I’VE been incredibly fortunate in the past few years, in the course of my travel writing adventures, to indulge in some of the most amazing experiences that exist between humans and animals. Here’s 8 I’ve done that I’ll reckon you’ll love.
1. Walk with the Polar Bears
To be utterly honest, I was more frightened of how cold I expected it to be up in arctic Canada, than being eaten by a polar bear, and I was right. This trip-of-a-lifetime sees you fly into Winnipeg, where you will overnight and be fitted with your polar gear (which assists greatly with minus 14 degree Celsius temperatures). The next day you’ll fly to Churchill, and then board a tiny plane out to Seal River Heritage Lodge. Here, Churchill Wild runs “walk with the polar bear” safaris out on the arctic tundra framing wild and remote Hudson Bay. So unthreatened are these beautiful animals by this tour, one 400kg male came within 10 metres of our group. Sublime.
2. Snorkel with Salmon
In this instance, I WAS frightened of bears, but I had no real reason. On this adventure, you fly out of Vancouver over to Vancouver Island and Campbell River. Here, you can join an eclectic journey with Destiny River Adventures where you will board a raft and paddle down Campbell River, before plunging into 14 degree waters. Yes, chilly, but worth it, as you plummet down the rapids, dodging rocks and snorkelling with salmon. There’s three pools to experience here (in pool two you are advised to fly like a super hero to avoid being shredded to bits by the rocks). And no, there are no grizzly bears waiting by the shoreline to feast on salmon, or you, as it’s the wrong season. What you will experience is a thrill of a lifetime, and come face-to-face with some friendly seals as well.
3. Sail to see the Komodo Dragons
I LOVE lizards and any reptile for that matter, and had always longed to see the komodo dragons. But arriving at Komodo National Park is not as simple as it seems. However, there exists an incredible adventure which makes the journey a dream. Head out with Indonesian Island Sail on its traditional timber boat, and you can spend 14 glorious days sailing from Bali to Komodo and back. Along the way you’ll feast on fabulous food, snorkel some of the clearest waters in the region, swim with manta rays and turtles, and arrive at Komodo National Park where you can snatch a selfie with those gorgeous giants.
4. Float with the Manta Rays
Did someone mention manta rays? A few years ago, while staying on Hawaii’s Big Island, I had the fabulous fortune of a night float with the manta rays. Courtesy of Manta Ray Advocates, at Kona, after dark you are taken out into the bay on an outrigger canoe. Then, when the conditions are just right, you are invited to slip into the ocean. Holding on to a surf board with handles, and sporting a snorkel and mask, you are invited to plunge your face into the ocean and watch as the magnificent mantas swim right up to you. If you are lucky, they will eye-ball you before they perform a tumble turn.
5. Drive a Reindeer or Husky Sleigh
They are hard-core up in Finnish Lapland and it’s easy to see why. When you have months of darkness during winter, and the temperature plummets to minus 40 degrees Celsius, you tend to be made of serious stuff. Up at Beana Laponia Wilderness Boutique Hotel, a working husky farm, you are invited to not only join a husky safari, but are taught how to drive the team. Yes, you can become a musher. And it is seriously great fun as you fly through snowy trails in a pure-white winter wonderland. For those looking for something a little more sedate, the hotel can also arrange for you to do a reindeer safari. Not as fast or as fun as the huskies, but if Santa is your thing, this might be right up your alley.
6. Meditate with a Horse
If only the horse could talk. One of my craziest animal experiences to date, this one occurred in the Gold Coast Hinterland at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat. Sure, you can do yoga, tai-chi or go bushwalking, or, if you’re like me, you can indulge in a one-hour meditation session with a horse. At first I was dubious, but it became very obvious during this session that Jack knew far more than I realised. Horses are used for therapy as it is believed they can pick up on human emotions (without any of the bullshit) and from my experience, Jack was spot on. When I was nervous, Jack was skittish. When I lost confidence leading him around the ring, so, too, did Jack. By the end of this session I was able to command Jack to gallop, and stop, purely by using my breath.
