Big Island…Little Men

I REALLY should have written this tale days and days ago, but there were other forces at play. I’m standing by the Hawaiian ocean, listening to Sheraton Kona Cultural Tour Officer Lily Dudoit talk about her heritage, when I get “chicken arms” as the locals like to call goose bumps. Lily has just mentioned the Menehune (pronounced Men-ay Hoon-ay) and I’m instantly intrigued.
“Everywhere in Hawaii we are known for our myths and legends. We have the little people who only come out at night to do their work. We call them Menehune and they are said to have reddish skin colour,” she says.
“There was a couple who had their wedding photo by this tree and when they had the photo developed there was a Menehune peeking out from behind the tree.
“They like to make trouble. Sometimes things go missing or they move something. You don’t find them. They find you.”
I’m on Hawaii’s Big Island and the thought that I could be sharing space with a bunch of mischievous, mysterious men is nothing short of exciting. Sure, they’re apparently red and short, but beggars can’t be choosers. Lily’s also let slip that the Menehune like to eat Manju – a type of biscuit full of red beans – and so that night for good measure I leave two, as well as a beer, figuring if it’s good enough for Santa and the Tooth Fairy, it might just be enough to entice the Menehune to my boudoir.
I wake up disappointed but determined. The beer’s still there and so are the biscuits. But I remain as fascinated to meet a Menehune as I am to encounter a decent Brisbane bloke. Yes, because I believe in miracles. The next day I meet Nancy Erger, my tour guide and a local location scout for the film industry. Given her role, I ask her what she can tell me about the Menehune.
She laughs and tells me they turn up when “generally something needs fixing.” I pause and ponder this. Does this mean I am fixed? Or I need more fixing? And why didn’t they drink that beer? What kind of man doesn’t like beer?
Pretty soon our conversation turns to other men, as Nancy reveals she was a location scout in the latest series of Hawaii Five-O starring that big hunk of spunk Australia’s Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett. I’m so excited I want to lick her arm. Curiously, when researching locations, Nancy happened across the original series and by chance realised her grandmother was an extra in the old show, sneaking out of the house and catching a bus down to location without her husband’s permission. When Nancy reveals she was involved in shooting the commercial Liquid Aloha for the Hawaii’s Longboard Lager I have so come to love, I realise we will be friends for life. We pause for a shaved ice and in deference to the Goddess of Fire Pele, who is spraying volanco lava languidly around the island, I choose a Lava Flow concoction of coconut, strawberry and mango.
Two hours later Nancy deposits me at Lokahi Garden Sanctuary, a sustainable organic farm and botanical sanctuary run by Richard Liebmann and his wife Natalie Young. Richard and Natalie prepare lunch plucked straight from their garden, starting with a mocktail of fresh ginger, turmeric, honey, coconut oil, peppercorns, lemon juice and aloe vera. Natalie, who also delivers natural therapies using herbs, flowers and fruit and vegetables from the garden, asks me what I think I need for my treatment.
“I’m looking for love,” I say for the hundredth time this year on a trip.
She dashes back to the lemon myrtle and lavender plants, picking flowers and leaves like her life depends on it. We sit on her front deck, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and she soaks my feet in the flowers. I close my eyes and she performs a healing “for your traveller’s feet,” she says gently. A few minutes later she asks me what thoughts have come to my mind.
I tell her I had a flashback to being a backpacker in Rome, 22 years ago, when I was 22. And it’s been exactly 22 years since I’ve been to Hawaii.
“The Aloha spirit is alive and well, you really can feel that here,” Natalie says.
“A lot of Hawaiians view you from where you are in your heart. When you come with an open heart they are very welcoming.”
Days later, still frustrated about not seeing any Menehune, I sit down to write this story. Inexplicably, my computer is completely dead and I’m forced to soak up Hawaii instead. I swim, do a stand-up paddleboard lesson, and partake in a sunset yoga class by the ocean, instead of working. I remain baffled by this technological glitch until I remember those little red men. Back home in Brisbane my computer works beautifully. Maybe the Menehune found me after all.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Hawaii Tourism. To book your own escape go to; stay on the Big Island at The Sheraton Kona; and take a retreat at Lokahi Garden Sanctuary

