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.
Kissed with Bliss
I AM experiencing pure and utter unadulterated bliss. Or to be more precise, Bamboo Bliss, the new massage treatment designed specifically for winter at the Hilton Surfers Paradise. On this particular day I am the guinea pig for this steamy spa sensation. Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking… gee that Goddess is a humanitarian. What will she do next, donate a kidney to medical research?
This blissful journey in the eforea: spa at Hilton begins wearing a fluffy robe, on a day bed, in the relaxation room sipping an Indigenous-inspired Yulu tea of wild rosella, lemon, aniseed, wild lime and lemon myrtle leaves. It’s red, warm and like a little bit of the Dreamtime has exploded on your taste buds. Take your time, there’s no rush here.
I am then led into a treatment room and where the bliss begins in earnest. My therapist and new best friend Lauren rubs my back with a Vitaman Sea Salt Scrub consisting of sea salt, aloe vera and wattle seed. You’re on the Gold Coast remember, so picture a shirtless surfer scrubbing you down with sea salt in the ocean, or, if you like, a topless sun baking woman. What interests me here is that the Vitaman range, as its name suggests, was originally designed for blokes, but women liked it so much, it inspired this new treatment. Lauren then places a hot towel on my back and wraps me in a cocoon, a little like your mum used to when you ran out of the surf on a cold day.
Warm bamboo is then rolled gently up my legs, not unlike a stick of melting butter. On a crisp day outside, it’s simply scrumptious and I feel like I’m a juicy roast duck being prepared for dinner. The back massage follows with a Vitaman Relaxing Oil of almond, orange, jojoba and lavender. Lauren massages my arms and gently stretches them, a little like a Thai massage before moving to the front of the body. A reflexology-style foot massage is a highlight here.
On this particular day, Lauren throws in a vigorous head scrub as well. Remember those days when you got home from the beach and mum shampooed all the salt out of your hair like her life depended on it and you thought “geez, mum, that’s a bit rough?”. Well, this is nothing like that. It’s firm and relaxing and like all those thoughts you can’t slow down in everyday life are being massaged from your mind.
The eforea: spa at Hilton is the first purpose-built spa of its kind at a Hilton property in Australia. It boasts seven private treatment rooms including a Vichy Shower and two double rooms for couples – in case you happen to have a shirtless surfer or a topless sun baker of your own.
The word “eforea” describes “a place where people want to escape from the pace of modern life”. Want to escape even further? Book yourself a room at the Hilton Surfers Paradise, which sits right in the heart of this tourist strip. This property offers 250 one, two and three-bedroom Hilton Residences and 169 Hilton guest rooms and suites. There’s a signature restaurant Salt grill by Luke Mangan, the FIX Bar with cocktails created by a team of expert “mixologists, and The Food Store delicatessen and wine bar.
But why should The Global Goddess have all the fun? I really value my readers and, in conjunction with the Hilton Surfers Paradise, I am thrilled to offer a prize for one loyal follower. The prize, worth $155, includes a 90-minute Bamboo Bliss treatment at the eforea: spa at Hilton, Surfers Paradise. Yes, one of you will be able to indulge in the journey I have described above.
To enter, you must be a follower (if you’re not, simply click on the follow button in the bottom right hand corner) AND you must leave a comment telling me what your idea of “bliss” is. It’s THAT simple! The competition opens today, Monday, May 27 and closes on Monday, June 3. The winner with be announced on this blog early next week. Transport to the Hilton Surfers Paradise is not included (but you can borrow my broomstick). The prize itself is available to be taken up until November 22, 2013, so if you are planning a trip to the Gold Coast between now and then, please enter.
You now know what my idea of utter bliss is. I can’t wait to hear yours!