7. Witness hatching Turtles
There’s few nicer things in nature than watching an animal begin its life journey and at Bundaberg, on Queensland’s Southern Great Barrier Reef, you can do just that. Between November and January, head to Mon Repos Beach and watch the lady loggerhead turtles lay their eggs, and then, between January and March, you can encounter the hatchlings as they erupt from the nests. Carefully managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, join a ranger on a guided tour at night on the beach and your life will never quite be the same again. https://www.bundabergregion.org/turtles/mon-repos-turtle-encounter
8. Hang out with some cool Cats
If you’ve ever wanted to witness Africa’s Big Five, this is your chance. And at Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges, you can do this in style. Plonked within South Africa’s Kruger National Park, each day you’ll head out on two safaris, one before dawn and the other before dusk, for your best chances of seeing animals in their wild habitat. Again, I was initially worried about being mauled by a lion, but you are in a four-wheel drive with a ranger and a spotter who are fastidious about safety. And, by the end of my trip, I was even going on walking safaris, out in the open, with the exceptional guides who will explain animal tracks and the stories behind them.
AND ONE I CAN’T WAIT TO DO
9. Swim with the Whales
Last year, I was all set to slip into the Pacific Ocean off of the Sunshine Coast and swim with the whales, but wild weather prevented that adventure. But each year, between July and October, when the humpback whales are migrating from Antarctica to breed and play in Queensland’s warm waters, visitors have the opportunity to go out with Sunreef Mooloolaba to get wet with the whales. You hold onto a floating line attached to the boat, and then it’s up to these mammoth mammals as to how close they wish to get to you. Watch this space…
What animal experiences have you done that you’ve loved or want to do? My list doesn’t end. At number 10, I want to swim with the whale sharks and do a shark cage dive
SINCE starting to seriously dabble in Instagram during the past year, I’ve noticed a trend emerging about what catches the eye of followers and potentially attracts a new audience.
Here’s my top 10, in no particular order.
Whether it’s this mound of spices I stumbled across at a breakfast buffet in a Bangkok hotel or this bike rack at my local university swimming pool, interesting shapes are always eye-catching.
2. People with a sense of place
Photos of people in general, and selfies particularly, have little traction on Instagram, but where people present a sense of place, it’s a whole different story. This surfer on the beach in Hawaii and this woman in Vietnam, both instantly tell a story.
3. The colour red
A photographer’s dream colour, you can hardly go wrong red. It’s bright, it’s catchy and it doesn’t really matter what it is you are photographing, as long as it’s red, it’s a winner.
Everyone loves a sunset. Surprisingly, fewer people love a sunrise. Post a photo of a sunset, like this one I captured recently in Fiji (no filter required) and watch your numbers soar.
5. Flowers and trees
There’s more nature lovers out there than you realise. People loved this kangaroo paw I published around Australia Day, and they went wild when I discovered the bark of this melaleuca tree in Tropical North Queensland recently.
6. Fun phrases
Every now and then, if you stumble across a quirky sign of a funny phrase, give it a go. This particularly works if it’s got something to do with coffee.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m not a huge fan of food shots, but if you do happen across something interesting, then sure, post it. Just not the sandwich you had for lunch. Unless you invented the sandwich. Then go for your life.
8. Street Art
This has been my biggest revelation in the past year, both about myself and my audience. Turns out I am quite the street art aficionado and I have found myself on the lookout on every street corner for something new to shoot. My followers adore art.
Similar to street art, if you can present something in an abstract way, people tend to love it. I took this photo of a Buddhist tea ceremony in Brisbane a few months ago. It’s essentially a metonym – where you don’t need to shoot the entire frame to tell a story.
Whatever the weather, people love water. Whether it’s the ocean or a pool, there’s something alluring and aspirational about a body of water.
What are your Instagram tips? Follow me on Instragram @aglobalgoddess
HERE is my confession. I have never been to an ANZAC Day dawn service. I have been to numerous war sites around the world, I’ve played two-up with Diggers in my local RSL on ANZAC Day, and watched them march on the streets of Brisbane, but I have never risen before the sun to listen to the hauntingly beautiful Last Post, which honours our soldiers who have died in global conflicts.
