I lived like a Negroni-sipping, selfie-taking monk for two days in the Kiama Hinterland (a spot about two hours south of Sydney). Here’s what the experience was like, and how I feel now that I’ve crash-landed back into civilisation.
Birds shriek, the billy gurgles, and sunlight penetrates your eyelids. You roll over on your thousand-dollar mattress and indulge in an extra minute of sleep. Big mistake: the billy soon boils and hot water spurts all over the sink…
Staying in an off-grid cabin in the middle of the Kiama Hinterland taught me a lot (and not just about how to boil water). From the fire pit to the books (from Cabin Porn to Penguin classics like The Consolations Of Philosophy), this kind of setup is a dream for anyone looking to put their brain on aeroplane mode for 48 hours.
I recently interviewed the co-founder of this Australian-owned, off-grid cabin company, Cam Grant. He explained it is bringing a “new type of time” to travellers, allowing them to escape the busyness of modern life, without having to drive too far (and without compromising on comfort).
The movement has been brewing for quite some time, but the pandemic has given it a boost, with more and more people realising there’s more to life than a soulless job, takeaway food, entertainment subscription services and holidays where you try to cram a million things in.
Unyoked aims to fill that gap in the market, promising to help you destress, connect with nature, and come back relaxed, restored and inspired (after your slow dance with the sublime). It’s all about providing people with access to nature – conveniently, and on-demand (two things nature notoriously makes difficult).
WATCH: What It’s Like Staying In An Unyoked Cabin
I was recently fortunate enough to be invited to stay at one of Unyoked’s cabins. The cabin was hidden in the hills behind Kiama – about a 20-minute drive from the beach, through farmland, up a hill and overlooking a valley – and was called Das. Though I didn’t come back feeling like William Wordsworth (I actually came back with sea urchin spines in my foot and a cut on my finger), I very much enjoyed my stay. This is how my experience went, and everything I learned about getting Unyoked.
The drive to Das (my Cabin) is like something out of a fairy tale
After hightailing it out of the office at 3pm on a Wednesday (and stopping for a sneaky surf on the way down), I arrived in Kiama just as the sun was setting. After exiting the highway it took about 20 minutes to zoom through Jamberoo and climb the hills up through the farmland where Das was located. On the way, we passed plenty of cows and horses, before the open grassland gave way to a forest (and a steep hill). We parked at the top (there were three Unyoked cabins on this property, and each had a dedicated parking spot) and got out of the car.
The walk from the car park to the cabin is an adventure (especially if you do it in the dark)
Upon exiting the car, we noticed a wheelbarrow and a torch had been provided. This was a nice touch, which allowed us to cart our gear along the 700-metre track to Das, our cabin. Having sacrificed arriving during the day to surf on the way down, we were grateful for the torch. Though it would have been nice to arrive while there was still sunlight (you can check in from 3pm) it felt like more of an adventure in the dark, and the fire trail was well signposted, so there were no issues.
There are also handy signs on trees to let you know if you are approaching another cabin’s zone, so it was easy to give each other privacy (I never saw anyone from the other cabins the whole time I was there). As for the walk between the car and the cabin, it was pretty flat, and easy enough, especially with the wheelbarrow.
Das (the cabin) is like something straight out of your Instagram ‘explore’ page
Even arriving in the dark, I could tell this was something special. Das had a fire circle out the front, a deck to sit and drink coffee on, and an indoor setup Marie Kondo would be proud of. Though I have previously stayed in a similar kind of thing (a Tiny House I booked through another company) where the composting toilet smelt a bit, there wasn’t even a whiff of a problem here. Speaking of which: the bathroom had a rainforest shower, a sustainable composting toilet (you chuck a bit of sawdust down there “between goes”) and a pretty nice sink.
The kitchen is also well equipped, with a gas stove, saucepans, frying pans etc. as well as a special pot for boiling your water (it’s all pretty analog so there’s no pod coffee machine or microwave, though there is a fridge). Best of all there is a giant Koala mattress where you can feel one with the forest (there are massive windows that span practically all the way to the ceiling) and watch the world go by without any of the usual inconveniences of really being one with the forest (ants, wind, rain etc.).
