Out of Africa

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A TROOP of bombastic baboons is bellowing at each other across this African afternoon, punctuating the sunset with screams. Were I back in Brisbane, I’d guess the sound was a bunch of hapless drunks staggering home from the pub. But out here, where the trees communicate with each other through the wind, it means there’s other wildlife around.
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A short-tailed eagle soars through the picture-perfect blue winter sky and a thin layer of dust coats the roof of my mouth. Our safari truck drives past Acacia trees and bush willows and over dry river beds. I’m on safari at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, perched on 6500ha within Sabi Sands where the landscape ranges from bush veld to savannah and is nestled adjacent to South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
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We pass bushbuck, wildebeest, waterbuck and a giraffe craning its impossibly long neck to feast on some bushes. There’s hungry, hungry hippos, an elegant eagle and a measly mongoose. That throaty sound in the distance turns out to be a community of impala. We pause for a zebra crossing, before stumbling across a pride of lions with a cub sleeping nearby. The languid lions are full and tired after feeding on last night’s buffalo kill, the remnants of which lay nearby. One lion cub practices its stalking skills on another in the same manner a domesticated cat would toy with its siblings. It’s a day of the jackals.
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Day two and we observe rhino and buffalo. Guinea fowl flap about like pantomime characters on London’s West End and a woodpecker hammers in the distance like a Gold Coast tradie. We discover that animals have three modes – flight, fright or fight. And best of all, for this writer at least, we learn the collective nouns of the sights and sounds of safari.
Rhino
We encounter a trumpet of elephants; a dazzle of zebra; a journey of giraffe; and a crash of rhino. Those garrulous guinea fowl are aptly called a “confusion”; one late afternoon we stumble across a leap of leopards with a baby cat waiting in the fork of a tree; and the impala are as consistent as their “consistency” suggests.
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The parched African soil crunches underfoot on a walking safari with Sabi Sabi Ranger Lazarus, a member of the local Shangaan people. Lazarus, whose grandfather was a tracker, reminds us that we are “exposed” as the animals out here are accustomed to vehicles.
“We have to remain silent but we can talk very low and walk in single file. Don’t go ahead of me because I have the rifle. We are here to respect the animals,” he says.
“Being on foot is to learn about the small things that when we are on a drive we don’t talk about, like tracks and grass.”
Tracker
We see kudu and warthog on the horizon. There’s a millipede blackened by the sun and a spider’s web which belongs to one of the six deadly spiders out here in the African bush. We learn that the lesser baboon spider is more hairy than a baboon itself and that all the deadly spiders are colourful. We pass hippo, rhino and impala tracks. There’s a tortoise shell which has been eaten by a red hornbill and a magic quarry bush used to divine water.
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Back in the jeep on our last morning, we stumble across a clan of hyena and a venue of vultures feasting on a hippo believed to have died from natural causes the night before. Call me paranoid but I’m pretty sure there’s a conspiracy of ravens out there somewhere too. But there’s no evidence of a murder of crows.
Hyena
It’s my first trip to Mother Africa and I am overwhelmed by both her beauty and contradictions. By her vast nothingness, and everything, all rolled into one. From the plane window it looks like the Australian outback but nothing like it, all in the same dusty breath. It’s corn-row braids, black shiny faces and deep, kind eyes. Dutch descendants with piercing blue eyes and fair hair and accents which sound like they’ve been clipped in a barber shop. It’s the cold kisses of a mid-winter morning, and a harsh African sun. As for those collective nouns, my favourite turns out to be the implausibility of wildebeest. For it’s entirely plausible that anything is possible out on safari in Africa. Little wonder the baboons are so excited.
Wildebeest
The Global Goddess travelled a guest of 318 Africa – http://www.318africa.com.au and stayed in Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve Bush and Earth Lodges. http://www.sabisabi.com
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The South has Soul

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THE very first thing I learned when I moved to Brisbane almost 20 years ago is that the city is divided into two tribes. Those who live north of the Brisbane River, and those who live to the south. So distinct is this demarcation you could be talking about the Scottish and the English. Turns out I’m a true northerner through and through and, with some shame, admit that in two decades I’ve never ever stopped to explore the south, rather giving it a cursory glance on my way to the Gold Coast. But this all changed on the weekend when I was given the opportunity to “cross the river”, pause, and reflect on what the south has to offer. And what I discovered was that the south has soul in spades. Just as the human body has 7 chakras, here’s 7 ways you can discover the spirit of the south side.
