THE flags are flaccid but the surf is sloppy. Out the back line, ballsy board riders are being smashed, while in the shallows, tourists are tackling the chop. Some win and float over the waves, others lose and are unceremoniously dumped as if they’ve been on a rotten date. Brazen blue bottles saunter into the shore which is already littered like diamonds with harmless jellies. The air is scented a Surfers Paradise summer, of salt, seaweed and sunburn. It’s all so sublime.
I’m shaking off a long, lusty lunch at the new voco Gold Coast, the 389-room hotel in which I will also sleep the night. Brissos, like me, will remember this building as the Watermark, but after a multi-million-dollar refurbishment, it’s now the upscale voco brand, the first in the world for the InterContinental Hotel Group’s stable. Later, I will retire to my deluxe ocean view room, which, along with the suites, have undergone a total overhaul including new bathrooms, beds, carpet, sofas and televisions.
But first, we lunch. We start at the Social House, a space with numerous nooks and crannies, intoxicating old black and white pictures of bathing beauties, and recycled timber windows. There’s a colourful cocktail menu here including martinis which taste like apple pie and lemongrass; and the salted caramel which features home-made salted caramel sauce and Himalayan rock salt. Voco Sales and Marketing Director Ashley Britnell says there are many different spaces within Social House to explore and experience.
“The idea is there is a place for everyone and at every time of the day,” he says.
Clifford’s Grill & Lounge is our dining destination and visitors can expect some innovative offerings from Executive Chef Daniel Smith and his 10-burner iron grill. That, and the fact that the food served here hasn’t travelled more than a 200km radius. On this delicious day we feast on the likes of the Char-Grilled 1kg t.bone steak; Bangalow pork; and a bread board of Middle Eastern dips of moutabel, spicy hommus Beirut, sour herbs, and house-baked flat bread. Voco General Manager Brenden van Blerk says voco is a Latin word meaning “to come together”.
“At the heart of it, we want to break bread with everyone,” he says.
And break bread, we do.
This hotel, which uses the tagline “reliably different” is also working towards a more sustainable footprint, currently running a market trial in some rooms of tamper-proof recycled amenities products.
It also one of only a handful of Gold Coast hotels which recycles 100 per cent of its green waste and receives a rebate from the Gold Coast City Council which then uses this waste on local garden beds. There’s also a hive of some 350,000 bees which produce honey used in everything from its desserts to its cocktails and even bees wax candles for sale in the lobby.
At this edgy establishment, you’ll also find a modern gym, two swimming pools (a second one was built after the towering Q1 across the road cast too much shadow on the first); the L’Aqua Day Spa; 800 square metres of meeting space; and a third dining space in Waves Buffet restaurant. Back in my 18th floor room, it’s a stylish Hamptons vibe with crisp, white linens (even the bedding is made from recycled plastic) and a yellow and blue colour theme, right down to the chaise lounge which is perfectly positioned against the large window. And it’s from here that I sit and watch the shadows grow longer on this Surfers Paradise summer day. Little by little the lights flicker on in the neighbouring high rises. The last stragglers leave that sloppy surf and I smile and think, yep, this is pure, rolled, Gold Coast.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Voco Gold Coast https://www.ihg.com/voco/hotels/gb/en/surfers-paradise/sfppb/hoteldetail?cm_mmc=GoogleMaps-_-VX-_-AU-_-SFPPB
JUST like this camel caravan I captured in the Sahara Desert, I’ve been working hard to attract more followers. For the past year, I’ve posted a photo a day on Instagram and recently hit my first 1000 followers. I’ve also posted more than 1000 photos, so that’s at least 1000 reasons to follow me. Here’s a selection of my most popular pics, taken from my global travels over the past six months, and published under my Instagram handle @aglobalgoddess. I’d love to see you over there.
From the desert dust to the brilliant blues of Chefchaouen, Morocco served up a kaleidoscope of colour and charm.
Indonesia’s beautiful Bawah Island gave me the blues, in the best possible way.
Finland’s Lapland was all white and all right.
Back home, the Aussie summer served up its bushfire orange sunsets and aqua beach days.
