IT’S one week before summer officially strikes in Australia and I am sitting in my air-conditioned office, ruminating on the impending warmer weather and the sticky issue of camping. Apparently, people like to camp (and if you look at any Brisbane dating site, they not only like to camp, but 4WD, fish and go piggin’ as well). Me, not so much, but given the right circumstances, I’ll give it a red, hot shot. (The camping, not the piggin’). And by right circumstances, I mean a glamping tent with air-conditioning, bar fridge and, easy access to a toilet (preferably an ensuite). All of which I enjoyed a few weeks ago when I previewed Australia’s newest glamping product Hideaway at Cabarita Beach in northern New South Wales. Ensconced in my gorgeous, generous bell tent under a plump, crisp, linen doona, it felt like I was born for this camping caper. Until I remembered I am not.
It’s tricky to pick my worst camping adventure. There’s been quite a few. So let’s narrow it done to the coldest and the hottest. A few years back I was invited to cover the Mount Isa Rodeo, where, among other things, I interviewed the female boxer Beaver whose reputation for beating up blokes in the ring was legendary. Despite her size and status, Beaver turned out to be a gentle giant and she even made me a cup of tea. As much as I like to suffer for my art, I declined the offer to fight her later that night in the ring, as I value keeping my ribs intact. Had I actually fought Beaver, I may have spent the night in the cosy comfort of the Mount Isa Hospital, as opposed to the glamping in which I was staying.
Mount Isa in winter, like much of the Queensland Outback, is a curious beast. It’s hot during the day, and then plummets to freezing once the sun sets. But I came prepared, packing my hot water bottle Kevin 07 (who I named after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2007 campaign). Or so I thought. The glamping was set up within a mining camp, those hot, horny miners happily tucked away in heated dongas. My tent, was, inexplicably, down by the creek, where the temperature dropped to one degree. I’d come home from my rodeo reporting, covered in dust, hand Kevin 07 to the camp’s toothless security guard with instructions to boil a kettle to fill Kevin’s guts, while I limped to the showers. The fact the showers had no doors, and the hot, horny miners were in the cubicle next to me, should not be lost on this story. And had I known just how cold it was going to get at night in my tent, I would have worked that fact a little harder. But alas, I rubbed and scrubbed only myself and then returned to collect Kevin.
It was so cold in that tent, that the cheap polyester blankets they’d given me would shoot off green sparks in the dark. But worse was when I realised that all of the water I had drunk throughout the hot day to stay hydrated, decided it was time to work its way through my kidneys at night. Years later, while travelling through Morocco with an Australian doctor, I learned that while our other organs slow down significantly at night to rest and repair, it’s when we go to sleep that our kidneys go into overdrive. Hence the reason you may need to pee during the night. Who knew?
It was way too cold, and too far, to drag myself to the toilet block, so I decided to improvise. With a tiny Tupperware container in which I had been carrying some sultanas for snacks. There I was, congratulating myself on my genital genius until I felt something wet and cold, on the only socks I had to keep me warm. I looked down in horror and realised I had peed on my foot. I tossed my warm urine and my wet sock outside the tent, and went to bed miserable. By this time Kevin was cold, I was cranky and even worse, I knew I had to repeat this camping caper all over again the next night.
My hottest camping episode, and I mean this in several senses of the word, was a few years back, when I went to the summer Woodford Festival on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. This time I was in Tent City, in a media tent, which was just like every other tent, and again, there was no ensuite. On this occasion it was as hot as hell. And I did what any journalist covering this event would do, and drank as much beer as possible to keep all jolly and hydrated. I was even congratulating myself on how well I had done not going to the bathroom all day when again, I lay down later that night to go to sleep, when my kidneys went into overdrive.
Luckily, I remembered I had again packed a small Tupperware container with sultanas in the car, which I promptly emptied and carried back to my tent as my makeshift toilet. Which I proceeded to use over and over and over again as my kidneys decided to process the equivalent of a carton of beer on this hot evening. Again, I missed as I pissed, but there were no socks involved this time, it was too warm. So warm, in fact, I slept with the tent flaps open. Which would have been fine, had I not awoken the next morning to a tent which reeked of stale pee and a curious line of festival goers walking past my tent, gaping as they went. I looked down, only to discover that during my wild night, my left breast had escaped my singlet and there I was, arms akimbo, my bosom on display for the entire festival to see.