Finding Passion in Hawaii

I’M running late for a date with Passion. I arrive in Hawaii early morning after an overnight night flight from Brisbane, clutching all the usual clichés: a suitcase, welcome lei, and the remnants of the previous evening’s airline meal attached to my dress. My travelling companion dives straight into Oahu, literally, and is off for a learn-to-surf lesson. Me, I prefer to let Hawaii wash gently over my jetlagged self, and wander down to Waikiki for a cold beer, a meal of mahi mahi and a feast of people watching. Sated, I sleep like the dead in readiness for my full island tour the next day, and my much-anticipated date with Passion.
It’s been 22 years since I’ve been to Hawaii, and my only memory is of Waikiki and the fact my ex-husband punctured the li-lo on which I intended to laze in its warm waters on a tree before we even got to the beach. So I’m desperate to see what’s around the next corner. I join a tour which will spend all day weaving from Waikiki through a snapshot of suburbia, to sugar cane fields, past beaches, through valleys, onto ancient Hawaiian grounds and around waterfalls.
Incredibly, every tour on which I’ve ever been anywhere in the world serves up the same cluster of characters. The gregarious gay couple; the comfortably chubby married pair; the Russians in their Cold War swim wear range; the loud Americans and softly-spoken Canadians; the Bintang bogan with his attractive Asian wife in grossly inappropriate high heels; and the single Australian woman…who happens to be me.
While I self-indulgently imagine the rest of the tour tries to unravel my mystery – I do like to apply a Mona Lisa smile along with my sunscreen – I watch Oahu unfurl before me and secretly count down the hours until I can meet Passion. At this stage I should reveal I don’t know whether Passion is a man, a woman or a concept. In the meantime Maurice, our tour guide who grew up in Hawaii in the late 60s, shares Oahu’s secrets. We pass the Baskin Robbins ice-cream shop where Barack Obama worked his first job and learn that Elizabeth Taylor once lived over near the North Shore. There’s also a smorgasbord of film and television locations, including the house from the opening scene of Fantasy Island where the pint-sized Tattoo famously shouts “The plane, the plane!” as well as the giant green hills of the mythical Jurassic Park.
But what piques my interest most is the tale of a particular house, high on the hills, one that Elvis Presley wanted to buy. Despite repeated and insanely high offers, the owner refused to sell to the King of Rock, instead inviting Elvis to holiday there whenever he wanted. Elvis took him up on the offer and the pair became firm friends. I spend the rest of the tour fantasising about Elvis turning up on the doorstep of my quaint tin and timber Queenslander cottage back home in Brisbane, which is similar to a Hawaiian beach shack, and daydreaming about that hunka hunka burning love. And several other nice Hawaiian boys I find along the way. Yes, while the rest of the tour is on the beach collecting shells, I’m starting my own collection…
I’m snapped out of my lustful thoughts when I arrive back at the hotel, late for my date with Passion. I rapidly shower, and rush downstairs to the bar where I learn that Passion is yet to arrive, the irony of which is not lost on me as I drink a Longboard Lager. It’s not till dinner is almost finished that I finally meet Passion, a beautiful woman who rushes up to our table and enthusiastically orders dessert while chatting with gusto about her day. It turns out Passion is the Marketing and Communications Manager of The Modern Honolulu in which I am staying and says her grandmother picked her name from an old Troy Donahue movie. “It wasn’t the easiest name growing up, but I grew into it,” she laughs.
And it gets even better. Just before we depart, we also meet another staffer, Patience, who also carries all the characteristics of her lovely moniker. At this stage I ask Passion whether she will bestow on me a Hawaiian name, one which will carry me through the rest of my journey through this incredible land. She knows nothing about me, apart from the fact I’m an Australian journalist, but looks at me knowingly, and says: “My intuition tells me that you are Healani, which means heavenly haze.” I laugh out loud. Yes, The Global Goddess has well and truly arrived in Hawaii. And Elvis is definitely not dead.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Hawaii Tourism. To book your own escape go to; stay at The Modern Honolulu http://www.themodernhonolulu; and to see more of Oahu take a Discover Hawaii Tour