While on my first trip to Japan last month, it was better to be red, than dead.
Follow me on Instagram @aglobalgoddess
I AM sitting in my hot Brisbane office dressed in a leopard-print summer dress, reflecting on my life as a travel writer in 2016. Let’s not beat around the boiling bush, it was always going to be a quirky one after I kicked off the year in January at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat on the Gold Coast where I spent an hour in a one-on-one mediation session with a horse, of course.
Yes, Jack, the 22-year-old horse, was quite the listener and as it turned out, I was a good learner, discovering more about myself in that paddock than years of therapists have been to unravel. Working with my breath, and the fact horses are instinctive creatures, I was able to go from having Jack walk away from me (apparently I hate rejection) to have Jack trotting around the ring by the end of the session, based purely on my inner calm and emotions. He even stopped on cue when I exhaled. In that one crowded hour I learned I am prone to being a bit of a bull at a gate, and expecting others to join me on my crazy schemes, without first checking that they’re on board. Jack, you taught me a lot.
In February, and in the name of another story, I plunged into the warm waters off Lord Howe Island for Ocean Swim Week with World Ironman Champion Ali Day and Pinetrees Lodge. I’d never swum out in the open ocean before and learned that it was far more different and difficult to the university pool in which I try to carve up a daily 1km. Swimming among reef sharks and over fantastic coral, I also learned I could overcome sea sickness in rough swells and complete an impressive 2-3km a day. I also learned I’m incredibly stubborn once I push through an initial lack of confidence. Salty and stubborn. And I wonder why I’m single.
March saw me in Fiji, working with the fine folk at the Outrigger Fiji Resort and writing stories about some innovative and compassionate community projects in which they are involved, building new kindergartens and maternity wards. That kindy opened last week and it was heartening to know I was there at that pivotal point in history with people who have so little, but find so much reason for joy. Want perspective on your life? Head to the South Pacific. Sit under a coconut tree and pull your head out of your proverbial. It will change you, I promise.
In April, I was in Germany on a beer tour, also in the name of research, and if you think I had to train for Ocean Swim Week, it’s like I was born for Beer Week. And to think successive maths teachers over the years said I would never amount to anything. Add to that a dash of Mother Nature where I summited Germany’s highest mountain…and by summit I mean taking a gondola to the top and promptly order a beer and goulash. Because I’m hard-core. I explored my animal instinct here by taking to Bavarian Tinder and I was quite the hit in Germany. Not that I had time to actually meet any of my Bavarian boyfriends, but I got the distinct impression they were different to Brisbane boys and not once did anyone send me a photo of their penis. #winning
May turned out to be a journey of a different kind where I had some long-awaited tests and surgery for health symptoms that killed a fellow travel writer last year. While my tests turned out fine, the surgery laid me up for four weeks in incredible pain, and it was a time to reflect and go inwards, something I’m not particularly good at. But when Mother Nature speaks, sometimes you have to listen and it was a good life lesson. I did have a moment of truth while awaiting those test results, questioning myself on whether I was living the life I wanted. And the answer was yes. By June, when I was back on the road in Vienna and Monaco, exploring Royal and Imperial Luxury Europe, I was thrilled. I may have even danced around the house just prior to leaving to Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again. Because I have an excellent taste in music.
In July, I braved a chilly Toowoomba trip to explore the city’s sensational street art. And it blew my socks off. Not literally, as that would have been unpleasant in the cold, but metaphorically. I also took my first trip to Darwin and again, was thrilled by the Northern Territory capital with its outdoor cinemas, national parks, and great dining and accommodation offerings. This is a city which celebrates its sunsets, with hundreds of residents and tourists flocking to the beach to watch the sun plunge into the ocean and that, in itself, was a magical moment. A destination which sells tickets to its annual festival out of an original caravan used to house homeless people after 1974’s Cyclone Tracy? You’ve gotta love that.
August saw me at Sabi Sabi Private Game Lodge in South Africa on a luxury safari and yes, I was lucky to experience the Big 5, plus all the rest. Mother Africa and her beautiful people stole a piece of my heart and I came home reeling from Jo’Burg’s street art to Robben Island where the mighty Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 year jail term. There’s usually about one month of the year where I try to stop, pause, reflect and recharge and it was September this year, which also turned out to be my birthday month, and what a delight it was to be a normal person again, catching up with friends, going to yoga classes, and just “sitting with myself” as we say in meditation.