Unyoked gets you to fall into the rhythm of nature (and helped fix my sleep pattern)
The darkness outside and the lack of a TV inside had me – a person accustomed to staying awake until midnight watching Youtube – feeling ready to go to bed at about 9pm. After having a cup of “sleep time” tea and reading Cabin Porn, I was just about ready to dose off. The lack of curtains (side note: Cam, an Unyoked co-founder, recently told me some Unyoked cabins have started adding curtains in, to give you the option of more of a sleep in, but Das hasn’t got this update yet) also meant I woke up earlier than I’m used to. This actually made going back to work on the Friday (I did a mid week Unyoked trip) a breeze (unlike other trips where I’ve jetlagged myself by sleeping in).
Grinding your own coffee is satisfying
I’d heard CEOs raving about how amazing it was to grind your own coffee beans in a hand held grinder before I tried Unyoked for myself. Though I can’t say I’m quite on that level (it was fine, but not lifechanging), it was satisfying. I didn’t feel connected to the soil or suddenly way more conscious of my coffee, but having all the time in the world to drink it (as opposed to rushing it down my gullet before rushing out the door, or drinking it mindlessly at my office desk) was great.
To get the true Unyoked experience; prepare
The whole idea of Unyoked is “doing a whole lot of nothing.” I messed this up a little bit with night two’s dinner. I brought everything I needed for pumpkin soup (for night two), but forgot to bring my handheld blender, so during the day I nipped down to the supermarket to buy ingredients to make something else. I also went for a quick surf while down in the town and – being winter – by the time I got back to the cabin there were only a couple of hours of light left.
I ended up feeling like I’d missed out on some key hours of doing nothing (and on reflection, those other hours of the trip I spend just sitting in bed in the cabin, and wandering around outside, were the most fruitful of the trip). So take it from me: when getting Unyoked, embrace the boredom and try to really do as little as possible (your mind will thank you for it later).
Despite being out in the sticks, you still have access to some of the coolest creative initiatives of the city
If the cool, Scandinavian hut vibes of the cabin didn’t already give it away, opening the fridge door does. Inside there are fancy pale ales and Archie Rose cocktails. There is also a well-provisioned cupboard of wine. This isn’t your typical camping (or even glamping) experience.
You feel like you’re living in the trees (or at least the forest)
Mainly: because you really are…
When boiling water, put a mug under the spout for when it boils
Take the time to read the books and smell the roses
Seriously – just relax. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to just do nothing (after marinating in your thoughts for a while). Once you get past the racing mind phase you start to feel low key enlightened (or mad, but hey: who’s counting). You might even make friends with a stick (or a tree). If you do it right (and leave your phone switched off), it’s like a 48-hour eye open meditation.
Watching the trees sway back and forth is addictive
It’s like cloud watching, except with trees. I think I watched the dark shadows swing back and forth for a good half an hour one night. Bliss.
Not using your phone is nice
It’s nice – if briefly – to know no-one can contact you, and no one expects anything from you.
Luxury ‘hits different’ in 2022
It’s not enough to provide fancy furnishings and french linen in 2022. For luxury that salves the soul, you need to make your guests feel good about themselves (and give them a composting toilet). And Unyoked does that with aplomb.
The cassette player is *chef’s kiss*
From Bob Dylan to Unyoked’s Field Recordings (made with sounds from around the cabins) this was a beautiful addition to the cabin. If you want a taste for yourself, the latest volume of Unyoked Field Recordings is now available on Apple Music and Spotify.
Don’t brag about it when you get back
Your ‘heaps yoked’ colleagues, family and friends may either be jealous or uninterested in your new state of enlightenment. Keep it as a special secret between you and that ant (or magpie) you swear you connected with and keep your happiness to yourself. Either that or suggest they try it…
Make the most of your recharged state of mind
Been stuck for ideas on a project? Got writer’s block? Got a song you want to compose? When you come back from Unyoked you will be ripe to rip. You might even feel inspired to get started while you’re there (just see the anthology of music artists have come up with while on Unyoked retreats).
DMARGE stayed at Das as a guest of Unyoked.