I packed up rapidly that morning. Headed back to Brisbane and vowed I needed a new tactic should I ever tackle camping again. And should you ever feel the need to go camping with me, if I ever offer you a sultana in a Tupperware container, you’ve been sufficiently warned.
QUEENSLAND’S ICONIC REEF NO BARRIER TO GREAT SEX THIS YEAR
We’ve all heard of sex on the beach, but what about sex on the reef? Queensland’s scuba diving fraternity is poised for the raunchiest sex show on the planet as the Great Barrier Reef prepares for its annual coral spawning season. A combination of warm sea temperatures, plus a late November full moon, has scientists predicting this year’s November 22-24 spawn (or should that be porn?) spectacular will be the best in years. Two Cairns-based dive operators – Tusa Dive and Quicksilver’s Silverswitft – have packed special night diving tours specifically around this event. And if you miss that, on the Southern Great Barrier Reef at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, coral spawning is expected to occur between December 20 and 25. http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au
SUNSHINE COAST SET TO SIZZLE THIS SUMMER
As The Global Goddess prepares to head to Noosa this weekend (it’s all work, I swear it is), it seems timely to give you a snapshot of what you can expect on the Sunshine Coast this summer. Among a menu of tropical treats, you’ll find the Woodford Folk Festival (December 27 to January 1) about which I regularly wax lyrical; and the Ginger Flower & Food Festival (January 17 to 19) – The Global Goddess and ginger have been long-time friends when it comes to rough travel. But you’re really not Australian until you’ve attended the Australia Day Dunny Races at Ettamogah Pub on January 26. While The Global Goddess lost a considerable amount of money last Australia Day at Brisbane’s Story Bridge Hotel backing a racing cockroach she called The Global Goddess (we’re lovers, not fighters), perhaps she should consider a dunny race next time? And if I met a bloke there, imagine the toilet humour stories we could tell at our wedding. http://www.visitsunshinecoast.com.au
GIRLS LIKE TO GET DIRTY
No, I’m not talking about some kind of crazy Russian porn flick, but the Dirty Girls 4×4 Weekend on Brisbane’s Moreton Island. Following its super successful sellout first weekend this year, Global Jamboree has announced this event will be held once a month in 2014. Billed as the ideal girls’ getaway, you can spend your days 4WDing around stunning Moreton Island on its long beach tracks and beautiful bush trails, exploring its expansive national park, before returning to your luxury tent and the recently-opened Glampsites. Each tent here is furnished with a queen-size bed and private ensuite and veranda. The Global Goddess might just have to grab some of her girl gang and head over. http://www.globaljamboree.com.au
NOW YOU CAN SCOOT TO HONG KONG
Some of the best headline writers in the airline game, Scoot, is encouraging passengers on this Low Cost Carrier of the Year to “don’t be dim, save sum loot” and enjoy its new service to Hong Kong. The service, launched last week, is Scoot’s 12th city in 7 countries. Twenty years ago, when The Global Goddess was a cadet journalist in the Murdoch empire, she was sent to Hong Kong for four months to gain some valuable experience. It changed her world, from the sunny Gold Coast to the bright lights and big city of this vibrant Asian destination. You too can Scoot to Hong Kong with fares from Singapore – Scoot’s hub – starting at SGD$119, one-way, including taxes. There’s some great deals on flights out of Australia to Singapore to connect you with Scoot’s other destinations in the region. http://www.flyscoot.com
SUPPORT SASSY SURVIVORS
Those sassiest of sheilas, Gold Coast-based Sassy Survivors which supports young women with breast cancer, have published an awesome calendar for 2014. This colourful calendar, designed to show there can be a positive side to breast cancer, did so well in its first year it expected to sell 100 calendars and ended up selling 1200. The 2014 Sassy Survivors calendar is aimed at reminding people there is life after breast cancer. All money raised from calendar sales, which is just $15 plus postage, goes towards continuing to assist young women battling this disease. And, as the cover below shows, it’s fun, it’s flirty, it’s fabulous, just like this terrific organisation. And what a great Christmas present it will make! http://sassysurvivors.org/sassy-survivors-2014-calendar/
IT’S not easy being green. Just ask Amie Green, Head of Garbology at the Woodford Folk Festival. Amusing aptronym’s aside (for those, like me, who only learned a few years ago that an aptronym is when someone’s name pertains to their job), garbage is serious business. Amie, 32, runs Green Chief and works with a number of different festivals including the Island Vibes, Rainbow Serpent and Festival of the Sun, among others. But Woodford, which is staged every year in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland between Christmas and New Year, stands out due to its cultural impact on patrons and spreading the message of environmental sustainability.