In October, I was out on the road again, on my longest trip of the year to Canada where I started in Vancouver, sitting in a traditional indigenous sweat lodge with an elder, talking to our ancestors. But the absolute highlight of that three-week journey was the opportunity to go on a walking safari with the polar bears with Churchill Wild. I discovered that the Lord of the Arctic was to be respected, not feared, and that if we don’t manage the way we treat the planet, polar bears may be relegated to the history books.
The conservation theme continued into last month, November, when I jumped on a plane to the Maldives Outrigger Konotta Resort and spent a fascinating few days talking with a marine biologist who is trying to resurrect the reef with innovative coral planting strategies. On a monsoonal Monday I sat on the edge of a jetty weaving coral necklaces from coconut rope that would later be implanted on the reef, in a moment I will always remember when my fingers are no longer nimble and I’m too old to travel. From the Arctic, where the ice is melting, to the Indian Ocean, which is becoming too warm, I had the immense privilege of experiencing the impacts of Climate Change first hand.
Which brings me to December. In two days I’ll be boarding a plane for my last travel writing assignment of the year. And yes, this trip has another animal theme. I’ll be boarding a sailing boat and exploring beyond Bali to the islands around Indonesia, before we arrive at the land of the komodo dragons. Along the way we’ll be snorkelling with manta rays and sharks. And I cannot wait. Yes, it’s been a big year, and moments of great challenge, times when you are so jetlagged you want to weep, a deep-seated loneliness from long weeks out on the road, and a disconnect from normal life. I didn’t find the love of my life, but I know he’s out there. And when I’m out in the world, doing what I love best, hunting and gathering stories, there’s no better feeling on the planet. I wish you a Happy Christmas and may 2017 be everything you dreamed of and more.
The Global Goddess would like to thank all of the tourism and travel operators, local communities, kind random strangers, PR people, publishers, editors and fellow writers, who joined her on the incredible journey that was 2016. See you out there in 2017.
THIRTY years ago I experienced my first encounter with a European train and was instantly hooked. I had just journeyed some 36 hours from Australia on what was also my first ever plane ride anywhere, and arrived in Frankfurt to catch the train to Hamburg to meet what would be my new German “family” for the next three months. It was winter, I was wearing an entirely unsuitable pink tracksuit and ugg boots for a Queensland teenager who’d never even seen snow (I mean, who do you think introduced Europe to the ugg boot?). As I alighted the train they asked me about my journey. “I’ve been travelling for 36 clocks,” I declared, delighted to finally practice my high school German on real-life Germans.
Despite murdering their language, somehow they fell in love with me and I with them, as well as travelling by rail around Europe. The only other train I’d ever been on before then was the Ipswich Line from Ipswich to Brisbane, or the “big smoke” as we called it back in 1970s country Queensland. Apart from that, my transport options had been limited to the gold Kingswood family station wagon for our annual holidays to Coolangatta. Oh yes, we were living the dream back then. As the youngest of four children, I even got the best bed in our two-bedroom holiday flat…two seats pushed together. And they wonder why I’m bitter. So imagine my delight when not just one, but many countries I’d only read about in books instantly opened up to me with the flourish of a rail ticket.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, European trains have run late over the years, which isn’t great news when you are backpacker on a strict budget and need to snaffle that last hostel bed in Vienna or sleep at the station. Then there was the time back in the days Aussies needed visas to cross almost every bloody border in Europe, a conductor had unwittingly taken mine out of my passport as we nicked the corner of a country, only to attempt to arrive in the Czech Republic a week later to find not only did I not have a visa, but was considered a criminal. My passport was taken, I was forced to sit in a room for 12 hours without food, and I cried hysterically (yes, because crying always helps) until a train arrived late that night forcing me back into Poland that I had attempted to leave. Believe me, it was a long journey at midnight with a bunch of gypsies in my carriage asking for money every five minutes as the train headed towards Germany, and I was a little exhausted from all that crying. But it has become one of my best travel stories over the years.
