“Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them,” Winston Churchill
THEY look insipid, like a long line of stinking black house ants just before the rains come, trailing their way to the top. I’m standing at the base of Uluru watching a congo line of tourists snake their way up Australia’s most iconic rock, a monument we’ve been warned against climbing, again and again. It’s not just about death – 35 people have died trying to climb Uluru – but deity. The local Anangu Aborigines believe this is a sacred site, to be respected, and yet the visitors still scramble skywards. Under the hot August sun my face burns with shame at my fellow tourists.
In a recent piece for Fairfax Traveller, travel writing colleague and close friend Louise Southerden, who blogs under No Impact Girl, talks about why travellers are drawn to mountains and skyscrapers.
“Ever since we roamed the grasslands of Africa, we’ve looked to elevated locations for safety, for advance warning of predators – or invaders. Visit any castle or fortress from Bhutan to Balmoral (in Scotland), not to mention China’s Great Wall, and you’ll get a visceral sense of this strategic advantage,” Louise argues.
“Sometimes getting high is about escaping the cloying heat of the lowlands. Think tea plantations in the hills of Sri Lanka, the temple-dotted Himalayan foothills of northern India, the snow-caked peaks of Equatorial Ecuador (although Ecuador’s highest peak, the 6263-metre Chimborazo, has long lured climbers for another reason: it’s the world’s highest mountain when measured from the centre of the Earth, not from sea level).
“Altitude gain can also help us face our fears, give us a thrill (and sometimes vertigo) and let us see where we are and where we’re going, and not just cartographically.”
Ironically, I am in Bhutan, being cradled in the bosom of the Himalayas, when I read her powerfully-penned piece. I send her a private message, it’s in the valleys, I argue, that I discover my truth, in life’s troughs, not its peaks. Down in the nitty gritty. Louise, who is also opposed to climbing Uluru and other sacred sites, urges me to trek on and to scratch out my truth on the page. And so here I am. And I am not alone in this valley. Back in Bhutan, the Happiest Country on Earth, they consider the surrounding Himalayas so sacred, that despite having one of the world’s highest mountains, no climbing is allowed, unlike neighbouring Nepal and its alluring Everest. Three quarters of Bhutan’s land mass is mountain, yet its entire population lives in tiny slivers of valley. My nights in Bhutan are spent alone, staring at those mighty mountains, feeling like they’re wrapped around me like a comforting cloak.
On a visit to Nepal in April this year, I turn my back on Everest Base Camp and head in the opposite direction, towards the valley. I interview women who have been stolen from the mountains and sold into the sex trade, but have escaped and are now trained to become paralegals, and save other women in the same dire situation. So desperate was the sex trafficking in this country, that at one point, no teenage girls lived on Nepal’s mountains. The women, from SASANE, a project sponsored by G Adventures, are imploring the world to look into Nepal’s valleys, not its mountains. And these brave women are inspiration indeed.
Months later, my physio, who is an avid climber, and I discuss the death of New Zealand’s experienced mountaineer Rob Hall at Everest in 1996. I argue it’s ego that killed Hall – who had already summited the mountain five times previously – when he stayed up on Everest long after the deadline to leave had passed. My physio reckons Hall risked, and lost everything, because it was one of the first paid expeditions with tourists.
I ask another travel writing mate and avid climber, Andrew Bain, who blogs under Adventure Before Avarice his views on climbing.
“It’s a running joke, even among my hiking mates, that I’m one of those people compelled to stand on top of anything pointy – a peak bagger – and yet I often despair at the lack of respect we bring to mountains in the name of ‘conquering’ them,” Andrew says.
“Massive crowds filter through the Khumbu Valley to tick Everest Base Camp off a bucket list, for no reason other than the fact that it has Everest in the name. In so many cases, it’s not about the beauty of the place, or what it means, it’s simply a word to boast about, a tick on a list.
“Mountains are places that remind me that the world is greater than us – that we can’t conquer the planet as we believe – so to approach them is to respect them, whether we’re standing on top of them being uplifted by them, or simply looking at them from afar.
“I may be compelled to climb them, but I still take immense heart and hope looking at a mountain such as Machhapuchhare and knowing that there are still peaks that are beyond us, if not physically, at least spiritually or respectfully.”
And this is my point. I have a massive respect for those who climb, who forge new frontiers and discover new lands. But do it for the right reasons. Man can’t conquer mountains. Mother Everest continues to remind us of this. Trek but don’t trample. It’s not the Eiffel Tower I want to climb when I’m in Paris, jostling with thousands of other tourists wanting to tick it off their bucket list. For me, the joy comes from sitting in the shadows of this mighty metal sculpture, speaking with the old Parisian gent who ventures there every day with his coffee. That, to me, is the real Paris. I want to float down life’s rivers, part of the landscape, not perch atop it. Let me dive into the world’s oceans and lay on her sandy beaches, feet firmly in the sand. For to me, it’s in these rivets where the truth really lives. And so, on this hot August day, I wander around the base of Uluru, snatching quiet moments among her craggy crevices, listening to her tales, soaking up her soul and begging her forgiveness.