As a young backpacker, I followed in the footsteps of my peers and made the trek to Gallipoli to see where so many Aussie lives were lost on that impossible stretch of beach. I have stood in the trenches where they bled out and died. I remember the undeserved awe in which the Turkish regarded my pilgrimage, so astounded were they that so many young Australians would cross the oceans to honour their dead. I’ve visited the Egyptian pyramids from where the Aussies did some of their training in preparation for Turkey.
I have knelt in the gas chambers of Dachau in Germany and Auschwitz in Poland and wept at the futility of war itself. I have scanned the piles of suitcases, teeth, hair combs, reading glasses and shoes, and tried to imagine how those captured by the Nazis endured their fate. Tried to fathom the stroke of dumb luck that makes one person survive a war and another perish. I have sauntered through Switzerland and marvelled at how a country so tiny, and in the midst of all the combating countries, could remain neutral.
In London, I have stayed in the Savoy which miraculously only sustained minor damage during the bombings of World War Two, retained its stiff upper lip and kept trading, and from where Winston Churchill regularly took his Cabinet to lunch. It is believed Churchill made some of his most important decisions regarding the war from the Savoy, whose air-raid shelters were considered some of London’s toughest. And like so many Aussies, I have stood in the London Underground and tried to imagine its role as an air-raid shelter.
I have sat on the shores of Pearl Harbour and imagined the Japanese fighter planes overhead. On the other side of Oahu, I have seen the beaches from where local Hawaiian kids fled when they saw the jets overhead, before racing inside and crowding with frightened family members around a simple transistor radio to try to understand what was happening to their peaceful paradise.
In south-east Asia, I have witnessed the effects of war and the cruel regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia in the torture chambers of Phnom Penh and on the streets littered with the limbless in Siem Reap. I have visited the many war museums of Saigon in Vietnam and crawled through part of the Cu Chi Tunnels before becoming overcome with claustrophobia. In Thailand, I have visited the River Kwai many times, and walked along the railway sleepers, the construction of which claimed the lives of so many Australian soldiers. I have paused on the site of Singapore’s Changi Prison and attempted to feel what it must have been like to survive the heartless humidity and the chaos of capture.
As recently as last month, I was up in Papua New Guinea where I learned that it was actually in Rabaul that the first Australian soldier lost their life in any global conflict back in 1914. There’s war history galore there and I walked into in one of the tunnels which the Japanese forced the Aussies, along with other Allied soldiers, to build so that the enemy could store their food, weapons and themselves during air raids. I visited the Bitapaka War Cemetery, funded by AusAID, which pays homage to thousands of soldiers, many of them Australians. There’s even a remaining tree there from which the Germans are said to have climbed to shoot at the Aussies during World War One.
Thanks to the ANZACS, I’ve been granted the freedom to travel the world and to experience their stories. Because of them, I live in a free and beautiful country. On this ANZAC Day, and not just because it’s the 100th anniversary since the ANZACS tried to steal Gallipoli but because it’s high time, I intend to set my clock, rise before the kookaburras, and tip my hat in their honour and of all of those who have perished in war. Lest We Forget.
I’ve been to Nice and the isle of Greece where I sipped champagne on yacht, I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what I’ve got. I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things that a woman ain’t s’posed to see, I’ve been to paradise…Charlene (1977)
FOR me, Christmas is a time to reflect. It’s when I briefly stop travelling, slow down and glance back on the year. It would be so easy in my job as a travel writer to stumble from destination to destination and chase the rush of the next story and adventure, discarding the last place I’ve visited as simply a fuzzy memory. Recently, while filing a piece to camera for my colleagues over at TravelThereNext, I was asked what I “collect” on my travels. And it’s pretty simple. I collect characters. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in every corner of the planet. I try to capture them in my stories and in the quiet corners of my mind. Store them up for those rainy days when I need reminding that the world is truly a remarkable place. And so I present to you some of the great characters I’ve met of 2014.
