Postcard from the Middle East


I am currently on assignment in Abu Dhabi, exploring this incredible and mysterious land, but will be back shortly with more blogs. In the meantime, please follow me on Instagram @aglobalgoddess.com for latest pictures from my travels.

The Barrier Reef Is Still Great


MY face is encrusted with sea spray and my lips are salty and swollen in what can only be described as botox beauty. People pay big bucks for this, I think, smiling slyly to myself as we surf the waves back from Great Keppel Island, my hair all messy and full of mischief. A sneaky south-easterly, east coast Australia’s archetypal trade wind, has whipped right up the coastline, swirling all the way north to Capricorn. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride. But on this fair day out on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, if the Keppel kiss is my only problem, I reckon I’m doing OK.

I’ve launched my day at the Keppel Bay Marina feasting on a heart-starting Cowboy’s Benedict including Banana Station beef at The Waterline Restaurant. Turns out, it’s one of the best brekkies I’ve ever had. Then, it’s a wild catamaran ride out to the island and a glass-bottom boat tour of the reef. One little girl on the boat claims she can see Frozen’s Elsa lazing along the Great Barrier Reef. Her older sister loudly proclaims that “sand is boring” as we cruise to the reef drop off, through this tiramisu ocean, spotting staghorn coral and giant clams. There’s few fish today in this windy weather but it doesn’t matter. Great Keppel Island is a bold beauty.

I’d arrived in Rockhampton, and the northern point of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, the previous day, engulfed in a flurry of interviews and activities. So much up here has changed. There’s a new riverfront precinct in town, the Yeppoon Lagoon is set to open, and there’s craft breweries and uber cool cafes galore. Like a character out of an Enid Blyton novel I do something I haven’t done in 40 years…sit in the crook of a tree, where I just happen to admire some street art. There’s plenty of that here too.

Late on my first afternoon I wander Yeppoon Main Beach, in a bid to catch the dying shards of sunlight and some feet-in-the-sand spirituality. Time to catch my breath, gather my thoughts, and admire the intricate Aboriginal art-like patterns the soldier crabs have crafted in the sand. There’s a lone jogger, a couple of fishermen, sea debris, shells and driftwood. It all smells sublime.

I head south to the Town of 1770 and Agnes Water, pausing for a cheeky crab sandwich at Miriam Vale. It’s early and I’m hoping to catch a LARC tour of the region in these perky pink amphibious army vehicles. We drive through creek crossings and along remote stretches of sand, learning about the area’s history and looking for wildlife. The LARC does the impossible and climbs a steep hill to the Bustard Head Lighthouse. I fantasise about becoming a lighthouse caretaker for a month, wondering whether I could embrace the soul-searching solitude.

The next morning, I tip-toe over the carefully plonked stepping stones in the Paperbark Forest, determined not to lose my balance into the wetlands below. I pat one of the trees, drawing on its strength and energy. Later, I visit a remote beach and remember the days I would plunge into rock pools such as this and swim with the crabs. I walk the 1770 headland and try to catch a beautiful butterfly, but only end up capturing it on my phone. I feast on fish and chips at a beachfront café, daydreaming about a return visit where I will learn to surf on this tame wave on what is Queensland’s most northerly surf beach.

On my penultimate afternoon, I paddle out on a kayaking adventure which starts with my guide pointing out deep rivets in the sand. Turns out they’re holes made from stingrays in the shallows. We head out of the harbour and towards a sandbar where we pause to catch our breath. Onwards we paddle towards the ocean, in hunt of jumping eagle rays and dolphins. But not today. Never mind, we surf the waves back into shore and Butterfly Beach which is awash with oysters. If only I had a sharp knife and a glass of champagne. My guide produces a knife and some cask wine. It’s good enough for me, who has found the best dining destination in town. We glide back into the sunset.