Rubbish! I hear you scoff. Bin there, done that…So what’s so fascinating about garbage? Well, plenty, according to Amie who has been involved with the festival since 2010 and is in charge of seven departments who work together to keep this 200 hectare site clean. “The biggest part of my job is making sure we reuse and recycle all that is bought onto the festival site, so it’s the nuts and bolts of picking up litter, separating cardboard and plastics and then managing an area called The Compost Lounge,” she says.
“Mapping where our bins are located in itself is quite interesting and getting into the psychology of littering and the flow of people in what is essentially a mini city for a week.
“I’m primarily a people person because when you have to motivate nearly 100 volunteers on a daily basis over nearly a month, especially in a department that is usually devoid of glamour, my passion really has to shine through.”
So, what kinds of people litter? “If you’ve got litter on the ground it becomes a kind of social norm and then you think it’s OK to litter. Some people think if they are going to a festival and paying $500 for a ticket they give away some kind of responsibility as a human. They expect someone to clean up after them,” Amie says.
And sometimes they leave the strangest things. Earlier this year at another festival, Amie found two giant squid which had been left in discarded sleeping bags.
“My job just gets bigger towards the end of the festival, when people are leaving their campsites behind and suddenly these cheap camping chairs are being discarded,” Amie says.
“We’ve found whole campsites with tents, sleeping bags and even beer left behind. It can be demoralizing on these days to see what an impact our disposable culture has had on people’s values. People think they are leaving behind something that can be donated, but while we recycle what we can, much of it can’t be given away as it’s been damaged or poorly made.
“But for every discarded tent, I can see that four campsites around have taken the time to pick up glitter, cigarette butts and generally fluff the place as they found it. That keeps me going.”
This year, Amie will be pushing a “Love your tent, love your campsite” message designed at encouraging people to buy quality camp gear which lasts, and to continue their good practices of recycling right through to when they are leaving the Woodford site. To assist with this, the festival will be providing larger recycling bins.
If you think keeping a large chunk of Australian bush clean is easy, consider this: around 110,000 people flow through this site in a week, and many, like me, camp for that entire time. That’s a lot of garbage, all of it which must be removed from the site by the end of the festival. But Woodford embraces this through bars which are themed with recycled materials, The Greenhouse tent devoted solely to talks on the environment and by showcasing the natural beauty of the site itself – rolling hills, bush and outdoor ampitheatres.
A Garbologist for five years, Amie says many people don’t think about what has to happen outside of the actual event, for it to run smoothly. For the first time this year at Woodford, there will also be a new compost education scheme in which festival patrons will be educated about the fact the bowls, plates and cutlery from which they dine at festival food outlets, can be composted.
“I have to admit it was one of those kinds of jobs you just fall into. I had studied Entertainment Industry Management to an honours level a couple of years previously and it was a very broad course that was a business degree relating to the entertainment and music industries specifically,” she says.
“After speaking at a few industry conferences on behalf of A Greener Festival, I was asked a pilot project for a 10,000 people festival called Rainbow Serpent. They wanted to increase their recycling rate. So I trained some volunteers to stand at bins and educate patrons about what goes where. The volunteers loved it, they dressed up as ninjas and jumped out at people as an icebreaker before letting them know that their cup was compostable, for instance.