And that’s what travelling by train around Europe is all about, as regular readers have seen in my most recent blog posts. It’s real and it’s romantic. Nothing used to beat the glee only an impoverished Aussie backpacker can feel at catching an overnight train in one European country (hence saving on a night’s accommodation), only to wake up in the next. One night, on a train journey from Munich to Hamburg, my boyfriend at the time and I even covered our backpacks with sheets and pillows and pretended they were two extra people in our carriage to ensure we had the compartment to ourselves.
And now, fellow Aussie bloggers have the chance to win their own Rail Europe adventure. Looking for creativity and inspiration? This is your big opportunity to unplug and daydream. Simply enter the #TailsOnRail competition at http://www.raileurope.com.au/deals/talesonrail and you, too, could be enjoying a trip to Europe. This is a great prize, which includes a flight to Paris, and a one-week train journey with Rail Europe from France to Switzerland. That’s right, flights, hotels, food and your rail tickets are included. Check it out, it could be your chance of a lifetime.
For those who don’t win, or are considering a trip with Rail Europe, here’s some benefits to travelling by train around one of the truly great continents. By the way, Australia is the top-selling country for Rail Europe tickets.
1. No check-in queues, meaning you can rock up 10 minutes before the train departs (unless it’s the Eurostar, which requires a little bit more time).
2. City centre to city centre connections – no expensive cab charges and traffic.
3. Comfortable and spacious seats in all classes plus lots of legroom.
4. Power points for charging electronic devices – tablet, laptop, camera or phone.
5. No baggage limit, meaning great for shopping, though it’s not advisable to bring on too much or more than you can carry to ensure a comfortable journey for all.
6. Exposed to Europe’s stunning scenery throughout the journey.
7. Go wherever, whenever – a lot of flexibility with Passes.
8. High-speed services often trump flying or driving (no traffic, no queues plus all of the other benefits listed here).
But wait…there’s more!
9. Cost efficient – tickets are cheap, especially when bought in advance – up to 70% off the regular price, bookable up to 120 days in advance.
10. Family friendly – certain trains have kid friendly carriages. In Switzerland, children under 16yo travel for free when accompanied by an adult and on the Eurail Pass, children under 11yo travel for free with a guardian.
11. Environmentally friendly – a lot less carbon emission than air travel or driving.
12. Convenient for day trips to neighbouring towns or wine region (no worries about drinking and driving!).
13. Travel overnight (save on hotel costs).
14. See Europe off the beaten track (with 240,000km of track, rail reaches to almost every corner of Europe that’s not accessible by road).
15. Great way to meet locals – Europe has an extremely efficient rail system used by most locals.
16. Good onboard dining services.
17. A wide of discounts and bonuses come along with the passes (check online).
To find our more, go to http://www.raileurope.com.au. All photos used in this blog are courtesy of Rail Europe.
I AM stuck in second gear…quite literally. I am on my way up an incredibly steep driveway of the destination I am visiting when my car conks out. I have no choice but to roll my little black beast down the hill, slip it into first gear and rev the engine until I can smell burning rubber. My stay at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat on the Gold Coast on the weekend starts in a less-than-auspicious way and I try not to take this as an omen. I also chew gum, lest the retreat staff detect the scent of the triple chocolate Cornetto ice cream I scoffed in a panic just before entering the retreat.
Later that night, in her induction to the retreat, Gwinganna Program Manager Kay says we should view the steep driveway as a training tool.
“Imagine the driveway is the buffer zone to the outside world. Imagine leaving at the bottom of the driveway everything in your life that causes stress,” Kay says.
“We invite you to visualise that and what’s left of you drives up here and has a weekend at Gwinganna.” Unfortunately, for me, Kay never does say what we should do when we exit, and all I can picture is all of my stress waiting for me at the bottom of the driveway, waiting to leap back into my car, when I depart.
Kay says the five major health concerns: cancer, heart disease, degenerative disease, depression and diabetes, all have stress as a common denominator and underlying factor.