I began my travelling year in Bali in January where I met Cekorda, 85, a respected medicine man. “How old are you?” he asks as I sit with my back against his knees, his wiry fingers probing my skull. “43,” I respond. “Not so young,” he mutters to himself, much to my amusement. He then asks me my problems. “I have a broken heart,” I reply. I lay down on a mat and he presses between my toes with a stick. My third toe on my left foot hurts and I yelp. “Your broken heart is healed. It is your mind. You have self doubt.” Cekorda then stands above me and traces his magical stick over my body to clear my aura, before announcing that I no longer have a problem. He turns to an Western bystander who speaks Indonesian. “Women are very complex,” the bystander translates for Cekorda. I laugh all the way from Bali back to Brisbane.
In February, I’m up in Thailand, where I return to the River Kwai and meet up with my young friend Sam Season, a traditional Mon Man who works on the River Kwai Jungle Rafts. Sam has two big dreams: to gain an apprenticeship as a mechanic in Australia and to marry the love of his life, Jaytarmon who lives in a neighbouring village. I ask him whether this mysterious girl with the long black hair is still beautiful. He doesn’t hesitate. “Oh, awesome. I want to listen to her voice.” He pulls out his iPhone until he finds a photo of her, laying dreamily on a bed with her hands in her chin. “I look at her photo every night before I go to bed. I have to make her believe in myself and trust in myself. When I finish my education I will be ready. I have to show her ‘can you wait for me?’ One day, when I have an education we will have a good life and then we will marry.”
March finds me back in Brisbane, struck by the sadness of the drought which is consuming my country. My journey takes me a few suburbs away where I catch up with Tom Conley, 3, who was born just before the 2011 Brisbane floods and ironically now bakes for drought relief with his mum, Sally Gardner. “Tom gets involved in all the cooking adventures in our home. He especially loves baking and as soon as I get the utensils out he rushes over, climbs up and wants to measure ingredients, crack the eggs and lick the bowl, We talk about who we are helping or who we are baking for, he enjoys drawing pictures for the drought-affected families.”
In April I return to Bali, to spend Easter alone at a yoga retreat and to recover from yet another disappointing relationship. Purely by chance I select OneWorld Retreats Escape The World program in Ubud where, along with twice-daily yoga sessions, I am challenged to sit with myself for one glorious day of silence. Claude Chouinard, who runs the retreat with his partner Iyan Yaspriyana, reminds us that despite everyone around us seemingly being able to travel, we are only a small percentage of the world who is wealthy enough to do so. He encourages us to embrace our 24 hours of silence and see it for the gift that it is. “For just one day you can consider this silence a form of torture or one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give yourself. What we know as time is in fact an illusion. For human beings, time is limited to the moment we are born, to the moment we leave this planet, a very short journey considering the age of the universe. Live every day by the minute and enjoy as much as you possibly can…the illusion goes by quickly.”
May is chaotic and colourful as I spend nearly a month in Europe chasing a range of stories. And I meet a range of those fabulous characters I so treasure….A sultry Slovenian who compliments me on my “good English” when I reveal I’m Australian; Skanky from Mumbai who eats one gigantic meal a day as he doesn’t wish to “get sick on German food”; Suzie, the Filipino Canadian whose love of Schnitzel knows no bounds; Calamity Jane from Chicago who wanders the streets of Berlin pointing at every single wall and asking our tour guide whether it is a piece of the Berlin Wall; and a jolly gay guy from Wales.
June is spent in Christchurch, which was devastated in February 2011 by an earthquake in which 187 people were killed and 1000 buildings destroyed. At the C1 Espresso café I speak with owner Sam Crofskey, 37, who not only lost his original café across the road in the quake, but his house as well. Sam was working in his high street café when the earthquake hit. “I was a little bit confused. The coffee grinders fell off and landed on my legs and the power went off and then I could hardly stand. We needed to get rid of the customers, the staff and then ourselves. We had more than 100 people in the café at the time. Out on the street everyone was distraught and I thought everyone was over-reacting. I thought we’d come back tomorrow and clean everything up. It took a lot more for me to understand the city was actually gone. When you are here with no power or phone you have no idea what’s going on. I was like, my business if fucked, my house is fucked…that’s annoying.”
