WE’RE driving through remote, quintessential Queensland country with place names like Hell’s Gate, tackling one of the roughest roads in Australia and the toughest Indigenous issues. There’s five-hours to kill on this journey from Cairns and we’re facing the huge stuff head on….murder, rape, domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, unemployment…picking at Australia’s scab. The conversation is scratchy, like the scrub in which we find ourselves, as we navigate that last, scarred stretch, along the Old Maytown to Laura Coach Road. Here, 10km takes an hour.
I’m on a Jarramali Rock Art Tour through Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland with Kuku-Yalanji man Johnny Murison, who is not afraid to answer the hard questions as we gallop along in our four-wheel drive. Should I even be hurling these curly questions or should we just stick to white fella polite conversation about his tour? We both already know the answer to this. Murison believes it’s a lack of cultural knowledge in some of Australia’s Indigenous communities plagued by strife that needs to be rectified.
“They’ve got to start taking these young kids camping and fishing. One of the big key things is loss of identity,” he says.
“You’ve got to validate kids’ feelings. Tell them if they step into the ring and they’re scared, that’s OK, until you find your momentum, and if he’s a bigger fighter than you, just keep fighting.”
And Murison should know. He’s just established his rock art tour near Laura, against opposition from all sorts of warriors including some of his own people.
“It’s like a bucketful of crabs, one of you escapes and everyone wants to put you back in that bucket,” he says.
It’s a whole new direction for Murison, who was a former Seventh Day Adventist Minister. Sit in a car long enough with someone and you sand away every dusty, rusty layer.
“I was sick of the crap and sick of the church. Some of these times were the best time of my life but I just had enough and wanted to do something different,” he says.
“I was visiting people and doing Bible studies and it was just demanding and I could work 80 hours a week. I’ve got a young family and you are away from your family a lot.
“If you care for people you put your heart and soul into it. But I’m taking into tourism these organisational skills and people skills. As a Minister, I’ve been public speaking for 20 years.
“Love, support and respect…that’s my brand.”
Once we cross Rifle Creek, a site of massacres and warfare, we’re in Yalanji country, the home of Murison’s ancestors.
Murison says he can feel the ancients, ‘it’s a sense of belonging and a link to the past’, but it’s when he enters camp is where he ‘gets the tingles’. It’s here that Murison has established “comfortable camping”, three tents in the bush, with a loo with a view and a shower too overlooking a deep escarpment. Late in the afternoon, when the heat slackens off, we walk down to the rock art site and Murison interprets the stories of his ancestors. There’s Quinkan spirits, an eel tail cat fish, a widowed woman, kangaroo, snake, echidna, yams, dingo, a fertility symbol emu clutch of eggs, and ancestral guardians and heroes.
“They lived here. If you listen carefully you can hear the singing. You’ve got powerful men and women living in this gallery, everyone was here, they just did life,” he says.
And these ancient storylines run deep into the modern day. Tales of self-determination. Of Tropical North Queensland’s Indigenous people turning to tourism. And excelling.
Mid-week and I’m at the Mossman Gorge Centre Dreamtime Walk meeting with Indigenous woman and General Manager Rachael Hodge. Hodge says the centre was a dream of the community who started original tours into the Gorge in 1986.
“At that time we had 500,000 people turning up in the Gorge and there were environmental concerns and also some safety issues. Construction began in 2010 and we opened in August 2012,” she says.
“The elders were talking about how we could make opportunities for jobs and a future for the kids. We now employ 90 staff, of which 82 per cent are Indigenous.
“We’ve also got retail and the art gallery featuring the works of more than 25 local Kuku-Yalanji artists and a range of products you won’t find anywhere else.
“This is the southern-most end of Daintree National Park. It’s all about the rainforest, the boulders, the icy-cold water…it’s very enticing.”
By the end of the week I’m in Kuranda Village, meeting with Aboriginal master weaver and Djabugay woman Rhonda Brim. Five days a week you’ll find Rhonda and a small group of women in the Kuranda Amphitheatre, weaving baskets from local grass, emu feathers and giddy, giddy seeds. Rhonda, who has been weaving for 35 years, learned the skill from her grandmother.