It’s my last day and I can’t resist another peek at the beach before heading south. Cattle country eventually concedes to cane country as I head over the Burnett River bridge into Bundaberg. I was here the same time last year, watching the turtle hatchlings emerge from their shells at Mon Repos Beach, feasting on regional produce and snorkelling Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot islands. It’s hard not to be a parochial Queenslander when the Southern Great Barrier Reef sits on your doorstep. Back in Brisbane I sip on a Billy Goat’s gin, gifted from a new brewer in Rockhampton. It could just as easily be a Bundaberg Rum or a Baffle Creek beer. The Southern Great Barrier Reef is alive and thriving, but don’t take my word for it, go and see for yourself.

The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Southern Great Barrier Reef Tourism http://www.southerngreatbarrierreef.com.au
Eat
•Try the award-winning Banana Station beef dishes at The Waterline Restaurant, Keppel Bay Marina – http://www.thewaterline.com.au

•Gladstone’s Lightbox Espresso and Wine Bar serves a colourful charcuterie menu along with French champagne, bespoke cocktails, premium wine and spirits and local and imported beer. http://www.lightboxgladstone.co

•Join Suzie Clarke, a former commercial cook, on one of her three Taste of Bundaberg food tours of the region. So successful are these tours, that Suzie has recently added a Drinks Tour to showcase the innovative drops, including that world-famous Bundaberg Rum, which are being produced here.
http://www.bundyfoodtours.com.au

Do
•Freedom Fast Cats to Great Keppel Island – https://freedomfastcats.com
•Keppel Connections from Great Keppel Island – http://www.keppelkonnections.com.au
•LARC! Paradise Tour – http://www.1770larctours.com.au
•Liquid Adventures kayaking tours – http://www.1770liquidadventures.com.au
•Mon Repos Turtle Encounter – https://www.bundabergregion.org/turtles/mon-repos-turtle-encounter
•Bundaberg Distillery Tour – https://www.bundabergrum.com.au/distillery?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIi5mnp6762gIV1QorCh1fegFUEAAYASAAEgKsFfD_BwE

Postcard from the Southern Great Barrier Reef

Photo of Great Keppel Island, courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland


I’M travelling Queensland’s Southern Great Barrier Reef this week, hunting and gathering more stories, and hopefully some beautiful photos. I’ll be back soon with more travel tales. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram @aglobalgoddess

Photo of Great Keppel Island, courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

The Other Side of Everest


“Human trafficking is the second-most prolific organised crime on the planet after the weapons and the drug trade. But unlike drugs, a woman can be sold more than once and often many times in one day,” Sisterhood of Survivors, Kathmandu, Nepal
IN a pastel pink court building, the colour that little girls all over the world like to wear and a deep shade of irony, less than two per cent of Nepal’s human trafficking cases make up the Supreme Court caseload.
In the country’s District Court rooms, it’s less than 0.3 per cent. But there’s a blinding bullseye, one case that stands out from the rest. In March this year, in Nuwakot’s District Court in the country’s centre, one of Nepal’s sex trafficking ring leaders was sentenced to the nation’s harshest jail penalty in history.
Back in Kathmandu, in a basic brick structure adorned with hope, the women who helped put him away, have barely just begun.
There’s a slow rumble erupting around Nepal…not the kind that Mother Everest likes to display when she’s displeased with too many climbers, nor the type that destroyed Kathmandu in the 2015 earthquake.
This is the thunder of Third World feminism.

The Criminals
On March 23, local politician and Chair of the Dupcheswor Rural Municipality, Sun Bahadur Tamang, was sentenced to 37 years in prison for human trafficking. Two other men, Shukman Lama and Tikaram Tamang, were jailed for 32 and 30 years respectively.
And it was thanks to the women of SASANE, survivors of sex trafficking and slave labour, who filed a case under the Prevention and Control of Human Trafficking and Smuggling Act.
Launched 10 years ago with the assistance of a USD25,000 injection from global travel company G Adventures, SASANE rescues women who have been trafficked, and trains them to become paralegals so that they, in turn, can represent other women. Those who don’t have a basic education, are trained in valuable hospitality skills, which they share along with their stories to tourists, under the Sisterhood of Survivors project.
G Adventures Chief Experience Officer Baikuntha Simkhada (BK) says the border between landlocked Nepal and India is 1346 kilometres long, and because of open-border agreements between the two countries, passports are not checked, enabling trafficking.
“Human trafficking is massive in developing countries. In Nepal, when families have more daughters, they sell them to prostitution so the parents can get more money,” he says.
“Parents know certain parts of what happens to their daughters but they don’t know the worst because they hand them over to relatives that they trust.”