The mercury had plunged to minus 2 degrees out in Southern Queensland Country in July when I ventured to the Dalby Cattle Sales in search of myths and men. I spend two hours chasing cattle and cowboys around the cattle yards before I decide to leave. On the way back to the car, I hear a voice behind me. “So, have you got your story?” a cowboy says, following me quickly out of the cattle yards. “Yep. I don’t have all morning to be chasing you boys around,” I say defiantly. “Where are you staying tonight?” he directs this question at my breasts. “Chinchilla,” I say. He stands and considers this for a moment, calculating whether I’m worth the hour drive to the next town. And just as I’m about to turn to leave he says: “Well, I guess I’ll see you around then.” The interaction keeps me entertained for several days and hundreds of kilometres later.
I spend the most perfect August day with a close mate where we escape to the Sunshine Coast and the Eumundi Markets and Noosa. We stroll and laugh. Steal languid pauses to smell the roses, or in this case, the pungent soap on sale. Chat to a stallholder about his carnivorous plants. Try on eclectic outfits. Resist the seduction of sparkly jewellery. Wander through aisles of books. Observe the colourful characters. Pat a camel. We stumble across a “Willy Washer” and spend some time discussing its purpose. There’s a male fairy guarding some jewellery that resembles the young man selling the silver, fashioned from old knives, forks and spoons. An ancient typewriter has been dismantled, somewhat to our dismay, and crafted into trinkets. Colourful hand-woven handbags remind us of our travels around the globe. We discover Noosa Reds – plump, juicy tomatoes bursting with the distinct flavours of this fertile region – deliciously packed in crunchy brown paper bags. A giant gecko mural hugs a pole. There’s glass-blowing and some beaut ukes. And all the while, we keep winding through the marketplace, unravelling our lives.
On a stunning September afternoon I find myself staring at boobs and Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, at a High Tea to launch Kim McCosker’s cookbook Cook 4 a Cure to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and to celebrate the opening of Australia’s newest resort brand ULTIQA Resorts. Guest speaker Mark Wood volunteers his time to speak about breast cancer after losing his wife Annie to the disease seven years ago, and says one in eight Australian women will be told they have breast cancer at some stage. “Today, 37 women will be told they have breast cancer. To think that’s happening to 37 people today and the day after is far too many. And seven people would have lost that battle today. My wife got a death sentence but my daughter, who was 12 at the time that Annie died, got a life sentence losing her mother so young. Twenty years ago, 37 per cent of women diagnosed with the disease died, but that’s now been halved through awareness and education.” All of a sudden I feel tired and emotional, but as I furtively glance around the room, I find I am not alone. There’s not a dry eye in the house.
October was spent in Fiji at the Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards where I won Best Food Travel Story for a piece I wrote about a group of six hardcore Wellington prisoners who were being rehabilitated through a cooking program “From Prison Gate to Plate”. Talk about collecting characters. And the words of celebrity chef Martin Bosley, who runs the program, still ring in my head. “I didn’t realise what a loss of freedom truly meant before I went in there. As a community we need to change our perceptions and be prepared that one day these men are getting out and we need to pick up where prisons leave off and reduce re-offending.”
I returned to Hawaii for the first time in 22 years in November, where there were characters galore including the mythical menehune. Sheraton Kona Cultural Tour Officer Lily Dudoit explains these little red men. “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. 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 spend the rest of my time in this land of rainbows searching for possibly the most intriguing men I will meet all year.
Which brings me to December. While many leave Brisbane and Australia, this is the time of year where I sit on my back deck with a cold beer and warm memories. There’s movies and coffees and catch ups with friends and family, the all-important support cast of characters in my life. Thank you to everyone I have met out there in the big wide world this year, to those who have come on the journey with me, and to those who continue to love and support me back at home. Sending you love and light this season and may we all experience peace on earth.