From October 26, 2019, no further climbing will be allowed on Uluru following a land-mark decision by the Traditional Owners of the land and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board.
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
IT was one of those tricky days in the office for both of us. Australian celebrity chef Matt Moran was in Melbourne, with a rotten head cold and 30 minutes to spare to speak with me about his role with Singapore Airlines before another eight media interviews. I was in Brisbane, with another appointment straight after Matt, parked in my car, my phone to my ear, my eye on the clock and the parking meter, and my notebook perched precariously on the steering wheel. I looked like a cop without the donuts, I really could have murdered a donut right about then. And Matt was running late. When we finally hooked up, I told Matt he sounded like Russell Crowe with his croaky voice. He took it in good humour. (Personally, I would have been cranky had someone told me I sounded like Russell Crowe. Hugh Jackman, no worries, but Rusty?) And we got there in the end with a story recently published in London’s Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/icons-of-the-sky/singapore-airlines-food-with-chef-matt-moran/
Last week, Singapore Airlines turned the heat up on airline food, launching its Book the Cook service from Brisbane for its Business and Premium Economy Class customers. Under Book the Cook, customers can pre-order a main meal from a selection of options, with creations inspired by the Airline’s International Culinary Panel of Chefs, including Matt Moran. For customers travelling from Brisbane to Singapore, the new service will be available in Business Class from October 1 and Premium Economy when its first Airbus A350-900 launches on October 17.
On Thursday, I was one of the fortunate few invited to a taste test of this menu. From the Business Class selection, I chose the pan-fried barramundi in native pepper berry sauce, with sautéed vegetables and saffron fettucine pasta, which was my favourite dish of the tastings. Celebrating 50 years of flying into Australia this year, Singapore Airlines is also committed to honouring local flavours and producers, where possible. In fact, last week it also announced it would serve local Brisbane craft brewery Green Beacon beer on its flights from Brisbane. An airline that supports the little guys? You had me at alpha, whiskey, foxtrot.
I also sampled two meals from the Premium Economy Class menu, the lamb with chilli and cumin, jasmine rice and stir fried Gai Lan, which was also a beautiful dish. The pesto fettucine with seafood mornay and panko parmesan crumbs contained fresh seafood, although I would have preferred a little greater mornay sauce/pasta ratio, something I’m sure their regular taste testers (yes, they have these) will pick up on.
Customers who don’t wish to Book the Cook can also choose from inflight menus, but it adds to the experience to select from this wide range of dishes before you even fly. Other dishes to receive the Singapore stamp of approval in Business Class include Chicken Madras with saag aloo gobi, steamed basmati rice, mango chutney and garlic naan bread; Cantonese roasted duck with Asian greens and steamed jasmine rice; and Chargrilled beef fillet in green peppercorn sauce, with seasoned vegetables and gratin potatoes; among others.
In Premium Economy Class, you can also Book the Cook for some Hainanese chicken rice with chilli, ginger and choy sum; and Nasi Lemak with prawn, sambal and green beans with fried onions Ikan Billis and a half-boiled egg; among others.
For a professional travel writer, who flies regularly on myriad airlines around the world, I find Singapore Airlines a consistently excellent airline, offering superb service even when you’re flying Economy. In fact, its Economy Class service rivals that of some of its Asian Business Class neighbours. Who doesn’t love a hot towel on take-off and landing? Service with a smile from their famed Singapore Girls? They’ve got all that and more. There are some airlines I’ll go out of my way to fly and for me, Singapore Airlines is one of these, particularly as it’s partnered with my favourite Australian airline, Virgin Australia. Points I earn on Singapore, can be easily converted to VA. Now, with these new offerings, they’ve signalled they are not content to rest on their laurels. (That Green Beacon Wayfarer American Wheat Beer was so good, I may have taken a sneaky can home with me from lunch). And that, Matt Moran, is something to “Crowe” about, Rusty head cold or not.
The Global Goddess travelled on this culinary journey as a guest of Singapore Airlines.
A FEW years back, concerned that Australians no longer seemed to be sending letters in this most technical of ages, one of my travel writer friends decided to do something about it. They established a Facebook group (the irony was not lost on us), labelled it Friday Postcards, and invited those of us in love with the written word, and partial to the odd postcard or two, to join. The motive was simple: send a postcard on a Friday to someone. Spread the love. Keep the written word (and Australia Post) alive.