“The thing about our culture is when your teachers passes you can still feel them in your fingers,” she says.
“You are carrying on a long line of history”.
• Pacific Hotel Cairns http://www.pacifichotelcairns.com
• Peppers Beach Club Port Douglas http://www.peppers.com.au/beach-club/
• Silky Oaks Lodge Mossman http://www.silkyoakslodge.com
• Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore http://www.lancemore.com.au/alamanda
• Ochre Restaurant Cairns http://www.ochrerestaurant.com.au
• Harrisons Port Douglas http://www.harrisonsrestaurant.com.au
• Nu Nu Restaurant Palm Cove http://www.nunu.com.au
• Frogs Restaurant Kuranda http://www.frogsrestaurant.com.au
• Jarramali Rock Art Tours http://www.jarramalirockarttours.com.au
• Flames of the Forest http://www.flamesoftheforest.com.au
• Janbal Gallery http://www.janbalgallery.com.au
• Mossman Gorge Centre http://www.mossmangorge.com.au
• Walkabout Cultural Adventures http://www.walkaboutadventures.com.au
• Tjapukia Aboriginal Cultural Park http://www.tjapukai.com.au
• Skyrail Rainforest Cableway http://www.skyrail.com.au
• Kuranda Village – http://www.kuranda.org
GETTING AROUND WHEN NOT ON TOUR
• Exemplar Couches and Limousines – http://www.exemplaronline.com.au
• Avis Car and Truck Rental http://www.avis.com.au
The Global Goddess was a guest of Tourism Tropical North Queensland http://www.tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au
A heartfelt thank you the Aboriginal people of Tropical North Queensland for sharing their country and culture with me.
A TROPICAL low is lurking over Norfolk Island like a dark shroud, bringing squally, unpredictable weather in its wake. And I am sitting in what has become known as “Tent City”, rain licking the canvas walls, speaking with peaceful protestors about the storm which has been brewing between island residents and the Australian government.
I knew there had been some changes to this remote Australian territory but like many mainlanders, remained naïve to what, precisely, they were, and what they meant to the locals. In a nutshell, since 1979 until July 1, last year, Norfolk Island has been a self-administering territory with its own Legislative Assembly, a Chief Minister, its own health care, own GST, and Council of Elders who represent each of the eight original Pitcairn families who came to the island.
But last year, despite 68 per cent of Norfolk Islanders voting in a referendum to have their own say over their island, the Australian government appointed a regional council system, said they must now pay tax, and in return, would received mainland services such as Medicare. Which would be fine if these services were being received but locals claim they are not. Nor, do they believe they should be called Australians, given their rich history, but Norfolk Islanders.
Fly out of Australia and you’ll discover just what a confusing mess the situation is. Firstly, you fly out of an international airport, with your passport and fill out your immigration departure card. About 10 minutes into the flight, you will then be handed an immigration arrival card, asking you questions such as “how long did you spend overseas” and “in which country did you spend the most time”. Um, Australia? As for where you intend to stay, I was unclear whether they meant my Brisbane address or my Norfolk Island address, and I was told by Border Force officials that I’m not the only one confused by the changes. (For the record, Norfolk Island had its own arrivals card which worked beautifully, I am told). Now, try being a local. Drive from the airport and one of the first things you’ll encounter is a field of green hands, known as Hands Up For Democracy, which is intended as a “silent protest in the paddock”.
Down at the Kingston, on the site of the former Legislative Assembly, you’ll find Tent City. Norfolk Island Tent City resident Mary Christian-Bailey, 73, has lived on the island for 50 years and has been part of a peaceful protest since April 29 last year.
“The message is we want the right to determine our own future. It doesn’t mean we want independence but we want a choice,” she says.
“Australia has to fulfill its obligations to list us as a self-governing territory with the United Nations. Australia has tried to rewrite history and say we are just a part of the Australian story.
“We’ve got a lot of friends all over the world, including the British Parliament, working with us. I don’t think Malcolm Turnbull even thinks we exist. When the legislation when through the Australian Parliament there were about five people in the Chamber. Most of them wouldn’t know why they’ve done it or how it’s affected us in any way.”