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
I’M running late for a date with Passion. I arrive in Hawaii early morning after an overnight night flight from Brisbane, clutching all the usual clichés: a suitcase, welcome lei, and the remnants of the previous evening’s airline meal attached to my dress. My travelling companion dives straight into Oahu, literally, and is off for a learn-to-surf lesson. Me, I prefer to let Hawaii wash gently over my jetlagged self, and wander down to Waikiki for a cold beer, a meal of mahi mahi and a feast of people watching. Sated, I sleep like the dead in readiness for my full island tour the next day, and my much-anticipated date with Passion.
It’s been 22 years since I’ve been to Hawaii, and my only memory is of Waikiki and the fact my ex-husband punctured the li-lo on which I intended to laze in its warm waters on a tree before we even got to the beach. So I’m desperate to see what’s around the next corner. I join a tour which will spend all day weaving from Waikiki through a snapshot of suburbia, to sugar cane fields, past beaches, through valleys, onto ancient Hawaiian grounds and around waterfalls.
Incredibly, every tour on which I’ve ever been anywhere in the world serves up the same cluster of characters. The gregarious gay couple; the comfortably chubby married pair; the Russians in their Cold War swim wear range; the loud Americans and softly-spoken Canadians; the Bintang bogan with his attractive Asian wife in grossly inappropriate high heels; and the single Australian woman…who happens to be me.
While I self-indulgently imagine the rest of the tour tries to unravel my mystery – I do like to apply a Mona Lisa smile along with my sunscreen – I watch Oahu unfurl before me and secretly count down the hours until I can meet Passion. At this stage I should reveal I don’t know whether Passion is a man, a woman or a concept. In the meantime Maurice, our tour guide who grew up in Hawaii in the late 60s, shares Oahu’s secrets. We pass the Baskin Robbins ice-cream shop where Barack Obama worked his first job and learn that Elizabeth Taylor once lived over near the North Shore. There’s also a smorgasbord of film and television locations, including the house from the opening scene of Fantasy Island where the pint-sized Tattoo famously shouts “The plane, the plane!” as well as the giant green hills of the mythical Jurassic Park.
But what piques my interest most is the tale of a particular house, high on the hills, one that Elvis Presley wanted to buy. Despite repeated and insanely high offers, the owner refused to sell to the King of Rock, instead inviting Elvis to holiday there whenever he wanted. Elvis took him up on the offer and the pair became firm friends. I spend the rest of the tour fantasising about Elvis turning up on the doorstep of my quaint tin and timber Queenslander cottage back home in Brisbane, which is similar to a Hawaiian beach shack, and daydreaming about that hunka hunka burning love. And several other nice Hawaiian boys I find along the way. Yes, while the rest of the tour is on the beach collecting shells, I’m starting my own collection…
I’m snapped out of my lustful thoughts when I arrive back at the hotel, late for my date with Passion. I rapidly shower, and rush downstairs to the bar where I learn that Passion is yet to arrive, the irony of which is not lost on me as I drink a Longboard Lager. It’s not till dinner is almost finished that I finally meet Passion, a beautiful woman who rushes up to our table and enthusiastically orders dessert while chatting with gusto about her day. It turns out Passion is the Marketing and Communications Manager of The Modern Honolulu in which I am staying and says her grandmother picked her name from an old Troy Donahue movie. “It wasn’t the easiest name growing up, but I grew into it,” she laughs.
And it gets even better. Just before we depart, we also meet another staffer, Patience, who also carries all the characteristics of her lovely moniker. At this stage I ask Passion whether she will bestow on me a Hawaiian name, one which will carry me through the rest of my journey through this incredible land. She knows nothing about me, apart from the fact I’m an Australian journalist, but looks at me knowingly, and says: “My intuition tells me that you are Healani, which means heavenly haze.” I laugh out loud. Yes, The Global Goddess has well and truly arrived in Hawaii. And Elvis is definitely not dead.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Hawaii Tourism. To book your own escape go to http://www.gohawaii.com/au; stay at The Modern Honolulu http://www.themodernhonolulu; and to see more of Oahu take a Discover Hawaii Tour http://www.discoverhawaiitours.com