From Prison to Paradise

FIFTEEN months ago, in the middle of a Wellington winter, I found myself standing on the cold concrete floor of New Zealand’s Rimutaka Prison, interviewing six men who had been sentenced to life for the most heinous of crimes – rape and murder. I suppose I should have been scared – at the time there was also an earthquake which woke me in the middle of the night with my bed shaking – but the old news journalist in me got the better of me, and I was bursting with curiosity. How would these men treat a female journalist in their space? What did the interior of a prison really look like? How would these six rapists and murderers act? And how should I act?

Inside Rimutaka Prison

Inside Rimutaka Prison

Fast forward to last Saturday night where I found myself in Fiji at the annual Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards where I was the finalist in four categories: Best Australian Story under 1000 words; Best Use of Digital Media; Best Travel Book; and for the story which led me to Wellington: Best Food Travel Story. I was incredibly honoured to be announced the winner in the Best Food Travel Story, and so today, I thought I’d share that story with you, which took me from windy Wellington to sunny Fiji. And the story that took those men from a life outside of prison, to “inside the wire”, where some of them have not felt the sand between their toes or the sun on their faces for decades.
In my acceptance speech on Saturday night, I flippantly remarked that those six men had far better manners than most of the boys I had dated in Brisbane. And in many ways, it was true. As you might imagine, a long time in prison changes a person. Many for the worse, but in rare cases, some for the better. Driving back from the prison with the chef who was teaching them to cook as part of their rehabilitation program, one thing became clear. If you treat people like animals and then release them back into society, no on wins. But if you treat people with a degree of humanity, and provided all of the correct procedures and protocols are adhered to surrounding their release, maybe, just maybe, there is hope. My winning story “Rough Road From Prison Gate To Plate” appeared in News Ltd’s Escape section last year. I hope you enjoy it…
For security reasons I am not allowed to show you the faces of these prisoners

For security reasons I am not allowed to show you the faces of these prisoners

ON a windy Wellington day the irony of a small red yacht by the name of Not Guilty is not lost on the city’s celebrity chef Martin Bosley, whose eponymously named restaurant overlooks Port Nicholson Harbour in which the boat is moored. Bosley has just spent four hours in Rimutaka Prison at nearby Upper Hutt, a place he has visited regularly since last November. Here the chef, who has owned restaurants in Port Douglas and has appeared on Australia’s Master Chef, has been teaching six prisoners – all serving life sentences – how to cook in preparation for Visa Wellington on a Plate’s festival landmark event – Prison Gate to Plate.
Celebrity Chef Martin Boseley