While some back on the mainland claim Norfolk Island residents are angry about having to become taxpayers, locals say they have no issue with tax, but a lack of services. They claim the Norfolk Island Hospital has been transformed from a hospital to a GP clinic, and there is no surgeon on the island. Pregnant women are forced to leave the island at 32 weeks to live on the mainland and in the case of an emergency, injured or sick locals are medivacked off the island in an operation which can take 6 hours to mobilise. Residents claim there have been 40 medivacs since July 1, at an approximate cost of $30,000 a time. Then there’s the issue of postal delivery and rubbish collection, as well as repairs on their potholed roads.
“Most people can’t see that there have been any benefits under the Australian government. It has happened on the basis of ignorance and lies. They could have worked with us but they’ve just ignored local knowledge and expertise,” Mary says.
“Trying to transplant the island into a completely different system has been very stressful for the older people. We have no problem with the Australian people, we have a lot in common with them. But we are pretty disappointed with their government.
“They have a real colonial, imperialistic attitude. We will sit here as long as it takes. We are a strong proud people with a strong proud heritage.”
And indeed they are. Norfolk Island is a place of immense beauty born of its remote and rugged locale. You’ll feel the history in the bones of the remaining stone buildings, which once housed some of the most brutal captors and some hardcore convicts. It’s a place of a scallywags, sailors, whalers, the lost and found and those still searching for something. This isolated island, 1000km from anywhere, will snatch a piece of your spirit and make you think hard. But go there, you must. Particularly if you are Australian. Despite being a tiny 8km x 5km, there’s plenty of places in which to disappear on this destination. Space to be alone. To contemplate this former convict settlement which possesses such natural charm. Walk in nature, dine on local food, feast on history, snorkel her reef and meet her characters.
Islander and local guide Rhonda Griffiths believes Norfolk Island possesses a masculine energy.
“You will notice how few roads are named after women. It’s always been about the bounty mutineers. We’ve never had a female Chief Minister and women are paid a lot less than men,” she says.
“I feel the strength of the island more than the nurturing.”
But Tania Anderson, of Norfolk Island Tourism, believes it’s more feminine.
“People are gentle here, but inside there is a toughness to some extent. It is a country town and small community but we are isolated,” she says.
“Our heritage is from Tahitian women and English sailors. There is something about a lot of the local women which is that island beauty.
“People say ‘what do you do on Norfolk?’. We never stop. On Norfolk you just have to get on with things.”
And get on with things they will.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Norfolk Island Tourism – http://www.norfolkisland.com.au and stayed at Broad Leaf Villas – http://www.broadleafvillas.com. For more photos of her stay visit Instagram @aglobalgoddess
FACES and places. As I reluctantly relinquish those long, languid days of cool sarongs, cold beers, ocean swims and sunsets, and sit down at my desk to plan 2016, the thing that most excites me is those faces I haven’t yet met. For me, travel is all about the characters, the people whose personalities sing the true story of a destination. Sitting here in Brisbane, I can’t begin to imagine upon whom I’ll stumble this year, and that thought alone is incredibly exciting. Today I’m launching a three-part photo series of my Indonesian adventures over Christmas. And I thought it would be apt to start with the faces that made me smile. Happy New Year! Please enjoy.
There were the cool dudes…
The happy kids…
The beautiful Muslim women…
The elegant older men…
And even the statues seemed to have something to say…
The Global Goddess funded her own travels to Indonesia
WHEREVER we travel in the world, I believe a little piece of that place remains with you when you return home. Somehow, it becomes entrenched in our hearts and souls and we can’t help but shift. Sometimes these shift are huge, forcing us to reassess how we live our lives, but often they are subtle. Simple reminders of the many things for which we have to be grateful. I’ve been home from the Solomon Islands for a week now, and it’s now become part of my DNA. Please enjoy this snapshot of the Solomons where the colours are vibrant…
The carvings, intricate and impressive…
The children, delightful…
And the food, delicious…
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau – http://www.visitsolomons.com.sb and Solomon Airlines – http://www.flysolomons.com
LYNDAL is devastatingly thin like Audrey Hepburn…and sports the mouth of a sailor. Only half of this sentence is true. Lyndal may have urged me to describe her as the screen siren while peppering our conversation with profanities but Hepburn, eat your heart out, for Lyndal is rolled gold. I’m on a 12-day Real Food Adventure with Intrepid Travel through Sri Lanka and Lyndal is one of the 10 colourful companions with whom I am travelling.
