ALLOW me to let you in on a little secret. I love Bali and return every year to unfurl more of her magic and mystery and to soak up her dominant feminine energy. The fact she’s been in the news lately for her smouldering volcano, draws me even more to this Land of the Gods. What is it that she’s trying to tell us? So I’ve teamed up with Expedia.com.au to bring you 5 Divine Reasons you should visit this beautiful destination.
1. There’s some great deals on airfares
This airline aficionado surfs international airfares like stock brokers watch the currency markets. And there’s some great deals on offer right now. Just think, you can leave Australia in the morning and be up in Bali in time for cocktail hour. Lychee martini anyone?
2. The beds are going for a bargain
So many great hotels, so little time. You could travel to Bali forever and still not experience all of the amazing accommodation on offer. I like to mix it up, staying in a cheap and cheerful hotel if I’m simply overnighting on the way to somewhere like the Gili Islands, just off of Bali. I love the name of The Happy Mango Tree Hostel in Ubud.
3. The activities are awesome
When in Bali, The Global Goddess likes to divide her days between some action and adventure, and a whole heap of flopping and dropping, preferably by a pool. With a pool bar. And forget trite tourism experiences, there’s some really cool things to do in Bali. Ever had breakfast with the orangutans at Bali Zoo or gone Quad or Buggy Driving? What about a Downhill Cultural Cycling Tour with Lunch? Something I will be trying next time I’m in Bali, is a Pre-Airport Chill Package with Transfers. This package includes an authentic Balinese spa experience, drinks and transfers, which is handy, given many flights out of Bali to Australia are late at night.
4. You can still Eat, Pray and Love
Despite Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling novel being out for several years now, there’s still a number of women, like me, wandering the rice paddies of Bali, looking for love and the general meaning to life. Join a private Eat, Pray, Love tour with lunch, which will take you to Ubud and yes, you will get to meet a Balinese medicine man. You just never know your luck.
5. It’s peaceful
Come February, after the sultry summer rush of school holidays, Christmas and New Years, Mother Bali breathes a sigh of relief. Now is the time to go. Get back in touch with your soul, and set your intentions for 2018, through a private tour: A Spiritual Journey Experience, where you’ll start the morning doing yin yoga at Sebatu Village, undergo a blessing and purification ceremony at a Balinese temple, meditate in a cave, and meet with a Balinese shaman.
The Global Goddess has partnered with Expedia to bring you a little bit of Bali bliss. For more experiences and ideas go to http://www.expedia.com.au
AMERICAN actor Vince Vaughn is slouching in the lobby of Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, clutching a cup of coffee and a wearing face full of pain. Vince looks like he’s had a big night and I know how he feels. I’ve flown some 13 hours from Brisbane to arrive in these palatial surrounds and about the only two things that aren’t elegant in this gracious hotel lobby this morning are Vince and me. Vince is in town to film the movie Deadpool but I’m here for another pool…of fish. I have bigger fish to fry than Vince.
This is a story about fish and fear. About how three years ago when I was up in Canada on another assignment I’d heard of an amazing adventure where you can snorkel with the salmon. I’ll take any chance to snorkel or swim anywhere in the world and this story angle had me hook, line and sinker. And so late last week I found myself in Vancouver, preparing to fly over to Campbell River and the Salmon Capital of the World, to try my luck on yet another jaunty journey.
As per usual, all sorts of irrational thoughts cross my mind. Last year, when I was in Canada, I went on a walking safari with the polar bears up in Churchill but I was more frightened of the minus 14 degree temperatures than those gentle giants out on the arctic tundra. But grizzly and black bears? They seriously scare me. I’ve seen all sorts of nature documentaries where the bears wait for the salmon run and stand on the edge of the river and pluck them straight out of the water. So how, exactly, would I fit into this equation? In terms of Mother Nature’s mathematics, surely I would be more filling and tasty than a salmon?
My Campbell River cab driver Winston Pittendrigh, 76, picks me up at the airport and tells me snorkelling is not his “cup of tea”. (As a curious aside, there doesn’t appear to be a taxi driver in the Salmon Capital of the World who is under 75, so ladies, if you’re looking for love, this may not be the place for you). But I digress.