I love being a part of this group: collecting cool cards when I travel, the tingle I feel when I send off a handful of post cards, and the rush when one lands in my letterbox. Over the years I’ve noticed a trend emerging among those I’ve been receiving. Yes, I’ve been receiving male, plenty of male…I present to you some of my favourites, which have made me laugh like a lunatic while standing at my white picket fence in Brisbane.
The Construct My Own Lumberjack
Fresh from her travels in the Yukon, Julie Miller posted me my own lumberjack. As the card says: “As it has become increasingly difficult to clear airport security with a rowdy lumberjack.” Thanks Julie, he was very handy with the, err, wood…
My Own Maori Warrior
Fellow Brisbane travel writer Lee Mylne, who hails from the Land of the Long White Cloud, kindly sent me “a little bit of Kiwi culture” in the form of a Maori male. Two months earlier, while travelling in our home state of Queensland, Lee sent the post card, which leads this blog, from Agnes Water. Yes, I caught her excitement and am off to get my own net for a spot of fishing…
Colorado Has Awesome Scenery
Kris Madden sent these thoughtful greetings from the USA. We all enjoyed the scenery immensely…
A Terrific Toy Boy
While travelling back to her home country of New Zealand, Briar Jensen went to the trouble of finding me this toy boy. “Have fun with him!” she wrote. Oh, I did…
A Myanmar Man
A few years back, Deborah Dickson-Smith and I were travelling through the River Kwai and staying in a floating Mon Village on the Thai/Burmese border. We loved the idea of finding me a Mon man. Deb was up in Myanmar looking for Mon for me…
A Hairy Man
Travelling around the Baltic Sea in Northern Germany, Philip Game pondered whether I like my blokes with a few whiskers. Nothing at all fishy about this card…
Melanie Ball found this “cutie” at the National Folk Festival over Easter and while recognising he wasn’t a man of the human variety, she thought he was an interesting crittter all the same…
Sending me a bit of tundra Tinder, Kerry van der Jagt wrote that “polar bears are the pin-ups” in Norway’s Svalbard. Yes, and about as endangered as a decent bloke in Brisbane. I get where she was going with this…
Never underestimate the power of the post to brighten someone’s day. Write to someone you haven’t seen in a while. Pen a love letter. Believe in the written word. Dust off those handwriting skills and then write your heart out.
With love from Brisbane, The Global Goddess
THIS story is a sashay down memory lane to those halcyon days of childhood summer holidays on the Gold Coast. Worry-free weeks of sandy feet, sandcastles and the occasional sneaky sunburn. Of sunkissed, sleepy nights on cheap, cotton sheets. Pink zinc cream and mozzie bites. Scorching days where we would reluctantly leave Coolangatta beach and pile into the gold Kingswood with its branding-iron seat belts that nobody ever wore. We’d venture across the border into northern New South Wales to visit our wild boy cousins also on holiday. Kingscliff, Pottsville, Cabarita…they were all so daggy back then. About as much style as the terry toweling shorts which barely covered our bums.
But those were the halcyon days where we’d stand along the shoreline like soldier crabs and dig for pippies with our feet. Go on adventures with the wild cousins, mud squelching between our toes, and wander the mangroves with a yabby pump. How time and places change. I am in northern New South Wales visiting Nimbin in search of nirvana, or at the very least, the remnants of Australia’s hippie movement, for a story I’m writing for a magazine about the 50th anniversary of Flower Power. I’m unclear about whether the hippies want to hug or hurt me. I suspect it’s a bit of both. I’m tailgated on the windy road deep into the Tweed Valley. Where is the love? Things just aren’t like they used to be.
With my story captured like a fugitive in my imagination, I head back towards the coast where I check into Halcyon House for the night. It’s the ideal spot for this journey back into nostalgia. The bones of this old surf hotel are still here, replete with 19 individually-designed rooms and two suites, but these days she’s a lady of luxury. These elegant rooms combine coastal chic with all the flair of a British B&B by the sea. But Brighton this is not. It’s sunny Cabarita Beach upon which this grand dame is perched.
There’s an all-inclusive mini bar with floral-infused gin and dirty tonic water which, by description alone, I’m unable to refuse. Organic red and white wine, plus Byron Bay beer and soft drinks make up the remaining delectable drinks. Chips, Lindt chocolate and even some Tweed Coast salami is cooling in the fridge and it would be oh-so-tempting to pull up a perch on my royal blue outdoor chair and watch the ocean, but I’m determined to try the acclaimed restaurant here.