“There is a flip side of the coin to stress. Can you remember the last time you felt so good in your life that you woke up a little bit early because you couldn’t wait to get the day started? You had that sense of joy and you carried that throughout your day, that buoyance of spirit and resilience to life?” she says.
“That very feeling is what we are aiming to create here at Gwinganna.
“We’ve created a program that invites you to focus on the one thing that impacts on everything in your life and that is your relationship with your body, your health and wellbeing.”
At this point in proceedings I should point out I spent a good three weeks in Indonesia in December drinking copious cheap cocktails and Bintang and when I returned, spent January making up for the lack of good wine in Indonesia, if you get my drift. So there’s a little bit of work to do. On the up side, I have been in 2km daily swimming training for a story on which I depart next week, attending yoga twice a week, and meditation class once a week. So there has been some balance between my binges. But my active wear rudely suggests not nearly enough. Never fear, because Gwinganna is part lifestyle retreat, part Biggest Loser reality TV program with Kay talking about how bad it would be to smuggle Kit Kats into the retreat and eat them in the privacy of your room. On my first night after dinner, all I can think about is how I wish I’d been clever enough to think to bring Kit Kats. The best I can find is an old throat lozenge in my handbag with some hair stuck to it.
I spend my first afternoon enjoying the retreat’s Dreamtime hours where most people go to a massage or rest and my treatment is a Maya Maya where I am smothered in mud and salt and wrapped in a sheet. During my treatment, a ferocious summer storm hits, the building shakes, the power goes off, and all I can imagine is the roof lifting and my masseuse fleeing the building, leaving me stuck in my mud and salt cocoon. I devise a plan in case of the worst scenario and decide if I gather enough momentum I can probably drop and roll my way off the massage table, and dash naked into the rainforest, leaving a trail of mud and salt in my wake. I regale my new friends at dinner that night with my plan, right before I spill oyster juice all over them. I’d blame the alcohol, but we’re only allowed one 100ml glass of organic wine each (I try to cut a deal with those who aren’t drinking to give me their allowance). We’re also discouraged from drinking water half an hour before or after our meal to aid our digestion.
I go to bed sad, sober and starving but vow tomorrow will be a better day. Staff member Karl Ostrowski is giving a seminar on the Pillars of Wellness where I learn that only about 20 per cent of our woes can be traced back to our genetics which means about 80 percent is up to me. We learn that it’s important to chew our food about twice as slowly as we currently do. It’s Day Two and I’m feeling virtuous and much better. I partake in a variety of activities, rising at 5.30am for the 6am Qi Gong class. By 6.45am I’m in the pool partaking in a water running class and at 9am I’m doing a stretch class, followed by a pilates class at 9.30am. I spend my Dreamtime hours in another treatment, and dreaming about dinner. My body has never consumed so few calories while doing so much exercise and I fear I may go into cardiac arrest.
By Sunday morning my new friends and me are talking about all the great wine specials we discovered over Christmas. We possess all the fervour of a bunch of 16-year-old boys looking at porn. One girl admits she can live without wine, but could murder a latte right about now, despite the fact we are allowed organic coffee up until 11am each day. I’m thinking about the half bottle of New Zealand Sav Blanc I have waiting in the fridge at home. But most of all, I’m learning to breathe again so that when those problems do leap into my car when I roll back down the hill, I’ll be ready for them.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat – http://www.gwinganna.com
IT seems incongruous, but I am sitting down to pen my last blog for 2015. Equally unbelievable, I know, is that I’m still as single as when I sat down to write my first post this year. Yes, desperate and dateless as the New Year dawned, and staring down the barrel of yet another looming Valentine’s Day, in January I rejoined Bogandating.com (not its real name) and attracted the likes of blokes such as “Fairdinkumkiwi”, “Gazza”, and “DancingandRomance”. At this stage of the year/game I’d like to say (and kids, look away), based on my experience of dating sites in 2015, there is NO Santa Claus.
Purely by coincidence in January, I also interviewed a woman who launched The Self Pleasure Revolution. Yes, 35 women from Australia, England, Chile, America and the Netherlands signed up and paid $US89 to participate in conscious masturbation every day for three weeks. While I admired their tenacity, I indulged in my own self pleasure revolution of going to the bottle-o and consuming vast quantities of wine…a semi-conscious decision which has lasted much longer than three weeks and cost far more than $US89, but each to their own.