“I don’t mind the water but I’m not too keen about going underwater,” Winston says.
“There are lots of black bears around these parts. I’ve seen enough whales and bears, I don’t need to go on a tour.
“I’ve been as close as that door (he points to the passenger door) to a bear. The hair rose on the back of my neck. I opened the door and there was a bear looking at me. He looked at me for four or five seconds and then he went back to eating.
“Bears even wander into our homes of the morning. I’ve seen them. I’ve seen one of my neighbour’s porch.”
The next day, Destiny River Adventures owner and tour guide Jamie Turko, who runs the Snorkelling with the Salmon experience, warns us not to wee in his wetsuits or they will become ours, at a price. I’m a little worried, this is a three-hour tour during which we will spend a good part of the time in crisp 14 degree waters. I can’t guarantee anything and hope if I do pee myself, Jamie can’t spot it from the boat. I suspect Jamie sees everything.
Jamie gives us an extensive safety briefing and then asks us “who is responsible for your safety?”.
“You!” I respond, enthusiastically and incorrectly.
“No,” Jamie says, with a dash of disdain, “you are”.
So, I am the only thing between me and a bear. I will definitely wee in my wetsuit.
“It’s important to lay with your face in the water and to keep an eye on the river hazards, such as the many rocks you’ll dodge along the way,” Jamie says.
“The number one hazard is river rocks. You need to fly like Superman or Wonder Woman. At this water level it’s like a giant game of pinball and you are the ball.
“The number two hazard is wood. There are also lots of fisher people in the river and you don’t want to be their next catch.”
This was not in the brochure, I want to protest, but instead, I take the plunge, flying down the river like a super hero in a four-inch wetsuit, salmon whizzing past my face. At one point, caught in some whirling rapids, I think I may die, or at the very least, get hit in the head by a rock as it’s all just white water like I’m in a washing machine spin cycle. Then fear turns to bravado. How cool, I think, if I survive this, imagine explaining the gash and bruises back in Brisbane. I realise this is my very own dead pool. Perhaps Vince Vaughn needs an extra in his movie? I exit the rapids with a huge smile on my face. Jamie is sitting in the river raft grinning at me.
“That was awesome,” I yell across the river.
And I didn’t wee myself once.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Destination British Columbia http://www.HelloBC.com.au
For all the exciting details of this entire Snorkelling with the Salmon adventure, and other fishy “tails” to have in British Columbia, keep an eye out for Vacations and Travel Magazine. For a poetic version about the symmetry of salmon snorkelling on the Campbell River, keep an eye out for Senior Traveller. Both stories appearing soon.
I’m flying to the Cook Islands today on assignment for 10 days. I’ll be back just after Easter with some more pics and words on my incredible adventure where I’ll be snorkelling and sailing these beautiful waters, interviewing the only female chief of one of their tribes, participating in a traditional bush beer ceremony with the men, staying in a brand new eco retreat, going on a cycling storytelling tour and visiting some of their most remote islands. I can’t wait to meet these beautiful people.
Photos and travel courtesy of Cook Islands Tourism http://www.cookislands.travel
HAVING exhausted every possibility or hope of ever finding the man of my dreams in Australia, I’ve cast the net wider and my search for the love of my life last week took me to Papua New Guinea. I may have also been up there writing a series of travel stories, but never let it be said that I waste any opportunity to find love. What I really adore about my travels is that no matter in which new country I find myself, I merely need to tell a local that I’m looking for love and they are immediately on the case. In this instance, the lovely Lucy, a 50-year-old PNG woman who works at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort, instantly becomes my latest wing woman, and she knows a thing or two about love.
Lucy was married for 18 years to a European man who left her for another woman, breaking Lucy’s heart, but not her spirit. Sure, she went a bit “long long” or crazy for a bit, but who can blame her? We’ve all been there, sista. Then, after six years on her own, raising two children, she met the love of her life, who treats her like she’s royalty.
“I tried to go out with the white man, but he leave me for another woman, so now I only go with the black man,” Lucy says.
“He cooks, he cleans and when I come home, everything is done for me. I love him…and sometimes I hate him.
