we both giggled and swung like monkeys, she showed me how to unclip the pulley to allow progression down to the safety of terra firma (thanks Lisa, otherwise I would still be there, tree-bound and fed bananas and peanuts for the rest of my life).
Lisa Yarnell is not only the hotel’s yoga specialist and tree tutor, she will now also be offering the integrative wellness that all Six Senses resorts will be introducing soon. What is this about? Since my tree tutor needed to go walkies with Tilly the black poodle, today it was left to Elena Malmfeldt, visiting from Stockholm, to explain. She had survived cancer, in her mid-20s, by giving up her Swedish television production lifestyle for giving her body what it really needs; now, at 52, it is her full-time mission. In 45 minutes she gave an initial introduction to integrative wellness and how it can identify what my body is, and what it needs. She uses the internet, plus advanced skin response, blood pressure and an oxymeter (a little finger capsule that fits on tightly, and instead of actually drawing blood it measures oxygen saturation and pulse waves).
So here I am, in this luxury hotel – in a private room, fortunately – with hands and feet on pressure pads, sensors fixed to my forehead, and one finger encased firmly in an oxymeter. I was to stay like this for three minutes so I decided to have a little sleep (it was all jolly relaxing, especially after the tree-climbing). And the end result, as recorded on detailed graphs on her two laptops? I achieved 97 points out of a maximum 120, just missing ‘optimal health’. But, blow a trumpet, I got full marks for my heart, my fat composition, my pH, my cholesterol level and my liver. Perhaps that tree-climbing exertion helped, but, after two of the world’s best hotel experiences in one morning, I will celebrate with a nice big glass of Douro red.