In February I explored my own backyard, covering stories in Brisbane where I stayed in the New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites dating back to the 1920s; sauntered down to Brisbane’s south side to explore its heart and soul; and west to Ipswich where I went to high school more than two decades ago. Apart from taking my first hot air balloon ride over the Lockyer Valley where I grew up, on Brisbane’s south side I discovered the Chung Tian Temple at Priestdale where the hum of Buddhist chants blended with the intoxicating sounds of silence. Here, I partook in an ancient tea ceremony where I learned that not only that tea is good for you, but apparently so is red wine. Just sayin.
Just as the weather started to cool down in Brisbane in March, my travel schedule started to heat up. In one week I visited Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. In Indonesia, in my four-poster bed, replete with white chiffon curtains, I imagined I was an Indonesian High Priestess. I arrived at the Banyan Tree Bintan Island in my usual disheveled state, the effects of some aeroplane turbulence as we crossed the Equator, a reasonable swell on the ferry as we sailed across the South China Sea, several prescription drugs and red wine to fuel my travels, all beginning to wear off. But I remained chipper, for I was to sleep under this thatched Indonesian roof, or “alang alang”, in my seaside villa, skinny dip under the stars, and have several Asian women touch me inappropriately during a number of massages that wonderful week.
I was home for a grand total of three days…enough time to wash and repack my undies… before I was on a plane to Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. Having exhausted every possibility or hope of ever finding the man of my dreams in Australia, I cast the net wider. While I was in PNG writing a series of travel stories, 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 became my latest wing woman. Every day Lucy told me that I was beautiful and that I even looked like her daughter “she has a sharp nose like you”. She said when I returned to Rabaul I must come and stay with her in her village and she’ll find me a man. I am planning a return visit any day now.
In April, my sister and me escaped to Fiji for a short Easter break where we indulged in snorkelling, swimming and sunshine while gracefully fanning away hot weather and men who were hot for us (the last element of that sentence is simply not true). Weeks later I was up in Tropical North Queensland at Thala, out on a nature tour with Head Gardener Brett Kelly. The highlight of this three-hour tour occurred Brett husked a coconut for me to drink. It did not take much for me to disappear into fantasyland, picturing the man of my dreams clad only in loin cloth, presenting me with a husked coconut. Sensing my sexual fantasy, the happily-married Brett promptly disappeared in the rainforest, never to be seen by me again.
While there were a number of domestic trips in May (back to Port Douglas and the Sunshine Coast), the absolute highlight was travelling to Vienna to cover Eurovision. Despite being in the gayest city of Europe at that point in time, I viewed this trip as a chance to snag me some single European royalty (and a much-coveted EU passport). And I had my sights set on Liechtenstein’s Prince Wenzeslaus. Not only was he age appropriate at 41, his family is considered the richest monarchy in Europe. Vince the Prince, or Vincent, as he prefers to be called, has never married, but has been known to date the odd Victoria Secret supermodel. I felt that we were the perfect match but apparently he didn’t receive my emails alerting him to my European escape. I still hold out hope.
In June, I took a brief break from overseas travel and relished the chance to catch up on some big writing projects. I interviewed the fabulous Feather from Byron Bay who was the subject of Natalie Grono’s award-winning photo: Feather and the Goddess Pool. Natalie had just received the People’s Choice award for this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize. Feather, in her 70s, invited me to join her for some topless sunbaking and told me:
“I’ve got TMB – Too Many Birthdays. Men who are 80 and 81 look at me and say I’m too old for them. They can’t do anything and they are ratshit and I’m not really interested in being a cougar.”
Fabulous females continued to enter my life in July when I met Brisbane Trike Tour owner Chrissy McDonnell and her black three-wheeler The Bling Queen. On a crisp winter day in which we took a spin down to Canungra in the Gold Coast Hinterland, Chrissy told me how she quit her job at an insurance giant last December to follow her dream of running her own business. We spoke just last week and things are going gang busters.