“My first husband, he came back and asked my second husband if he could have me back. But I don’t worry about that any more. That’s why I look so good. I’m 50 and I look good.”
Every day Lucy tells me that I am beautiful and that I even look like her daughter “she has a sharp nose like you”. She says when I return to Rabaul I must come and stay with her in her village and she’ll find me a man. One night she cooks a traditional dinner in her village home for me and brings it into the hotel where I am staying. She even takes an unexpected photo of me one night while I’m working on my computer, so she can show prospective partners. “They can see that you are hard working,” she says, before scuttling away with a half startled snapshot of me on her phone.
And look, it’s not as if I’m not attracting attention up here in the tropics. Everywhere I go, men, women and children stare at me, and when I catch them staring, they flash me those megawatt smiles synonymous with the South Pacific. It’s in those moments, when the humidity is bearing down on me, that I hallucinate a little and think it’s because I’m stunning, and not simply an anomaly with my blonde hair, green eyes and fair skin, that I am attracting my fair share of stares. It’s only when the baby daughter of my friend Joel, who is showing me around Rabaul/Kokopo, begins to cry uncontrollably when she sees me, that I realise they don’t get too many white women around these parts.
Which is a great shame as this is truly a beautiful country with incredible people, stories, superstitions, customs, cuisine, tradition, adventure and history. Hendrika, 33, a tour guide at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort, has six distinct dots tattooed near her right eye to signify that she is from the neighbouring island of Kimbe. Hendrika says PNG once operated on an arranged marriage system and still does in some parts. But the modern PNG woman looks for a man who is “hard working, honest, has land, is good looking and strong,” she says.
Lawrence, 29, a driver at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort and a Tolai man, says a woman must be “beautiful and hard working around the house”. And “sexy”, he adds.
“In PNG we think the white lady is sexy. We’ve seen a lot of movies. A PNG man and a white lady…why not?” he says.
“PNG men like a woman to look after him. I had an Australian girlfriend once but she was here for work and left after 2 years when her contract ended. Of course I cried.”
I learn that shell money is still used widely throughout the island as a type of dowry and according to Lawrence, I would be worth lots of shells.
Ellis Waragat, a 55 year old Tolai woman, says some traditions remain.
“When there is a sing sing or traditional dance the men will sleep out in the bush, dress up, put on tribal masks and oil and look shiny and they make magic and it is powerful and they can make a woman fall in love with them,” she says.
The good news, at least for me, is women can also use this special oil to attract a mate, which Ellis says is a foolproof approach.
“You put oil on your body and you put your shell money together. When you put this oil on your face any man will fall for you. Just put it on your face and people will be calling to you and talking to you…men especially.”
My time at Rabaul/Kokopo has come to an end, and unfortunately I run out of time to find a tribal man with his magic oil, but this land in which I find myself is so alluring, I hope I’ll be back. I feel there are plenty of fish in this sea, and hopefully enough shells on the beach for someone to be able to afford me.
The Global Goddess travelled to Rabaul/Kokopo as a guest of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority. http://www.tpa.papuanewguinea.travel A special shout out to Air Niugini for assisting her with airport lounge access. Air Niugini flys weekly directly from Cairns to Rabaul. http://www.airniugini.com.pg
THIS is a tale of battlers and beaut beaches. It’s the kind of story which whacks you in the face when you’re looking for something else, with the types of colourful characters you simply can’t ignore. Like Geoff Warne, who reckons he’s going to pen an autobiography one day entitled “Simply F****d”; former Turkish child bride Sevtap Yuce; Wooli oyster champion Kim Guinea who happens to hate seafood; and Yamba YHA owner Shane Henwood – who is prone to putting fake snakes and spiders in the beds of his guests.
I am on the mid northern New South Wales coast, tracing the mighty Clarence River from Yamba to Grafton, and like the ocean around these parts, the people are wild, woolly and delightfully unpredictable. Like Action Activities Adventure owner Geoff Warne, who is making a splash with his new kayaking and bike hire business. Now in his 40s, this former carpenter who hurt his back at the age of 19, and became a fitness trainer before turning to tourism, has dodged more than his fair share of life’s bloody bullets.
Geoff has been involved in a number of car accidents which left him physically and mentally scarred, but decided to fight for his happiness and aim towards owning his own business.