My adventures in this mystical land in the middle of the Indian Ocean start well before I meet my travelling party. Mozart is inexplicably being piped through the arrival’s hall of Colombo’s Bandaranayike International when I disembark at 1am, and among the usual swag of Duty Free cosmetics, cigarettes and alcohol, there’s a store selling washing machines. Just what I always imagined I needed after a 16-hour trek from Australia, a Simpson 5kg front loader.
A tropical downpour greets me on the street unlike the driver who has been arranged to meet me. Just as I’m about to chalk up yet another bloke who has refused to keep a date, someone kindly points to an obscure man sitting in a dark corner who it turns out is my “fixer”. He leads me to a car and the driver takes off into the inky night. We weave in and out of empty back alleys and the exotic blend of heaving humidity, travel exhaustion, and mild anxiety prompts me to break into a cold sweat. Half way to my hotel, when I am almost convinced this is how I will finally meet my maker, he pauses to point to a name of his manifest which is meant to be mine. I’m sorry Linda Treware, but I hope you enjoyed your evening being me and eventually arrived safely at your destination.
As fate would have it, several hours later at breakfast I meet Linda, or Laura as it turns out. A lovely American Jewish girl, Laura says “I’m basically Beyonce. My alter ego is a black girl with a big arse who says ‘fuck you bitch’.” At this moment I know Laura and I will be life-long friends.
For a food tour, we seem to be doing a lot of temples including the towering Sigiriya Rock Fortess with its 1000-odd steps and a height of 1120 metres which I miraculously climb. Regular readers will remember that among my long list of neuroses The Global Goddess is petrified of heights and some may even recall the trip in which my sister and me climbed the Remarkables in New Zealand…only to have me abandon my sister in a white-out while I begged two sherpas to carry me down that slippery little slope, sobbing hysterically. On this journey down I vow not to cry and instead channel my inner Peter Allen and chant I Still Call Australia Home as I leave what I can only describe as the “death zone”. I later learn from one of my travelling companions that someone passing them on the way to the summit asked whether they knew the strange English woman who was singing. On the plus side (and there is always an opposite reaction according to the Buddhist teachings in Sri Lanka) I haven’t had to wear my “temple dress” – lest my sexy knees and shoulders provoke unwanted attention – in days.
It would be fair to say I knew nothing about Sri Lanka before I arrived here 9 days ago and due to a hectic travel schedule this year have had even less time to do any research. So appalling was my knowledge of this country that I am half convinced a Tamil Tiger is an exotic Asian cat. I do glance at my trip notes before I depart which suggest I have access to $USD500 “in case of civil unrest”. I wonder whether this means I will be allowed to trot down to the ATM if a war erupts or whether I should bury some greenbacks on my person. A girlfriend suggests I should stash cash in my underwear as “no one will ever look there”. What I do find is a country filled with heart and soul and the most peaceful of people.
The weekend just gone found me in Kandy where I held a vague hope that I may meet the elusive man of my dreams, or in this instance, a Kandy Man. We attend the Kandy Cultural Show where one of the acts is described as “10 male damsel drummers in harmony”. There is even one fine fella in the show who smiles at me and drops his tambourine, such is my sex appeal, but our interaction ends there. I half hope that the yoga teacher we visit that afternoon will yield more luck in the romance stakes, but my fantasy is dashed when he hands out what he calls a “special herbal cream” and instructs us to rub it on our boobs and face. I look at the container, and it’s a jar of Vicks Vapor Rub. But as Buddha would say, every action has an opposition reaction and on the plus side my boobs have never felt hotter.