Up at Noosa in July, another new tourism business operator Kelly Carthy from Luxe Fitness Escapes paddled with me into the mangroves of the Noosa River where we partook in a beautiful floating yoga class to the sounds of the birds.
“I want women 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 told me on this spectacular Sunshine Coast day.
In August, I held hands with a man for the first time all year out at ReefWorld on the outer Great Barrier Reef. I was participating in a learner’s dive and, as fate would have it, it was just me and a handsome Spaniard for 30 glorious minutes. I was mesmerised by his brown hair which floated in the water like sea weed and spent the entire time dreaming of us having to share the same oxygen hose. But perhaps the most interesting character I met all year was out at the Mount Isa Rodeo in Queensland’s Outback. Here, Beaver, or Brettyln Neal as she is sometimes known, was about to notch up her 150th fight as part of Fred Brophy’s travelling boxing troupe.
“I’ve got a little furry Beaver mascot and sometimes Fred will get up and say ‘show us your Beaver’ and I’ll have it in my pants,” Beaver told me one dusty Outback afternoon. For the record, Beaver you are still my BFF.
I took a journey to Australia’s spiritual heart of Uluru in September but anguished over how to capture its magic in words. Instead, I relinquished my role as a writer for one entire afternoon, and took a cycling tour of the red rock. It was my first visit to this ancient landmark and instead of clumsily grasping for the toolkit of adjectives and mixed metaphors upon which I usually rely, I emptied my head, opened my heart and clutched the handlebars. The words, well they came later. Shortly after, I found myself in Canada’s Nova Scotia covering a “sausage fest.” Yes, it took one classy sheila from Brisbane to point out to the Canadians that the term meant something entirely different back in the cosmopolitan Queensland capital.
October found me in Sri Lanka and most notably Kandy where I went in search of my Kandy Man. My best chance presented itself at the Kandy Cultural Show where one of the acts included “10 male damsel drummers in harmony”. There was even one fine fella in the show who smiled at me and dropped his tambourine, such was my sex appeal, but our interaction ended there. I also had a Sri Lankan yoga teacher instruct me to rub “special herbal cream” on my face and boobs. Turns out his special cream was actually Vicks Vapor Rub. My boobs still sting at this memorable travel moment.
I spent early November on the Gold Coast hunting and gathering a series of stories and allowed myself to indulge in childhood beach holiday memories. These messages in a bottle floated up every day…mum on Greenmount Beach tanning her back against a rock, dad driving our gold Kingswood around Kirra bend when he finished work on a Friday afternoon. Cream buns at Coolangatta. Shifting sands. And regular readers will recall it was only last month that I returned from the Solomon Islands, where, still no closer to snaring my solo man, I interviewed the locals about love. Panda, 37, told me Solomon Island men were good lovers because “they like the girls”.
“They love the white skin. There are lots of good boys around. If you come to me I can help you to find a good man. I think you will be the boss and he will do everything for you. He will think ‘I’ve got a white lady’ and he will treat you like a Queen,” Panda told me. Inexplicably, I returned home single.
It’s now December, and this week I fly out for three weeks in Indonesia, where a girlfriend and me intend to flop and drop on each of the Gili Islands. There will be snorkelling, swimming, yoga, beer and plenty of daydreaming. A huge thank you to all of the tourism bodies, PRs and editors who supported my travels this year, the terrific characters I met along the way and to you, my loyal followers and readers. I wish you all love and light this Christmas and may we all find peace on earth in 2016. See you then. x
DEEP in the heart of Lamington National Park and I’ve lost my way, and potentially my marbles. I’m meant to be doing a bush walk called the Box Forest Circuit but when I start my meanderings I discover only two signs: a circuit which mentions Canungra Creek along which Box Forest also traces, or a 22km walk to Binna Burra. Foolishly, I select the first and it’s only two hours, a scarily steep climb, rolling over and under fallen tree branches Lara Croft style, and a red belly black snake later that I realise I have potentially taken the wrong track. Remarkably, I have mobile phone coverage at the foot of the forest (I can’t get it in the Brisbane CBD some days) and manage to phone my accommodation reception who assures me yes, I am lost, and yes, I need to retrace my steps.
