IT’S one week before summer officially strikes in Australia and I am sitting in my air-conditioned office, ruminating on the impending warmer weather and the sticky issue of camping. Apparently, people like to camp (and if you look at any Brisbane dating site, they not only like to camp, but 4WD, fish and go piggin’ as well). Me, not so much, but given the right circumstances, I’ll give it a red, hot shot. (The camping, not the piggin’). And by right circumstances, I mean a glamping tent with air-conditioning, bar fridge and, easy access to a toilet (preferably an ensuite). All of which I enjoyed a few weeks ago when I previewed Australia’s newest glamping product Hideaway at Cabarita Beach in northern New South Wales. Ensconced in my gorgeous, generous bell tent under a plump, crisp, linen doona, it felt like I was born for this camping caper. Until I remembered I am not.
It’s tricky to pick my worst camping adventure. There’s been quite a few. So let’s narrow it done to the coldest and the hottest. A few years back I was invited to cover the Mount Isa Rodeo, where, among other things, I interviewed the female boxer Beaver whose reputation for beating up blokes in the ring was legendary. Despite her size and status, Beaver turned out to be a gentle giant and she even made me a cup of tea. As much as I like to suffer for my art, I declined the offer to fight her later that night in the ring, as I value keeping my ribs intact. Had I actually fought Beaver, I may have spent the night in the cosy comfort of the Mount Isa Hospital, as opposed to the glamping in which I was staying.
Mount Isa in winter, like much of the Queensland Outback, is a curious beast. It’s hot during the day, and then plummets to freezing once the sun sets. But I came prepared, packing my hot water bottle Kevin 07 (who I named after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2007 campaign). Or so I thought. The glamping was set up within a mining camp, those hot, horny miners happily tucked away in heated dongas. My tent, was, inexplicably, down by the creek, where the temperature dropped to one degree. I’d come home from my rodeo reporting, covered in dust, hand Kevin 07 to the camp’s toothless security guard with instructions to boil a kettle to fill Kevin’s guts, while I limped to the showers. The fact the showers had no doors, and the hot, horny miners were in the cubicle next to me, should not be lost on this story. And had I known just how cold it was going to get at night in my tent, I would have worked that fact a little harder. But alas, I rubbed and scrubbed only myself and then returned to collect Kevin.
It was so cold in that tent, that the cheap polyester blankets they’d given me would shoot off green sparks in the dark. But worse was when I realised that all of the water I had drunk throughout the hot day to stay hydrated, decided it was time to work its way through my kidneys at night. Years later, while travelling through Morocco with an Australian doctor, I learned that while our other organs slow down significantly at night to rest and repair, it’s when we go to sleep that our kidneys go into overdrive. Hence the reason you may need to pee during the night. Who knew?
It was way too cold, and too far, to drag myself to the toilet block, so I decided to improvise. With a tiny Tupperware container in which I had been carrying some sultanas for snacks. There I was, congratulating myself on my genital genius until I felt something wet and cold, on the only socks I had to keep me warm. I looked down in horror and realised I had peed on my foot. I tossed my warm urine and my wet sock outside the tent, and went to bed miserable. By this time Kevin was cold, I was cranky and even worse, I knew I had to repeat this camping caper all over again the next night.
My hottest camping episode, and I mean this in several senses of the word, was a few years back, when I went to the summer Woodford Festival on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. This time I was in Tent City, in a media tent, which was just like every other tent, and again, there was no ensuite. On this occasion it was as hot as hell. And I did what any journalist covering this event would do, and drank as much beer as possible to keep all jolly and hydrated. I was even congratulating myself on how well I had done not going to the bathroom all day when again, I lay down later that night to go to sleep, when my kidneys went into overdrive.
Luckily, I remembered I had again packed a small Tupperware container with sultanas in the car, which I promptly emptied and carried back to my tent as my makeshift toilet. Which I proceeded to use over and over and over again as my kidneys decided to process the equivalent of a carton of beer on this hot evening. Again, I missed as I pissed, but there were no socks involved this time, it was too warm. So warm, in fact, I slept with the tent flaps open. Which would have been fine, had I not awoken the next morning to a tent which reeked of stale pee and a curious line of festival goers walking past my tent, gaping as they went. I looked down, only to discover that during my wild night, my left breast had escaped my singlet and there I was, arms akimbo, my bosom on display for the entire festival to see.
I packed up rapidly that morning. Headed back to Brisbane and vowed I needed a new tactic should I ever tackle camping again. And should you ever feel the need to go camping with me, if I ever offer you a sultana in a Tupperware container, you’ve been sufficiently warned.
THIS terrific tale starts in the steamy jungles of World War Two Malaysia and ends with a teasing trickle under a sophisticated Sydney hotel. It’s a story about survival and in fact, casts even further back, right to Australia’s first settlement. I am in Sydney, wading around the Tank Stream Hotel for a yarn, built around the First Fleet and that most coveted of commodities, fresh water.