The Global Goddess is in Sri Lanka as a guest of Intrepid Travel – www.intrepidtravel.com
BECAUSE there is nothing more on this planet that a lonely, single, travel writer with a rotten head cold loves more than listening to the couple in the room next door having crazy, monkey sex, I spend my first night in Noosa rummaging through my luggage for ear plugs and with the pillow over my head. The thing we love second best is not being able to locate the off switch for the room light (in this case, it’s in the kitchen which glows like a full moon), so I also grasp for my eye mask. Looking and feeling like Uncle Fester, I head to bed, strangely aroused and annoyed in equal measure, but resolve that tomorrow will be a better day.
And it is. It’s mid winter in Noosa and I’m on a story researching her hidden secrets, or Naked Noosa if you will. It’s also 27 degrees and while the cold and flu tablets I have taken initially prevent my foggy head from finding the Noosa River along which I have happily driven for the past 20 years, I eventually locate this major waterway and my first appointment of the day. I’m on a stand-up paddle board/yoga lesson with Kelly Carthy from Luxe Fitness Escapes who leads me into the mangroves where I lay on the board, sun on my face, birds in my ear, and perform some basic yoga moves, mindful not to roll over and into the river, which is exactly the kind of thing I’d do. Kelly has just launched the business aimed at making fitness fun in some of Noosa’s secret spots.
“As a trainer I’ve always used the outdoors to my advantage. I only train clients near water and places with a great view and it’s about how can I take their mind of it,” Kelly says.
“On the board or on the sand you are having to stabilise and are using all of your muscles and are more aware of what you are doing. I’m huge about empowering women to be in their own body and not be looking at someone else and to be more mindful about what they can do.
“I want them to feel strong and confident and I think there is lots of space to really empower women to feel strong in their bodies and focus on what they can do rather than how they look.”
Kelly tells me I have great core strength which I attribute to the fact I do yoga, and not all the crazy, monkey sex I’m not having, and I spend the rest of the day strutting around like I’m a super model.
I spend the afternoon with award-winning barista Al Claridge from Clandestino Roasters along Hastings Street, learning how to make the perfect drop. Well, I think I’m here to make coffee, but as is so often the case in my job, it’s the person with whom I’m speaking that turns out to be the story. “Kiwi Al” was one of New Zealand’s top 10 surfers but, more interestingly, was involved in a car accident which left him a tetraplegic – unable to use his limbs or torso. Against all odds it took him more than two years to learn to walk again and these days he lives on the Sunshine Coast, happily surfing and making “ethical, sustainable and environmental” coffee.
“I don’t chase the big money, I chase the waves and lifestyle,” Al says.
“If we’ve got a skill we’re not sharing in life, well then that’s selfish. It’s about raising people’s awareness of being.
“A good barista is like a counselor. Life is 100 percent about choice. Now everything I do is done with the fullest and life is a beautiful thing.”
The next day, I go in search of a bloke called Bear. I heard about Bear a few months back and was utterly fascinated by his name, picturing a large knife-wielding hippie who may or may not kill me. I’m totally unprepared for the 69-year-old who turns up in his 4WD and tells me to jump in his truck as we ride the Noosa Ferry to the Noosa North Shore. Bear, as it turns out, is a big teddy bear, who these days spends his time living with his wife Pam on their oceanfront land and searching for a good spot to fish. We explore this quiet side of Noosa and chat about life and love. I ask Bear the secret to his 48 year marriage.
“You need someone who likes the same things. She was a city girl and I brought her out of Brisbane and had to train her my way,” he says.
“You’ve got to deal with the problems as they come up and just be there for each other.
“I haven’t worked out women, I only had to train one. I don’t worry about the rest of them.”
