Hopelessly Devoted to You

THE year was 1978 and my eight-year-old self was sitting in the old Coolangatta cinema on seats strung with scratchy hession bags, about to experience my first ever movie on the Big Screen. Grease was the word and from the opening scene I was so hooked on the movies, and on Olivia Newton-John, I’d forgotten I was slouching on an old bag of potatoes.
Thirty-five years later, and around an hour down the road, I am about to become a personal guest of Olivia at her Gaia Retreat, in the Byron Bay hinterland. Well, she doesn’t actually know I exist, but I can’t help but feel we are old friends. I drive south through towns so deliciously named you just want to wrap your mouth around them like a huge, buttery, salty tub of movie popcorn. I meander around Mooball, bump along Billinudgel, tumble through Tumbulgum, before nestling in Newrybar, just behind which sits Gaia, named after the spirit of Mother Earth.
Things are looking pretty good. The fact Olivia isn’t actually at the retreat doesn’t really matter, as I can feel her everywhere. I just can. She’s in the little personal touches such as the magic metal box of Australian Tea Tonic in your room where you can sip on brews such as ginger, lemongrass, Echinacea and white tea. There’s also lemon myrtle oil for your burner, and plush, chocolate bathrobes perfect for lounging on your day bed, or when you alight from your bath replete with rose petals and a cushion for your head. Yes, Olivia has thought of everything and I feel like she has personally plumped my pillows.
You expect rainforest music on your CD player, but Olivia isn’t tacky (well, there was that little head band and leg warmer stage in the 80s but who wasn’t guilty of that?) Instead you’ll find So Fresh Hits of Autumn 2013 and you’re flat out finding a self-help book in the extensive library, which instead houses a wide range of contemporary reads and DVDS. What I do discover is Olivia’s “Livwise easy recipes for a healthy, happy life book.” If I’m going to look like Olivia, I have some work to do. And Gaia is the perfect place to start.
Indulge in breakfast such as scrambled eggs in fresh herbs with smoked salmon; a lunch of chickpea tagine with cauliflower squash with yoghurt dill on the side; and snapper for dinner with a poached pear and chocolate dessert. And there’s even an extensive beer and wine list, including Gaia’s own organic wine range.
In between, simply have some fun – there’s nothing hardcore about this place – as General Manager Gregg Cave says “all you have to do is surrender.”
Each evening, guests are handed their personal schedule card, outlining any treatments they may have booked in the day spa, or just general activities throughout the day. You can do as little or as much as you want.
Yoga instructor Danielle speaks of “pushing the edge” – the point between finding your point of stretch and indulging the ego and pushing yourself too hard, resulting in pain. “The longest relationship we have in this life is with ourselves, so learn to love yourself,” she says. Nicollete, an “esoteric practitioner” extolls the benefits of becoming your “inner most” and operating from your “inner heart.” In her treatments, she looks at the root causes of symptoms in the body and what buried emotional issues may have triggered these.
“What we need to develop is a much stronger sense of self love in our body. Most of us don’t realise the importance of that,” she says.
“Often we put the needs of others before our own. You have more information to make more choices in your life and do things that is more loving for you.”
There’s a wide range of treatments in the Gaia Day Spa, but The Global Goddess recommends the 4.5 hour Gaia Goddess/Gaia Man signature experience. Billed as a journey of “complete surrender” among other things you’ll undergo a body polish, cocooning body masque, warm oil scalp massage and full body massage.
There’s also an interesting esoteric breast massage for women and an esoteric shoulder massage for men, designed to tap into self love and if you so desire, a milk bath somewhere on the property. (The Global Goddess did fantastise about laying in a field naked in a pool of milk like Cleopatra waiting for her Julius Caesar but realised she’d have better luck finding a Caesar salad on this trip).
Drawing on her Aussie roots, Olivia has built a retreat that is empathetic to the 10 hectares of manicured Australian bushland on which it stands, replete with its own fresh herb garden, pool, sauna, spa bath and gym. Walk to the Samira Lookout at the top of the hill and you are at the highest point in the Byron Bay Shire, from which you can scan the Lennox Headlands and Pacific Ocean beyond. Here there’s also a Buddha and labyrinth for reflection and meditative thoughts.
You’ll find plenty of day beds dotted around the property, as well as hammocks strung between giant eucalypts from which to honour the rising and setting suns.
During my four-day journey I meet Olivia’s personal jeweller, who designs jewels for the retreat, and her comedienne friend Sandy Gandhi, who performed at Olivia’s 60th birthday a few years ago, and who is waiting for fellow comedienne Ruby Wax to finish her spa treatment. Ruby walks into the dining room, but there’s still no sign of Olivia and it doesn’t really matter. By the time I leave, I’m learning to love myself and it may have been 35 years, but Olivia I still love you…I honestly love you.
As a special treat for Global Goddess readers, and courtesy of the Gaia Retreat and Spa, The Global Goddess is offering readers the chance to win an amazing prize valued at $1585.