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1. Back to the bush
Redlands IndiScapes Centre is Australia’s first environmental centre for indigenous plants, and I’m stunned to learn it’s been here for 15 years and I’ve never visited. Which is my great loss, as this 14.5ha site is home to 14 demonstration gardens, more than a kilometre of walking tracks, an environmental information centre and a 600-year-old Tallowwood tree. The good news is that 55,000 visitors a year have discovered this bush beauty which hosts a range of events all designed to acquaint Brisbane residents with native plants. Bush Care Extension Officer Travis Green is passionate about this patch and works with 300 volunteers who plant 20,000 trees in the Redlands region each year. Make sure you stop for a bite in the breezy tea garden café where you can sip on lemon myrtle ice tea while eating native bush tucker.
http://www.indigiscapes.com.au
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2. Red, red wine
Regular readers will know that The Global Goddess is rather partial to a drop of wine, or three, and I am more than happy to support local wine makers, all in the name of story research and robust good health, of course. Sirromet Wines at Mount Cotton is one of Queensland’s stunning success stories, clocking up more than 780 national and international awards. Opened by businessman Terry Morris in 2000, this gorgeous property overlooks southern Moreton Bay and produced 640 tonnes, or 500,000 bottles, of wine last year. A highlight of a visit here is the timber antique wine press which dates back to 1793 and hails from the Austrian Hungarian Empire. Around 3500 people a week flock here to sample the 10 varieties of wine on offer, look longingly at the 3000 wines from around the globe in the Morris family cellar (or that could just be me), and dine in the winery’s signature restaurant Lurleen’s, lovingly named after Terry’s wife.
http://www.sirromet.com
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3. Body and Soul
A relatively new entrant to the south side, Body and Soul Spa Retreat at Mount Cotton uses products derived from Australian wild flowers in its spa treatments among this Aussie bush setting. Visitors are first asked to choose an essential oil based on which smell most resonates with them and which corresponds to either fire, water, earth or air. Retreat owner Gail Keith says the process is about balancing the “whole person” so that “you function in your whole life a lot better”. On this particular day I discover I have a strong water element, described as sensitive, intuitive and creative. And my two-hour treatment ironically includes a Goddess Youth Infusion Facial with collagen and hibiscus flower. A cup of tea brewed from native Australian flowers is offered at the end of the treatment, and my water element and me practically float on to my next appointment, looking 10 years younger, of course.
http://www.bodyandsoulbeauty.com.au
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4. Into the woods
Water dragons skip over the lily ponds playing a salacious game of catch and kiss as I sit (rather enviously I might add) on the deck of my charming cabin among the scribbly gums and iron bark trees at Mt Cotton Retreat and Nature Reserve. While the seclusion is seductive, what I really adore is the fact this property has embraced the environment with both hands. Not only is this retreat certified under the internationally recognised Ecotourism Australia, they have established a 20ha private nature refuge which includes three relatively untouched eco systems and more than 75 bird species. Birds on this property have actually been formally identified and registered in the Australian Bird Atlas and in 2011, this retreat created Boom-Ber-Pee (which means koala in the language of the local Minjerribah people) a private nature reserve which protects endangered regional ecosystems and koala habitat.
http://www.mtcottonretreat.com
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5. Sit with yourself
I’d heard that the south side had a Buddhist temple but I was unprepared for just how big and beautiful the Chung Tian Temple at Priestdale actually is. The hum of Buddhist chants blends with the intoxicating sounds of silence on this 90ha bushland property which opened in 1992. The City of Logan is home to 215 nationalities and this is one heartening example of the multiculturalism this part of Brisbane embraces. A Bodhi tree, grown from a cutting of the original plant under which Buddha is said to have found enlightenment, is on this site which hosts a number of buildings and temples. Guests who give advance notice can participate in an ancient tea ceremony by donation and in which you’ll learn about the 5 different types of tea – green, red, oolong, yellow and white. In this intricate ceremony Tea Maker William Zhao will explain that tea must be drunk slowly. Even better, William believes red wine is a good for you as tea. I knew it.
http://www.chungtian.org.au
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6. There’s a bear in there
Another startling fact about the City of Logan that I learned on the weekend is it is home to more than 900 parks and more than 80 per cent of this city is considered “green”. Which makes it the ideal corridor for wildlife to inhabit. Turns out koalas are also huge supporters of the southside, and a really restful place in which to experience these Aussie icons is at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre. Set within the 435ha Daisy Hill Conservation Park, which, by the way, makes an ideal spot for a picnic, a handful of koalas are housed in this environmental and education centre. Now, call me un-Australian, but I’m one of those people who think koalas are a little dull. They sleep for an inordinate number of hours each day, smell a little, are pretty hairy and when they do wake, are pretty scratchy. A little like my ex-husband. But that all changed when I met Harry, the 8kg male, who sprung to life during my visit and struck this sensational pose.
http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au
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7. Food, glorious food
Until now, when I thought of dining on Brisbane’s south side, I thought of the huge proliferation of excellent Chinese restaurants which pay homage to some of the first migrants to the area. But this is a region which is thriving in a number of foodie fields. From The Berry Patch at Chambers Flat to the Global Food Village at Woodridge, the NT Fresh Cucumber Farm and Riverview Herbs, there’s a range of dynamic producers doing some great stuff here. Let’s not forget the Beenleigh Rum Distillery for a bit of liquid gold, Carcamos Gourmet Caramel Apples, Poppy’s Chocolate, and last, but not least, the unusually exotic Greenbank Mushrooms – where oysters and shiitake mushrooms are grown from a log, like potted flowers. I was gifted one of these beauties and can’t wait to see what springs from its soil. Day of the Triffods or dinner on Tuesday, who can tell?