I return to Hastings Street, convinced I am the only person who has ever gone to Noosa and not had a drink, but spent their entire time in the chemist begging for more cold and flu drugs. At one stage, I’m speeding so much on Sudafed that I actually park my car over an entire resort driveway, thus blocking the ability for anyone to enter or exit the resort. But the show must go on and I spend the next few days on a walking tour of the secret side of Noosa National park (where I may or may not have been looking for the nudist beach), learning to sail the Noosa River, watching a Queensland Ballet Performance, talking about Eumundi Body Art and soaking up the sun. Yes, if you’re going to feel rotten, Noosa is the best antidote to any head cold. I drive back to Brisbane on late Sunday, the stories and characters swirling around in my head like latte art, grappling with how to sum up this naked side of Noosa. And, just when I want to give up, worried I can’t find a way to deliver justice to this divine destination, the words of Bear pop into my head: “When all else fails, just keep fishing.”
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Tourism Noosa – http://www.visitnoosa.com.au
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
THE River Kwai is a jade jewel as late afternoon concedes languidly to dusk. The longtail boat in which I am travelling roars and sputters like an indigent politician up the infamous waterway towards the floating jungle rafts I have come to know and love so much. Travel writers don’t particularly like returning to the same place – there’s too much world to explore – but there are some destinations which become firmly etched into your psyche. And so entrenched in your soul you are unwittingly lured back. And for me, this is one of them, in part for its brutal war history involving the bravado of Australian soldiers and in part for its sheer natural beauty.
I penned these words a year ago on my fourth trip to the rustic and incredibly beautiful River Kwai region, pondering what it was that kept drawing me back to this part of the world. I still have no answers, but the pull to return there has emerged again, and this year, I’d love to take some of you with me. And so, I am delighted to announce I have launched a new tour River Kwai Travel Writing Delights with The Global Goddess. In early August, we will be meeting in Bangkok where we will spend two nights in a luxury five-star hotel, before we embark on our journey to the River Kwai. And along the way, we’ll be observing, day dreaming and writing about our travels.
If we’re lucky, we’ll bump into my good friend Sam Season, about whom I have written before. I first met Sam Season several years ago, and over the years I have been speaking with him about the most salacious of all subjects: love. Regular readers of The Global Goddess will remember this 22-year-old tour guide, a Mon man from one of the earliest tribes to live in South East Asia. Considered neither Burmese, nor Thai, the Mon exist in a small slither of land along the River Kwai, not far from the Burmese border. The Mon number some 8.14 million people but I remain captivated by this one man. This man called Sam.
At night, he paints his face in traditional Mon markings but speaks with an English accent plucked out of a south London pub, with a smattering of Aussie twang – picked up solely from the tourists with which he works every day. He moved to this particular village when he was 9, and has been studying to finish High School since, in between working 6 days a week at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts. And Sam is in love with a girl called Jaytarmon with beautiful long black hair who lives in a neighbouring village down the river. But access to this girl, like internet, electricity and hot water, are elusive in these parts. And to complicate things more, Sam is being pursued by a girl in his own village, who cooks for him and washes his clothes.
Last time we parted ways, on the banks of that beautiful river, Sam had plans to spend the year perfecting his English, so he can gain a mechanics scholarship in Australia and work towards his dream of becoming a car mechanic along the Thai/Burmese border. His plans included professing his love for Jaytarmon and asking her to wait for him and his love. Those of you who know me personally, or have met me through my words alone, know that this will be a journey of humility, heart and humour – the three cornerstones I believe make a great writer, and good human being. Please come and join me in one of the most beautiful trips I have ever done. It will change your life.
For more details on my tour River Kwai Travel Writing Delights with The Global Goddess, please click on this link: https://theglobalgoddess.com/joinmythailandtour/
A HOT Hawaiian, a pasty American tourist and two Australian girls walk into a spa… No, this is not the start of a joke, but an incident which occurred on my recent trip to Hawaii. And by spa I actually mean hot tub, and that’s not the only part of this story that needs clarifying. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have spent the best part of this year looking for love in all the wrong places, including most recently little red men on Hawaii’s Big Island, so it should come as no surprise that the events about which I am to write unfolded as they did.
It’s a sultry Sunday in Maui and I’ve spent the morning learning to stand-up paddleboard in what is a considerable swell. Much to the amusement of onlookers I get to my knees, crouch, see the next wave, and jump back to my belly. Kelly Slater I am not, and just as I’m about to quit my stand-up paddleboard career before it’s even started, I feel a rush of determination and leap to my feet, knees bent, eyes on the horizon, and I paddle. I actually paddle. All of this unexpected activity has taken its toll by mid-afternoon however, and I meet a mate by the pool where our endearing Australian twangs have caught the ear of a hot, hairy Hawaiian I had seen earlier, reading a book. Let me repeat this: there was a man, reading a book.