At this point I begin to cry…until I realise I have only limited water and I cannot afford the dehydration a salty tantrum would unleash. I immediately stop crying, tell myself to pull it together, and start the hot hike back up the hill. If there’s anything a travel writer hates more in this life than getting lost it’s having to retrace their steps. And then there’s that red belly black snake to consider on the way back. The heat is getting to me and weird thoughts swirl through my mind as I climb the hill. If I’m bitten by a snake (I figure if I can see one, there’s probably another 10 I can’t see), what would I use as a bandage? I briefly consider my hair band as a tourniquet before I promptly remember that speeds up the poison. The best I can think of is my t-shirt, figuring at least I’m wearing a bra and what a great survival story I will have to tell. (And potential lingerie contract).
My second thought is to phone a bloke with whom I went on a fantastic date two months ago, a bloke who liked to bush walk. A bloke who told me how wonderful I was…and who promptly disappeared. I don’t want to ask him about snake bites, I want to ask him why he disappeared. It’s at this point in my thinking I realise I am really dehydrated and I need to leave this forest pronto. I finally exit the forest, and am about to go on my second activity for the day – a Segway tour – when I am overcome with the urge to faint and vomit. As I am neither a fainter of vomiter in normal life, it occurs to me I have heat stroke and I end up spending the next hour in my room, watching the room spin like a DJ turntable.
I spent last week on the Gold Coast hunting and gathering a series of stories and, as usual, the stories also found me. Work aside, it’s a week of memories, old ghosts and new smiles. Like so many Queenslanders, my childhood holidays were spent on the southern Gold Coast, where I am gathering the majority of my stories and it’s like a million messages in a bottle float onto those sunny shores each day. Around Kirra bend I drive and my mind instantly flashes back to 35 years ago when we’d sit on Greenmount Beach with mum, and watch out for dad driving our gold Kingswood round that bend on a Friday afternoon after work. The beach has changed so much over the decades, but “mum’s rock” against which she used to rest her tanned back is still there. So much shifting sand, so many memories. I walk down the main street of Coolangatta and the old pie shop where we’d feast on cream buns still remains, as does that same scent from the 70s. I don’t even need to taste a cream bun for those sticky sweet memories to come flooding back.
I wake at 4.30am for sunrise at Snapper Rocks where we used to frolic in the rock pools as kids. We loved those rock pools on hot summer days and the danger of the sea spray bursting over the sea wall. On summer nights, when we were tucked up in bunk beds, dad would venture down to stand on those dangerous walls to fish. The tides have taken their toll of the landscape there too, but the green frog rock remains overlooking the beach where one of my sisters got married. I keep shaking my head as if it’s full of salt water. Where did the decades go?
I drive up to Point Danger and my mind fast forwards to 25 years ago when I started my newspaper cadetship at the Gold Coast Bulletin. In that first year, my first out of home, I lived high on the hill at Point Danger in my family’s crumbling old beach house. The house is long gone, demolished and sold by a famous surfer to a developer for a pretty penny. I stare at the block of land and try to capture the memories. At the foot of the hill I pause where the caravan park once stood. It’s now an empty park but I can see nana and pop and my uncles and cousins at Christmas. In my mind, I am sitting in the hot annex and opening presents. I drive down a laneway in Rainbow Bay and remember the year our budgie escaped from the cage, out the window of the old flat in which we used to stay, only to land and be captured on the same bitumen my car is paused on now. It all seems so incongruous.
I stay in a 1950s Bilinga beach motel which has been remodelled and yet those old fibro memories remain. Despite my best efforts, there’s still sand in my sheets every night. On my last afternoon, work done for the week, I’m like that same kid that was let out of their country Queensland classroom for the summer 35 years ago. So I grab one of the hotel’s retro bicycles, slip on my togs, and pedal like mad along the oceanfront until I reach Kirra bend. I race into the ocean and frolic for an hour, bathing in those memories of being lost and found. Salt water in my hair, sea breeze on my face, I jump back on my retro bike and pedal back towards the future.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Gold Coast Tourism – http://www.visitgoldcoast.com