http://www.visitlogan.com.au
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The Global Goddess explored the south side and Brisbane’s back yard as a guest of Brisbane Marketing. To discover the south side’s soul and awaken your seven chakras, go to http://www.visitbrisbane.com.au

Camping, Kombis and a Kangaroo or two

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AN organised man, my best mate is not. Loyal, kind, and the sort of caring bloke who will take your call at 3am if you are broke, or worse, broken – absolutely – but he was obviously buried under a pile of dirty laundry when the organised gene was handed out. And so I find myself, at the end of our weekend camping trip, straddling the side of a busy highway, semi-trailers brushing past me on one side, snakes in the grass on the other, thonged feet and desperate eyes searching frantically for the tyre to our campervan that has mysteriously flung off as we drove. How did this happen? My mate forgot to tighten the wheel nuts when he changed the spare.
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We’ve known each other 30 years, my mate and me, so none of this should have come as a surprise, least of all to me. But each time it somehow does. The ante upped on what could possibly go wrong. Our trip out to Queensland’s pretty Girraween National Park starts late. We’re meant to leave at 6.30pm for the four-hour journey south-west but that is pushed back as my mate is getting his car serviced. The same uninsured car we discover he’s been driving without brakes. He can’t find the camp stove which is meant to be where all the other camping gear has been plonked. Under his house, home to piles of unwashed laundry and a plethora of treasures owned by a variety of people, both living and dead, who may or may not also be buried beneath the rubble.
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We eventually hit the road and arrive at the National Park close to midnight. We’re meant to be meeting our mates in their Kombi as they know in which of the two campsites we’re booked. My mate hands me a cigarette lighter in the dark. “What’s this for?” I ask. “I forgot the torch,” he says, as I stare incredulously at the stick which is meant to illuminate the night to allow us to make camp. Just as we pitch the campervan for the night in the middle of the Aussie bush, the Kombi arrives, having come off second best to a kangaroo, with all of its right hand side panels dented. I climb into bed for a restless sleep about angry kangas, and a nagging fear an equally annoyed park ranger is going to shine his torch into our illegal impromptu campsite in the death of night.
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Things are looking brighter the next morning and we decide to move to a proper campsite where we don’t have to wee in the bush in the dead of night in the middle of snake breeding season. My mate decides he’s not going to put the pop top down on the campervan, instead driving the short distance to our new site with protruding beds still made. Things are going well, until my mate turns a tight corner and the van crunches into the back of his expensive black jeep, denting not only two corners of the four-wheel-drive but putting the pop top out of alignment. All of a sudden, our cheap camping weekend is looking expensive.
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But troopers that we are, we set up camp, drive into the nearest town to pick up eggs (my mate forgot the eggs), and the four of us regroup over a few beers on one of those all-Aussie bush hotel verandas. We spend the next day walking the tracks for which this particular park is known. It’s three hours of solid bushwalking and food for the soul among the blooming spring wild flowers. It’s my job that evening to cook dinner – Beef and Guinness stew in a camp oven – while the others take a second hike. I’ve never cooked in a camp oven before and I’m nervous. What if the hungry hikers return and I’ve burned the beef? There’s not exactly a pizza place out here in the bush.
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It’s a stunning afternoon as I stoke the fire, sip on a beer, and the others set off on their walk. And then the weather changes, rapidly, dramatically. Angry thunder starts grumbling in the distance and I have just enough time to put my beer (first rule of camping: save the beer) under some shelter before the sky erupts. I jump around like a mad marsupial, simultaneously racing to zip up the campervan, close the Kombi, the car windows, save the fire wood from a soaking and most of all, salvaging dinner. The storm is raging all around me, my friends are somewhere in the blackening bush, but there’s no way the stew on which I’ve spent the past 3 hours is going to spoil. I stand in the cold, wet, dark, hair plastered to my face, stoking my fire and stirring my stew like a wild witch.
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The storm blows over as quickly as it arrived and my friends are swept back into camp. The camp table is set for dinner, red wine is poured and my stew is sumptuous, all tender and smoky and made with a kind of frenzied love. We wake up the next day, our cars and bodies a bit bruised and battered, feet and faces dusty and ready to hit the road. It’s only when I’m standing on the side of the highway with my mate several hours later, looking for our missing tyre, that his words of earlier that weekend hit me: “This doesn’t happen sitting around at home, you know.” We never do find the tyre and instead, limp into the tiny town of Aratula on the original shredded spare, and abandon the van there, until we can return the next day with new tyres. We stop further down the road and crack open a warm beer from the back of the car and laugh outrageously. And that’s the crux of this story. In life, sometimes you come off second best to a proverbial roo or two, you get dinged and dusty, wet, hungry and tired. Things don’t go to plan. But, like a kangaroo, it’s how you bounce that matters most.
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