This lovely prize package includes two nights accommodation staying in the Layana Room double/twin; all gourmet meals and snacks; spa gift on arrival; daily yoga and all retreat activities; and use of all the facilities.

To enter, simply go to:
and sign up to receive Gaia Retreat newsletters. The competition runs for two weeks, and will close at 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday, September 9, 2013. Gaia will draw the lucky winner, who will be announced on The Global Goddess blog on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.

Oh, and if you’re not a follower of The Global Goddess, please do so, by clicking on the Follow button in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. Go on, it’s good karma!

What did I do with a drunken sailor?

FACT ONE: there are 74 islands in the Whitsundays.
FACT TWO: there are also 800 horny sailors in town.

IT’S a Whitsunday Wednesday and I am aboard the 80ft yacht, Brahms and Liszt which I am informed is sailing rhyming slang for pissed. Somewhere, in the shimmering waters around me, are 800 sex-charged sailors. Or so I’m told. What I do know is that every second salt is called Fitzy, so I’ve just taken to singing out “g’day Fitzy” when I walk down the dock of the Abell Point Marina each morning and hoping that my greeting lands on the right shoulders. What I am yet to learn is that crusty old salts like their calamari young, so to speak, and I have a better chance of spotting a whale in the Whitsunday Passage than hooking a man. Me, I’m more of a barracuda.
Airlie Beach Race Week and every man and his dinghy is in town, lured by the warm trade winds which sweep the Australian sailing fraternity north along the Queensland coast. The weather is perfect except for one thing. There’s no wind and so, somewhere out to sea, sit 800 frustrated sailors, the lack of breeze keeping their sails limp, so to speak.
I, too, am frustrated. I am meant to be writing a story about Airlie Beach and sailing, but it’s difficult without any wind in the sails. In these parts, it blows every week of the year but for once, Mother Nature is refusing to co-operate. Bored sailors circle each other like sharks, jokes and jibes tossed across bows, until early afternoon, when enough breeze picks up to warrant enough of a race. It’s not perfect, but it will do.
As for me, a great story I eventually find, but it is one borne from dredging rather than smooth sailing. A quick quip here, a chat there, a day out on a tallship, a spot of snorkelling, a few drinks at the yacht club, a wander down the main drag. Some stories are like life. You have to wait for them to come to you, rather than force them. And so it is with this one.
Sure, I could shout superlatives from the bow of a boat about how wonderful the Whitsundays is, but it’s all that and more. It’s the crinkly smiles behind the sunglasses as experienced eyes look out to sea, searching for a hint of a breeze. Just like I look frantically to the horizon for a story. It’s recognising boats – Fifty Shades of 50, Rum Gutz, Malice – like they are all old friends. It’s the unexpected.
I came to Airlie Beach expecting some wild winds and, if I’m a little bit honest, hoping I might meet a man. In between grasping for my story, I fantasise about what I would do with a drunken sailor. I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say the thought of sailing off into the sunset with someone held great appeal. But life’s not like that. You can’t just rig up the sails and expect the wind will arrive at your command. Instead, you sit, you watch, you wait. You drop anchor. And you laugh. At life’s perfect imperfection.
The Global Goddess travelled to Airlie Beach Race Week as a guest of the Whitsunday Sailing Club. Next year, Airlie Beach Race Week will celebrate its 25th anniversary. And with a bit of luck, there will be a breeze. http://www.airlieraceweek.com

Pondering the Penis

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FOR those of you who have been hiding under a rock or overseas this week, and believe me, you’ve been very, very lucky, news broke that Queensland Parliamentary Ethics Committee Chairman Peter Dowling has been caught with his pants down. And by this we don’t mean unable to answer a Dorothy Dixer. Well, there was a dixer, but not the Aussie slang for a pre-arranged question by a member of his own side to which I refer. We mean a bloke who thought it was acceptable to cheat on his wife. And as if that’s not bad enough, he decided to sext his mistress using tawdry techniques such as sending her a picture of his penis…dipped in a glass of wine.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love a bit of wine and on occasion I have also been known to appreciate a penis, but from where I’m sitting, the two just don’t go together, no matter how many salted peanuts you’ve had beforehand. Which leads me to wonder: what, exactly, was going through this politician’s head? (And I don’t mean the one in the wine glass).
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Are you just sitting in the Parliamentary Annex one night, a bit lonely and tired from reading about this crazy business we like to call ethics here in Queensland, and you think, mmm, I might put just my penis in my Pinot? Were the showers not working? And what the hell did the caption say on the text? “Thirsty?” Worst of all, given he was texting this, it means he was on his own (hopefully, or some parliamentary secretary is being severely underpaid) and therefore was then going to drink that same glass of wine. As a male friend pointed out, “mmmm, nutty undertones.”
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At this stage I have to confess no matter how drunk or stupid I have been, I have never, ever possessed the desire to put my vagina in my Verdelho. I’m not even sure how that works. And the fact he not only did this, but then sent a picture of his sausage in his Shiraz, is almost enough to put me off wine for life. On the upside, at least it didn’t fit in a shot glass. On the downside, if you were really trying to impress the mistress you strange, weird, little man, you might have chosen something more impressive – like a brandy balloon.
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In those heady few years after my divorce I dated a lot of men and suffice to say, I was sent plenty of unsolicited photos of penises which always baffled me. It was a bit like running an online butcher shop. Did they not realise how ridiculous their schnitzel looks attached to their body, let alone unattached in a text message? Talk about laugh with my gay boy friends at the penis owner’s expense. At one stage, I had so many snaps of schlong of my phone I thought about staging an abstract art exhibition: Creatures from the Deep.
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Apart from the abhorrent act of cheating on his wife, and his obvious lack of imagination, is the fact that apparently Queensland tax payers have been footing his affair. Which is kind of interesting. Last month I was out in Queensland wine country doing a series of stories on what a consortium of wine makers call their Strange Birds wines. Many wineries are starting to plant and harvest some of the exotic Italian varieties which are better suited to the Queensland climate. Think Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Barbero, Nebbiolo. And they are indeed top drops being produced by innovative, intelligent and hard-working wine makers.
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Unfortunately what’s not so tops is the thought of a Queensland politician dipping his nib in my Nebbiolo or his testicles in my Tempranillo. Peter Dowling, get out of my Parliament, get down on your knees and beg your wife and the tax payers of Queensland for forgiveness. (Please, please, just don’t send me a bottle of wine). And for God’s sake man, keep your wiener out of my vino.
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The Global Goddess makes no apologies for any egos which have been bruised in the compilation of this post.