Celebrity Chef Martin Bosley

It’s clear that Bosley, who serves “wild-caught” sustainable catches in his Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club restaurant likes a challenge, but the thought of going into a prison and working with blokes who had “done bad things” was a stretch even for this creative cook.
“My initial reaction was that I didn’t see it working. It turns out I had some pretty
red-necked opinions of those who committed crimes and I thought a life sentence should be for life and that prisoners should be breaking rocks in the hot sun and that three meals a day was too many,” he says.
“But I found myself becoming more and more intrigued about the role food was playing in their lives and I thought ‘let’s do it’.
“Within the prison kitchen environment I was comfortable as all kitchens work the same. You pick up on that sixth sense of the ballet of the kitchen.”
Still, about the only thing Bosley’s up-market restaurant had in common with the prison kitchen was the colour scheme – both are shades of grey – which is somewhat fitting, because that’s where this chef found himself shifting, to the middle ground. In terms of a destination, there’s nothing pretty about Rimutaka Prison itself apart from the alpine surrounds in which it is nestled. Once “inside the wire” it’s patently clear this is a working jail which houses some 900 inmates, some convicted of the most cruel and cunning crimes. On a daily basis, 36 men work in the prison kitchen to feed this populous on a budget of $4.50 per head, per day. Usual fare includes sausages and gravy and it is this same restricted menu which is served throughout every New Zealand prison.
Six inmates were selected by the prison’s Chief Catering Officer to be trained chefs under Bosley’s tutelage for the Prison Gate to Plate event, a two-night $70 a head function for the public and a third night for prison stakeholders. Tickets for the public event sold out within 14 minutes.
“When we started last November there was definitely an edge of ‘I don’t know any of these foods or what these words mean’ from the prisoners. They had good skills in practical cooking – they are used to making coleslaw for 900 men and sausages and gravy and that menu rarely changes,” Bosley says.
“When I first went into the prison I felt I needed to be assured, self confident and tough but I’m not tough at all. I remember saying ‘we are going to have fun and learn but at the end of the day, don’t let me down’.
“Some of these men have had nothing in their lives. It is all about building their self-esteem and self-confidence. They don’t want to let themselves down and I’ve felt they’ve been teaching me about humility and life.”
In turn, Bosley has taught the inmates how to make the sorts of dishes that will be served on August 9 and 10, with the prisoner’s own twist on a mocktail – Jail Juice – blackcurrents, kiwifruit, apple juice, fresh ginger and soda water – being served in the Visit Hall. Guests, who will have to undergo the same strict security procedures as all visitors to the prison, will then be escorted to the Corrections Staff College Dining Room for Canapes served with a sense of humour – on regulation prison plastic trays – followed by a mouth-watering menu for which Bosley is renowned. Prisoners and prison guards will all be dressed the same, in standard black and white waiters’ outfits. Menus, catering instructors, table pieces, linen, printing and artwork, will all come from within the prison.
So successful has Bosley’s involvement been with the prison, he now employs a prisoner on a “release to work program” in his Wellington kitchen.
“I didn’t realise what a loss of freedom truly meant before I went in there. As a community we need to change our perceptions and be prepared that one day these men are getting out and we need to pick up where prisons leave off and reduce re-offending,” Bosley says.
“I never thought I’d be in the company of six men who have done bad things. But they don’t want to screw this up. There is nothing cool about prison.”
A spokesman for New Zealand’s Department of Corrections said they had a target to reduce re-offending by 25 percent by 2017. Through similar programs to Bosley’s they had already slashed recidivism by 9 percent.
Wolf, 46, has been working in the kitchen for the past two of the 13 years he has spent in the prison. He has another two years till he fronts the Parole Board.
“I grew up with a mum who loved baking and I came to jail and I didn’t have many opportunities at first and then I came into the kitchen. I love creating,” he says as he delicately places some prison-made relish on to some New Zealand cheese and crackers.
“Before I came to the kitchen I was pretty much one of those people no one wanted. I was the trouble maker who was in the High Security Unit for seven years. I was lucky someone gave me a chance and I haven’t looked back.
“My past has been pretty dodgy and I want to prove to people that I’m pretty worthy to be there.”
It’s a similar tale for the other five prisoners – Marco, Pete, Freddy, Brownie and Shultzie, all aged between 35 and 48, most having worked in the kitchen for around two years, all just living day-to-day not allowing themselves the luxury of thinking of the first thing they will do when they are finally released.
Except perhaps for Shultzie, 48, has been working in the kitchen for the past two of his 3.5 years in jail and has another 8.5 years until he is considered for parole. He’s in charge of the canapés for the Prison Gate to Plate event.
“The biggest lesson for me is that coming to prison is a waste of life but you’ve got to make the most of it. I’ve worked since I got in here and I’m going forward, I’m not looking back,” he says.
“The first thing I’m going to do when I get out of here is visit my mum and dad’s grave sites as they died while I was in here. And then I want to go fishing. “
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Tourism Wellington and with the special permission of the New Zealand Department of Corrections. Special mention must go to Intrepid Travel for sponsoring the award prize which is a $2000 Intrepid Tour anywhere in the world –