The Buyers
The number one market is India, where girls sell for between USD4000-5000. More than 7000 girls a year in Nepal are trafficked and more than 50 a day are trafficked across the Indian border alone. Many of them simply disappear.
“Kathmandu and other major cities of Nepal are the number two market,” BK says.
“The third biggest market is further afield in places like Malaysia and Dubai where girls are sold as ‘house workers’. This the new trick or they are also called Bollywood dancers from Nepal.
“They give lots of false promises. There are lots of illegal prostitution centres here. Sometimes they are rescued by honest customers who report to police.”
BK, who has a 13-year-old daughter, says he has asked “rude questions” of parents who sold their daughters.
“There are a lot of cultural issues around this,” he says.
“The parents didn’t know. They were looking for money. In some societies they don’t talk openly.”

The Statistics
At SASANE, women are fed and cared for, given medical help, and seen by social workers for counselling. Only 10 per cent of survivors file a formal complaint.
Since it was established, 249 women have been trained to become paralegals, offering free-of-charge assistance to other survivors, who they have represented in 400 court cases.
Nepal is considered the epicentre of human trafficking and the issue has only worsened since the 2015 earthquake resulted in more poverty and displacement.
SASANE aims to halt “modern day slavery” with human trafficking estimated to be a USD150 billion a year industry worldwide.
It is the second most prolific organised crime on the planet after the weapons and drug trade. But unlike drugs, a woman can be sold more than once and often many times in one day.
While the average age for a trafficked woman is between 14 and 20, some are as young as 6, with more than 26 per cent of trafficked women classified as children.

The Survivor
Indira Gurung, one of the SASANE’s three founders, can’t remember her age and reaches for her phone to do the calculation. Nor does she want her photo taken. She’s 33, but she lost her childhood and identity a long time ago, when she was sold from her mountain village and trafficked into slave labour in Kathmandu at the age of 13.
“The agent told my parents they would send me to school and after school I would work at their home. They did not send me to school and I had to work morning to night without pay. I worked that way for five to six years,” she says.
“I had a contact with another house and went to the second home. They sent me to school but did not allow me to study and I had to work but I got a high school diploma and got a job in a restaurant and the Nepalese customers abused all the girls here.
“When customers were coming to the restaurant they wanted to do sexual abuse to us. They wanted to sleep with us and forced us to drink alcohol. The restaurant owner pushed us to go with them. They would come into a small room and close the door and force us to sit on the couch.”
After six months of sexual abuse and when she was 19, Indira contacted an organisation who helped her escape.
“At that time, we had a lot of survivors like me and we talked and learned that one cannot fight but a group can fight,” she says.
“We hired a lawyer and learned from him about our legal rights to fight trafficking and other abuse.
“When I got paralegal training, I wanted to fight the restaurant owner but he was not there anymore. He is still free, that is not good.”
Indira, who continues to face threats from human traffickers, says she did not know slavery and trafficking was illegal in Nepal before she learned her basic human rights.
“People are telling us if we share our story no one will respect us but it’s not our fault,” she says.
“Survivors need marketability skills to stand for themselves. Sometimes I am angry at my parents but that is the situation I Nepal. They are also innocent.
“I underwent counselling and art healing to learn about the power of women. This way I became empowered. I realised women have a lot of power to heal and protect other survivors.”

The Solution
Indira says she prefers to inject her energy into lobbying governments, police and stake holders like NGOs.
“We are known now. Before we began our programs, many girls were missing from the mountains, now there are adolescent girls living and working on the mountains,” she says.
“One day we can stop this problem in Nepal. If the traffickers work one time, we should work two times.
“If we expand our program into 77 destinations in Nepal we can stop human trafficking.”