A Sam for all Seasons

A GORILLAS in the mist afternoon is rolling smugly in over the emerald mountains of Kanchanaburi and I am slung equally low and languid in a hammock, overlooking Thailand’s River Kwai, contemplating life and love. Not my life, nor my love, but that of a man called Sam. Sam Season.
Sam is a Mon man, from the displaced Mon people, considered one of the earliest tribes to live in South East Asia. Not considered Burmese, nor Thai, the Mon exist in a small slither of land along the River Kwai, not far from the Burmese border. The Mon number some 8.14 million people but I am captivated by this one man. This man called Sam.
Sam, 22, a tour guide at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts, is a paradox like the story of his people. A heady blend of naivety and worldliness. At night, he paints his face in traditional Mon markings but speaks with an English accent straight out of a south London pub, with a smattering of Aussie twang – picked up solely from the tourists with which he works every day. He moved to this particular village when he was 9, and has been studying to finish High School since, in between working 6 days a week at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts.
And Sam is in love. But love, like most things along the River Kwai, is complicated. I first met Sam two years ago when I visited the River Kwai Jungle Rafts and he told me of a girl in a neighbouring village, a girl with beautiful long black hair. A girl who made him blush. A girl called Jaytarmon. I told him what I knew of women “tell her she has beautiful hair, women love to be complimented on their hair,” I urged. And then I left, to go back into the “real world”, one of electricity, hot showers and easy internet access, all these things elusive to Sam. That, and the fact he doesn’t own a boat to visit Jaytarmon in the next village, relying on tours to the cave to try and catch a glimpse of her and her luscious locks. I leave, urging him to follow his heart.
So, when I returned to the River Kwai last week, I was thrilled to see Sam again. “We need to talk,” I told him, “I need to know about a certain girl.” He laughed. “I can’t believe you remember that. Well, there’s been some progress”. It was the final half hour on my last day when Sam and I finally snatched a moment to chat. “About six months ago I sent a message to her telling her that ‘I’m really missing you’. I said I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She wrote back asking me why. She said everything has stopped now and what was between us was finished,” Sam says, looking frustrated and confused.
But matters of the heart are never simple and it turns out Sam is being pursued by a girl in his own village, who cooks for him and washes his clothes. “Who are you going to choose between, the one who loves you or the one who you love? I don’t know which one yet. This one at the moment is fine. She does everything for me. But I’m still missing Jaytarmon,” he says, as he pulls out his mobile phone with two photos of the gorgeous Jaytarmon on it.

And Sam has plans. Grand plans. He hopes to stay at River Kwai Jungle Rafts for two more years and then save enough money to go to college for four years to become a car mechanic. He aims to open a garage at the border, between Burma and Thailand. There’s not a lot of cars down in these parts but Sam likes old cars. “You’ve got to think about doing something that is possible. And you must have a family and kids. When you are old your kids can take care of you. Jaytarmon’s mum really likes me. I have the green light from the mum’s side, but the daughter is still a yellow. I want to go to college and return back to the one I’ll always love.”

Our short time is up, and just as I walk away Sam points out the other girl. The one in his village who washes his clothes and cooks him food. “She’s good enough for me?” he asks. I turn and look him in the eye. “Follow your heart,” I say, before catching the boat home.

The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Scoot Airlines (www.flyscoot.com); The Pullman Bangkok King Power (www.pullmanbangkokkingpower.com); The Tourism Authority of Thailand (www.tourismthailand.org); and the Ibis Bencoolen Singapore (www.ibishotels.com)