The hot Hawaiian, as it turns out, is to be our guide for the next day and introduces himself as Kainoa Horcajo, a cultural specialist and potentially the best-looking man in the entire 50th state, if not the United States itself (apart from Obama). Because Australians are such friendly girls, we invite Kainoa to jump into the spa, where we also bump into a pasty American tourist, who immediately shakes our hand. In. The. Spa. In terms of bizarre spa behaviour, this takes the cake, but we humour the pasty tourist while staring longingly at Kainoa. Even his name sounds like a melody and I imagine what it would be like to strum his ukulele.
We’re staying at Travaasa Hana, a remote resort on the other side of Maui in the tiny township of Hana, which reminds me of old Hawaii depicted in a 1970s post card. And I am smitten. With Hana, with the ranch-style house overlooking the ocean in which I am staying, and with Kainoa who turns up to dinner that night, curiously with the pasty American tourist. “Are you joining us for dinner?” I ask the tourist, not surprised that the Hawaiian hospitality would extend to this lone wolf. “Yes,” he replies looking at me oddly.
In terms of business dinners, this is one of the best all year, with sous chef Konrad Arroyo serving up such delights as Lomi Salmon, Maui Cattle Co. Striploin Tataki, Ginger Steamed Mahi Mahi, and Lilikoi Crème Brulee. After we’ve consumed several cold beverages, and I’ve spent considerable hours gazing lovingly at Kainoa’s beard, one of my friends turns to the American tourist, who happens to be seated at the head of the table. “And so what do you do?” she asks. “I’m the President of this resort,” he replies to our immediate embarrassment, before paying the bill, and we all burst out laughing. Luckily, Adam Hawthorne, President of Travaasa Experiential Resorts, is as good humoured as the Hawaiians and this is not yet another country in which I have to leave under the cloak of darkness.
We all walk back to our ranch houses, and Kainoa tells me his is on the other side of mine, thus ensuring I don’t fetch a minute of sleep that night, as I imagine him strumming his ukulele. But the show must go on, and the next day Kainoa takes us to Kahanu Garden where we meet elder Pi’iLani Lua, a proud Hawaiian woman who hails from a long hula line.
“In the old days being women we would not take the best looking man. We were smarter than that. We needed someone who could work with rock and rope. If a man had no hair on his knees, we knew he was good at that.
“The men did all the cooking. “
I cast a furtive glance at Kainoa’s hairy knees but am pretty sure if he had to, he could be handy with a rock and some rope.
We continue on our journey around the island.
“You can see waterfalls everywhere we go. The sense of community out here is awesome. It makes you feel good about humanity,” Kainoa says.
“A lot of people here still survive on subsistence living so they fish or hunt for their survival. The Hawaiians don’t believe so much in bartering but free trade. We view it more as you give what you have, there is reciprocity to it. As in, I have the ability to you this, please take it freely.
“This land is a great teacher in how to survive. It’s a traditional insurance policy. Hawaii has this way of letting you know whether you should be here or not.”
It’s Monday when we end our journey in Maui. Kainoa speaks about the importance of the moon in Hawaiian culture and the fact that it’s been four days since a full moon. In the local vernacular that makes it La’au Pau – a “time of creation, planting and sex,” Kainoa says.
“Hawaiians talk about sex a lot.”
I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure I’ve found my people.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Hawaii Tourism. To book your own escape go to http://www.gohawaii.com/au; stay on Maui at Travaasa Hana http://www.travaasa.com/hana/#ATwQIpsaoFQTgwtS.97 or Andaz Maui http://maui.andaz.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html
I REALLY should have written this tale days and days ago, but there were other forces at play. I’m standing by the Hawaiian ocean, listening to Sheraton Kona Cultural Tour Officer Lily Dudoit talk about her heritage, when I get “chicken arms” as the locals like to call goose bumps. Lily has just mentioned the Menehune (pronounced Men-ay Hoon-ay) and I’m instantly intrigued.