The Future
Each year, through their tourism projects – visitors to SASANE are taught how to make Nepal’s traditional dumpling dish of momos before being served lunch – and other collaborations, SASANE raises a massive USD85,000 to continue its work. But it’s still not enough.
SASANE has plans to open restaurants in Kathmandu’s heavy tourist area of Thamel.
“The message for all of the women in the world is that if you don’t have economic opportunities you cannot survive,” she says.
“If you don’t have skills, you have to sell your body.”
Just before our interview ends, Indira begins to cry, not over the abuse she and other women have survived, but because tour groups such as ours visit SASANE.
“Thank you, you are giving us so much strength. Many people are visiting the mountain (Everest) but not the bottom part of the mountain. We should show their stories,” she says.
“I’m not a tough woman, other women are stronger than me. I’m only trying to do my best.
“I want to be a kind-hearted woman. I just give hope and love.”

To donate to SASANE go to http://www.sasane.org.np. The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of G Adventures (www.gadadventures.com) and Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com)

Postcard from Nepal


Namaste! I am currently on assignment in Nepal with G Adventures but will be back shortly to tell you about this beautiful land and its amazing people. In the meantime, check out my Nepal pics on Instagram @aglobalgoddess

8 Awesome Animal Experiences around the World


I’VE been incredibly fortunate in the past few years, in the course of my travel writing adventures, to indulge in some of the most amazing experiences that exist between humans and animals. Here’s 8 I’ve done that I’ll reckon you’ll love.
1. Walk with the Polar Bears
To be utterly honest, I was more frightened of how cold I expected it to be up in arctic Canada, than being eaten by a polar bear, and I was right. This trip-of-a-lifetime sees you fly into Winnipeg, where you will overnight and be fitted with your polar gear (which assists greatly with minus 14 degree Celsius temperatures). The next day you’ll fly to Churchill, and then board a tiny plane out to Seal River Heritage Lodge. Here, Churchill Wild runs “walk with the polar bear” safaris out on the arctic tundra framing wild and remote Hudson Bay. So unthreatened are these beautiful animals by this tour, one 400kg male came within 10 metres of our group. Sublime.
https://www.churchillwild.com

2. Snorkel with Salmon
In this instance, I WAS frightened of bears, but I had no real reason. On this adventure, you fly out of Vancouver over to Vancouver Island and Campbell River. Here, you can join an eclectic journey with Destiny River Adventures where you will board a raft and paddle down Campbell River, before plunging into 14 degree waters. Yes, chilly, but worth it, as you plummet down the rapids, dodging rocks and snorkelling with salmon. There’s three pools to experience here (in pool two you are advised to fly like a super hero to avoid being shredded to bits by the rocks). And no, there are no grizzly bears waiting by the shoreline to feast on salmon, or you, as it’s the wrong season. What you will experience is a thrill of a lifetime, and come face-to-face with some friendly seals as well.
http://www.destinyriver.com

3. Sail to see the Komodo Dragons
I LOVE lizards and any reptile for that matter, and had always longed to see the komodo dragons. But arriving at Komodo National Park is not as simple as it seems. However, there exists an incredible adventure which makes the journey a dream. Head out with Indonesian Island Sail on its traditional timber boat, and you can spend 14 glorious days sailing from Bali to Komodo and back. Along the way you’ll feast on fabulous food, snorkel some of the clearest waters in the region, swim with manta rays and turtles, and arrive at Komodo National Park where you can snatch a selfie with those gorgeous giants.
http://www.indonesianislandsail.com

4. Float with the Manta Rays
Did someone mention manta rays? A few years ago, while staying on Hawaii’s Big Island, I had the fabulous fortune of a night float with the manta rays. Courtesy of Manta Ray Advocates, at Kona, after dark you are taken out into the bay on an outrigger canoe. Then, when the conditions are just right, you are invited to slip into the ocean. Holding on to a surf board with handles, and sporting a snorkel and mask, you are invited to plunge your face into the ocean and watch as the magnificent mantas swim right up to you. If you are lucky, they will eye-ball you before they perform a tumble turn.
http://www.mantarayshawaii.com/mantaexperience.html