“Other festivals heard about me and my business and wanted to same thing for their festival. It’s just grown organically from there.”
A festival which puts the lid on litter in the bid to create a greener, leaner world. What’s not to love?
FOR one week every year, one magical week between Christmas and New Year, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland behind the tiny township of Woodford, exists the People’s Republic of Woodford. The Woodford Festival. If you’re looking for an antidote to a frenetic year, a chance to recharge your batteries, to find a destination that for one week only represents the way the world should be, head to “Woodfordia” where reality is suspended, if only for the briefest of times.
On this beautiful 200 hectare environmental parkland, which has withstood the scourge of floods and scorching summers, people are nicer to each other, they dance, laugh and sing. Talk to complete strangers. Engage in debates about the universe, global warming, coal seam gas, fracking, and euthanasia. Dance under huge tents, play the bongos, dine on exotic cuisine, strum guitars, learn how to paint, draw and craft things. They hug trees, hug each other. Trek to the top of the hill and honour the last sunset of the year and the first sunrise of the next. Sit under the Southern Cross and in a huge bush ampitheatre indulge in that unmistakable Australian sound emanating from new bands. Discover foreign groups. Honour the Indigenous custodians of the land in Jinibara Country on which they sit. Chat around the campsite.
If the Woodford Folk Festival isn’t Utopia, then it’s about as close to Nirvana as you will find. What other place on the planet do you line up to fill your recycled bottle with rainwater to discover the person in front has already paid for it? This is a destination where paying it forward looms large. Egos are suspended. Bonhomie reigns. The Global Goddess has been attending Woodford for about a decade, at first apprehensive that it was a bit of a hippie festival with which she would have no connection. Back in the early days I didn’t camp but drove home to Brisbane every night to the comfort of a warm shower and a soft bed. As the years wore on, I started out in a basic tent pitched in the campsite of my friends. I slept like the dead, to the sounds of distant beating drums. I awoke each morning to the cacophony of the Aussie bush.
These days, we’ve upgraded, our site becoming more sophisticated as we sleep in a campervan, our friends in a Kombi, a tarp strung between the two, mapping out our home for the week. There’s Moet in the esky and aged cheese and strawberries in the fridge. We eat fancy pancakes for breakfast. Brew real coffee. And sit down and pour over the program and plan the day ahead. This year’s program, just released late last week, promises to be a corker. Highlights of this year’s festival include singers Beth Orton, Tim Finn and Clare Bowditch; Environmentalist Professor Ian Lowe; former politician Bob Hawke and, yet-to-be-confirmed Malcolm Turnbull; comedian Denise Scott; writer Blanch D’Alpuget.
And there’s some acts always worth revisiting among the diverse performance venues on the site. The Global Goddess likes to spend her time in the Blue Lotus tent listening to talks on spirituality. Sometimes I sit on the hill and watch stunning Spaniards introduce me to fast and frenetic music with a tinge of Hawaii Five’O. Other days, it’s in Bills Bar you’ll find me, people watching as much as music listening, having a cold beer before heading down the hill to the Blues Tent. A couple of belly laughs in the Comedy Tent is also a nice way to end the evening and as I stumble back to camp to the glow of paper lanterns, I’m likely to stop several times, for a tea and a carob ball in the Chai Tent, a cold drink in the Pineapple Lounge, a bit of jazz, a circus act, some Indian or Tibetan music along the way.
Last year’s festival saw 2,200 artists and musicians perform across 25 venues to an audience of 113,000 people over that wonderful week. A steady program of tree planting over the years, in which attendees can “adopt” a tree, has resulted in the 101,000th tree planted in Woodfordia soil this year. Some years there’s dust. Others, it rains and there’s mud. Bring your gum boots. Embrace nature and creativity. Random acts of music. Robust acts of kindness. That’s my idea of Utopia. What’s yours?
For more information on the Woodford Festival please visit http://www.woodfordfolkfestival.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.