“Everywhere in Hawaii we are known for our myths and legends. We have the little people who only come out at night to do their work. We call them Menehune and they are said to have reddish skin colour,” she says.
“There was a couple who had their wedding photo by this tree and when they had the photo developed there was a Menehune peeking out from behind the tree.
“They like to make trouble. Sometimes things go missing or they move something. You don’t find them. They find you.”
I’m on Hawaii’s Big Island and the thought that I could be sharing space with a bunch of mischievous, mysterious men is nothing short of exciting. Sure, they’re apparently red and short, but beggars can’t be choosers. Lily’s also let slip that the Menehune like to eat Manju – a type of biscuit full of red beans – and so that night for good measure I leave two, as well as a beer, figuring if it’s good enough for Santa and the Tooth Fairy, it might just be enough to entice the Menehune to my boudoir.
I wake up disappointed but determined. The beer’s still there and so are the biscuits. But I remain as fascinated to meet a Menehune as I am to encounter a decent Brisbane bloke. Yes, because I believe in miracles. The next day I meet Nancy Erger, my tour guide and a local location scout for the film industry. Given her role, I ask her what she can tell me about the Menehune.
She laughs and tells me they turn up when “generally something needs fixing.” I pause and ponder this. Does this mean I am fixed? Or I need more fixing? And why didn’t they drink that beer? What kind of man doesn’t like beer?
Pretty soon our conversation turns to other men, as Nancy reveals she was a location scout in the latest series of Hawaii Five-O starring that big hunk of spunk Australia’s Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett. I’m so excited I want to lick her arm. Curiously, when researching locations, Nancy happened across the original series and by chance realised her grandmother was an extra in the old show, sneaking out of the house and catching a bus down to location without her husband’s permission. When Nancy reveals she was involved in shooting the commercial Liquid Aloha for the Hawaii’s Longboard Lager I have so come to love, I realise we will be friends for life. We pause for a shaved ice and in deference to the Goddess of Fire Pele, who is spraying volanco lava languidly around the island, I choose a Lava Flow concoction of coconut, strawberry and mango.
Two hours later Nancy deposits me at Lokahi Garden Sanctuary, a sustainable organic farm and botanical sanctuary run by Richard Liebmann and his wife Natalie Young. Richard and Natalie prepare lunch plucked straight from their garden, starting with a mocktail of fresh ginger, turmeric, honey, coconut oil, peppercorns, lemon juice and aloe vera. Natalie, who also delivers natural therapies using herbs, flowers and fruit and vegetables from the garden, asks me what I think I need for my treatment.
“I’m looking for love,” I say for the hundredth time this year on a trip.
She dashes back to the lemon myrtle and lavender plants, picking flowers and leaves like her life depends on it. We sit on her front deck, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and she soaks my feet in the flowers. I close my eyes and she performs a healing “for your traveller’s feet,” she says gently. A few minutes later she asks me what thoughts have come to my mind.
I tell her I had a flashback to being a backpacker in Rome, 22 years ago, when I was 22. And it’s been exactly 22 years since I’ve been to Hawaii.
“The Aloha spirit is alive and well, you really can feel that here,” Natalie says.
“A lot of Hawaiians view you from where you are in your heart. When you come with an open heart they are very welcoming.”
Days later, still frustrated about not seeing any Menehune, I sit down to write this story. Inexplicably, my computer is completely dead and I’m forced to soak up Hawaii instead. I swim, do a stand-up paddleboard lesson, and partake in a sunset yoga class by the ocean, instead of working. I remain baffled by this technological glitch until I remember those little red men. Back home in Brisbane my computer works beautifully. Maybe the Menehune found me after all.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Hawaii Tourism. To book your own escape go to http://www.gohawaii.com/au; stay on the Big Island at The Sheraton Kona http://www.sheratonkeauhou.com; and take a retreat at Lokahi Garden Sanctuary http://www.lokahigardensanctuary.com