5. Drive a Reindeer or Husky Sleigh
They are hard-core up in Finnish Lapland and it’s easy to see why. When you have months of darkness during winter, and the temperature plummets to minus 40 degrees Celsius, you tend to be made of serious stuff. Up at Beana Laponia Wilderness Boutique Hotel, a working husky farm, you are invited to not only join a husky safari, but are taught how to drive the team. Yes, you can become a musher. And it is seriously great fun as you fly through snowy trails in a pure-white winter wonderland. For those looking for something a little more sedate, the hotel can also arrange for you to do a reindeer safari. Not as fast or as fun as the huskies, but if Santa is your thing, this might be right up your alley.
http://www.beanalaponia.com

6. Meditate with a Horse
If only the horse could talk. One of my craziest animal experiences to date, this one occurred in the Gold Coast Hinterland at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat. Sure, you can do yoga, tai-chi or go bushwalking, or, if you’re like me, you can indulge in a one-hour meditation session with a horse. At first I was dubious, but it became very obvious during this session that Jack knew far more than I realised. Horses are used for therapy as it is believed they can pick up on human emotions (without any of the bullshit) and from my experience, Jack was spot on. When I was nervous, Jack was skittish. When I lost confidence leading him around the ring, so, too, did Jack. By the end of this session I was able to command Jack to gallop, and stop, purely by using my breath.
https://www.gwinganna.com

7. Witness hatching Turtles
There’s few nicer things in nature than watching an animal begin its life journey and at Bundaberg, on Queensland’s Southern Great Barrier Reef, you can do just that. Between November and January, head to Mon Repos Beach and watch the lady loggerhead turtles lay their eggs, and then, between January and March, you can encounter the hatchlings as they erupt from the nests. Carefully managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, join a ranger on a guided tour at night on the beach and your life will never quite be the same again. https://www.bundabergregion.org/turtles/mon-repos-turtle-encounter

8. Hang out with some cool Cats
If you’ve ever wanted to witness Africa’s Big Five, this is your chance. And at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges, you can do this in style. Plonked within South Africa’s Kruger National Park, each day you’ll head out on two safaris, one before dawn and the other before dusk, for your best chances of seeing animals in their wild habitat. Again, I was initially worried about being mauled by a lion, but you are in a four-wheel drive with a ranger and a spotter who are fastidious about safety. And, by the end of my trip, I was even going on walking safaris, out in the open, with the exceptional guides who will explain animal tracks and the stories behind them.
https://www.sabisabi.com

AND ONE I CAN’T WAIT TO DO
9. Swim with the Whales
Last year, I was all set to slip into the Pacific Ocean off of the Sunshine Coast and swim with the whales, but wild weather prevented that adventure. But each year, between July and October, when the humpback whales are migrating from Antarctica to breed and play in Queensland’s warm waters, visitors have the opportunity to go out with Sunreef Mooloolaba to get wet with the whales. You hold onto a floating line attached to the boat, and then it’s up to these mammoth mammals as to how close they wish to get to you. Watch this space…
http://www.sunreef.com.au/experiences/swim-whales

What animal experiences have you done that you’ve loved or want to do? My list doesn’t end. At number 10, I want to swim with the whale sharks and do a shark cage dive

1000 reasons to follow me on Instagram


JUST like this camel caravan I captured in the Sahara Desert, I’ve been working hard to attract more followers. For the past year, I’ve posted a photo a day on Instagram and recently hit my first 1000 followers. I’ve also posted more than 1000 photos, so that’s at least 1000 reasons to follow me. Here’s a selection of my most popular pics, taken from my global travels over the past six months, and published under my Instagram handle @aglobalgoddess. I’d love to see you over there.




From the desert dust to the brilliant blues of Chefchaouen, Morocco served up a kaleidoscope of colour and charm.




Indonesia’s beautiful Bawah Island gave me the blues, in the best possible way.




Finland’s Lapland was all white and all right.




Back home, the Aussie summer served up its bushfire orange sunsets and aqua beach days.




While on my first trip to Japan last month, it was better to be red, than dead.
Follow me on Instagram @aglobalgoddess