The pretty Paper Daisy is named after the wildflowers that bloom nearby at Norrie’s headland. And chef Ben Devlin, formerly of Noma fame, specialises in coastal cooking. There’s pippies here too, but unlike anything my cousins and me ever imagined. These days you’ll find these shellfish in semolina pasta, native pepper and macadamia oil. I opt for the Wagyu minute steak with fennel, witlof and pomelo and served with purple cauliflower and walnuts, and cucumber and cashew nuts. Want dessert? How about a messed-up cookie or a lemon myrtle meringue cone? Or you could go the whole hog and order the four-course degustation menu.
I return to my room to find the bed has been turned down, there’s a pillow menu from which to choose, and my clothing has been folded. Two home-made chocolate chip cookies sit beside a note wishing me sweet dreams. And that’s another thing that sets this hotel experience aside from anywhere else. The service is immaculate. It could be these yummy childhood feelings this property evokes, but I would go as far as to say it’s the best hotel I’ve ever experienced anywhere in the world. Yes, in coastal Cabarita, they’ve struck gold. That perfect balance between relaxed luxury and sensational service.
And there’s plenty to do here as well. Laze on a plush day bed around the pool, or borrow a complimentary bicycle and explore the area. This hotel also has two Audis available for hire. Or, if you’re like me, and nostalgia has clasped firmly onto your head and heart, if only for one night, do nothing but daydream about those heavenly, halcyon days of your childhood.
The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of Halcyon House – https://halcyonhouse.com.au This five-star boutique accommodation, which is a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels Group, has plans to open a spa in late 2017.
We travel, not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. Anonymous.
TRUE masters of yoga believe it’s not about bending your body into a certain pose, but what you learn about yourself on the way down. The more you allow your body to unravel, rather than push it, the better the results. Go with the flow. Learn to sit with yourself, and any discomfort. Find your edge. In essence, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Sound familiar?
I am in a yoga class and I am brimming with fear and loathing. It’s cold, my muscles are stiff, I have a headache, and my regular teacher is not here today. Instead, her replacement is what I’d call “hard core”, the yang to my yin. And I’m hating on her and the rest of the room.
Why do they have to breathe so hard? And why, oh why, does the woman in front of me have to stand at the back of her mat right on top of me? Go to the top of your mat, the instructor said. Get your bum out of my face. These are the vicious voices which are dancing in my head. I have become the poster girl for “observing my thoughts” and today, they’re not pretty. But that’s OK. As long as I don’t attach.
The more I practice yoga while I’m not travelling (and often when I am) the more I realise how closely the two concepts are aligned. Travel writer Freya Stark said: “To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” When it comes to yoga, think of your body as that strange town. Want the ultimate freedom? Jump on a jet or go to a yoga class. Want to challenge your body and mind? Head to a new destination or get back on the mat. Need to relax? The list goes on…And recently I have noticed an Australian company which has combined the two philosophies.
YogaEverywhere, created by Remy Gerega, has produced a range of stunning yoga mats and accessories inspired by the Australian landscape. They are eco-friendly, biodegradable and recyclable with 100% natural tree rubber bases and a micosuede top printed with water-based inks. And these all-in-one yoga mats and towels are popping up everywhere.
Boasting 15 designs, mainly showcasing Australian beaches including Coogee, Bondi and Manly, I decided to test the Whitehaven Beach mat which pays homage to my home state of Queensland and one of the most spectacular beaches on the planet. These mats promise to buck traditional yoga mat trends in that the more you sweat, the better you grip. And so I stepped on to my Whitehaven Beach mat where I was surprised at how it felt like the silica sands of this iconic Whitsundays beach itself. Had I encountered a magical mat? Was this my new flying carpet?
For someone who leans towards cooler yin yoga, which is mostly floor work, I found the 3mm thick mat a little too hard for me. (I am used to a thicker mat I call “the sponge”). I was also a little worried about messing up my pretty design with my sweat, although these mats can be washed. (I use a gripped yoga towel which is easy to wash on top of the sponge). However, if you are more inclined to do a lot of standing power poses in a hot class, this could be the mat for you. Certainly the scenery will help you when the going gets tough. And I can see how this mat has grip and grit. At $129 a mat, they aren’t cheap. They’re also quite heavy, weighing 2.2kg but are easy to carry with a clever dual-purpose stretching strap which is included. My verdict: I’ll keep “the sponge” for my regular yin classes, but the Whitsundays is now a firm favourite for my home practice, and looks spectacular on my polished timber floors. Robert Louis Stevenson said: “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” And so it is with yoga.
The Global Goddess was gifted her Whitehaven Beach mat by YogaEverywhere. Photos of the mats in this blog courtesy of YogaEverywhere – http://www.yogaeverywhere.com.au