“There’s a book in my head and it’s called Simply F****d,” Geoff jokes.
“But I said to myself, ‘I’m not giving up’. I thought of everything that I like and thought ‘I’ll be a tour guide’ as I like helping people. All I have to do is make that holiday happy for them.”
Geoff went on to blitz a Certificate III and IV in Tourism before working on the Gold Coast at Dreamworld and then in Mt Tamborine’s glo-worm caves.
Family reasons have pushed him over the border and south to Yamba where he has started this next chapter of his life. On his tours, guests can kayak to nearby Iluka which is one of the last remaining coastal rainforests in New South Wales. The trip also takes in Bluff Beach, snorkelling, home-made treats for morning tea, and a ferry ride back home. Those who want to hang around can also hire Geoff’s bikes and scooters at Iluka.
“It is a great place to start a new future,” he says.
“The most important thing for me is I’ve done something for me and achieved it. I still can’t believe I’ve done it.
“It’s all or nothing. If I don’t do it now, I’m always going to die wondering.”
This never-say-die attitude also resonates with Sevtap Yuce, owner of Yamba’s Beachwood Café and author of two cookbooks about her beloved Turkish cuisine and a third to be published next August. Here, Sevtap serves Turkish delights such as lamb kofte and hummus and local seafood dishes. There’s also Turkish lemonade in lemon, cherry, apple and pomegranate flavours on the menu.
But precisely 30 years ago, this 46 year old was an unhappy child bride in an arranged marriage in her native Turkey. And the sadness stalked her when in 2004 she lost her brother when he was kidnapped and executed during the Iraq War.
“That was the hardest thing my family went through,” she says.
“When I arrived in Australia I had no help, no money, I didn’t speak English and then all of a sudden I’ve achieved something. If somebody said to me ‘this is how your life is going to be’ I would have laughed.
“How can a Turk like me get to this stage? If I can do it, any woman can do it. I think it’s a pretty cool thing to do.”
At her pretty café surrounded by roses and fresh herbs, Sevtap serves “fresh, simple” locally caught and produced food. And these days she is content being single.
“I think I’ve found the love in my work,” she says.
“I’ve made this my baby and my life. And if I don’t meet anyone, it doesn’t matter.”
Further south along the coast, Wooli Oyster owner Kim Guinea ironically doesn’t like seafood, but her husband and co-owner of this riverside business Ron does. It’s been a tough couple of years for these operators, for whom flooding has stymied oyster production. But with a bumper summer season ahead of them, Kim and Ron are looking forward to a brighter future.
“I love opening oysters and looking at them but I don’t eat them. When you start coming into summer you get these nice fat oysters,” Kim says.
“My husband likes them and he uses the whole aphrodisiac line as a selling point.
“Wooli oysters are so popular because of the pristine water here. There is no pollution and they’ve got a lovely flavour.”
Back in Yamba, YHA owner Shane Henwood, 37, first dreamt of building his own youth hostel when he stayed in one in Sydney at age 16. This family-run business – his 80-year-old nana changes the sheets – has been going great guns since it started five years ago.
“We get all age groups here, families, the whole lot. One of our guys comes back every year and he’d be 90. We’ve had (surfer) Tommy Carroll, (entertainer) Normie Rowie and (singer) Angus Stone. One of our English girls didn’t know who Angus was and told him to stop playing the guitar as she was trying to watch television,” Shane laughs.
“Our guests come for two weeks and stay for a year. They class this is as the secret spot and only tell backpackers they like. Even the local police and detectives had their Christmas party here.”
Shane also runs “Shane’s 10 buck tour” where you get a three-hour taste of paradise. And, if you’re lucky, he may even plant a fake spider or snake in your bed when you’re away. Just for fun.
But when I ask Shane if he ever felt like abandoning his dream, which took 4.5 years to gain council approval, he looks me straight in the eye.
“Nup. I never give up.”
Yep. There’s something in the waters of the Clarence River region. I think it’s called hope.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Clarence Tourism – http://www.clarencetourism.com For an awesome 1950s beach shack experience perched right on the ocean, head to Seascape Units – http://www.seascapeunits.com.au