You see, the Tank Stream Hotel, opened in 2015, hovers right above the site of the life-source of the first European colony, established in Sydney Cove in 1788. And yes, the water or “tank stream” is still there, sometimes a torrent, others a trickle, depending on the rain clouds. While this underground system is opened twice a year to visitors, via a ballot undertaken by Sydney Living Museums, you can still glean a glorious sense of history by taking a self-guided tour starting at Circular Quay and ending at Hyde Park, which was a former swamp.
Wicked winter westerlies nudge me along Pitt Street, following the path of the stream and story. There’s seven significant sites to visit, starting with flirty fountains down at Circular Quay. The light is fading into the golden glow of lanterns and Sydney’s social set is streaming onto the streets of the Tank Stream Bar at one stop; and buried deep within the bowels of the sandstone GPO at another. Long drinks are being poured and the gossip is gushing. Little do they know they are perched atop a sloppy secret.
But it’s back at the Tank Stream Hotel itself where another layer of this story is unfolding. That of the owners, Malaysia’s Tan family who have transformed a tragic tale into a dynamic dynasty. It dates back to World War Two when Nam Chin Tan, and his brother Yeow Kim Tan, were forced to hide in the jungle from the invading Japanese. After the War, the two brothers sold chickens by the roadside to feed their family, before they eventually started the companies Ipoh Garden in 1964 and Tan & Tan Developments in 1971. Today, Tank Stream Sydney is run by their son and nephew, Boon Lee Tan, and the family are also the proud owners of four Melbourne Cup winners, among a large property portfolio.
In many ways, this whole travel tale is about taking the plunge. For the reason I am in Sydney is that one of my stories, about snorkelling with salmon in the ice-cold waters of Canada Snorkelling with Salmonis a finalist in the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ NTIA awards for Best Travel Writer. And I am in grand company indeed, with my photographer on this Sydney assignment, friend and fellow finalist Jocelyn Pride, also here for her piece examining the Arctic and Antarctic poles Poles Apart
There are five finalists in total and Jocelyn, deservedly, wins. In her acceptance speech, she speaks of taking the proverbial plunge into travel writing after 40 years of teaching. And like the First Fleet, and the Tan family, it’s as simple as that. Diving off the deep end into the unknown. Hoping you discover what sustains your body, your brain and your soul along the way. Later that night, back in my Tank Stream room, I read a message from another travel writer friend: “I know you’ll have a blast in Sydney, as seizing the day is your forte”. Seize and swim. And just hope that stream carries you in the direction you wish to flow.
The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of the Tank Stream Sydney. Perched on the corner of Pitt Street and Curtin Place, opposite Australia Square, this hotel offers 280 rooms over 15 floors.
The Tank Stream Hotel is ideal for solo travellers, such as the Goddess, as it has a Go Solo program which includes a Solo Travel Microsite with local content highlighting restaurants, bars, entertainment and tours for those travelling alone.
To view more of Jocelyn Pride’s award-winning photographs, or read her award-winning words, go to http://www.jocelynpride.com.au
THIS story is a sashay down memory lane to those halcyon days of childhood summer holidays on the Gold Coast. Worry-free weeks of sandy feet, sandcastles and the occasional sneaky sunburn. Of sunkissed, sleepy nights on cheap, cotton sheets. Pink zinc cream and mozzie bites. Scorching days where we would reluctantly leave Coolangatta beach and pile into the gold Kingswood with its branding-iron seat belts that nobody ever wore. We’d venture across the border into northern New South Wales to visit our wild boy cousins also on holiday. Kingscliff, Pottsville, Cabarita…they were all so daggy back then. About as much style as the terry toweling shorts which barely covered our bums.
But those were the halcyon days where we’d stand along the shoreline like soldier crabs and dig for pippies with our feet. Go on adventures with the wild cousins, mud squelching between our toes, and wander the mangroves with a yabby pump. How time and places change. I am in northern New South Wales visiting Nimbin in search of nirvana, or at the very least, the remnants of Australia’s hippie movement, for a story I’m writing for a magazine about the 50th anniversary of Flower Power. I’m unclear about whether the hippies want to hug or hurt me. I suspect it’s a bit of both. I’m tailgated on the windy road deep into the Tweed Valley. Where is the love? Things just aren’t like they used to be.
With my story captured like a fugitive in my imagination, I head back towards the coast where I check into Halcyon House for the night. It’s the ideal spot for this journey back into nostalgia. The bones of this old surf hotel are still here, replete with 19 individually-designed rooms and two suites, but these days she’s a lady of luxury. These elegant rooms combine coastal chic with all the flair of a British B&B by the sea. But Brighton this is not. It’s sunny Cabarita Beach upon which this grand dame is perched.
There’s an all-inclusive mini bar with floral-infused gin and dirty tonic water which, by description alone, I’m unable to refuse. Organic red and white wine, plus Byron Bay beer and soft drinks make up the remaining delectable drinks. Chips, Lindt chocolate and even some Tweed Coast salami is cooling in the fridge and it would be oh-so-tempting to pull up a perch on my royal blue outdoor chair and watch the ocean, but I’m determined to try the acclaimed restaurant here.
The pretty Paper Daisy is named after the wildflowers that bloom nearby at Norrie’s headland. And chef Ben Devlin, formerly of Noma fame, specialises in coastal cooking. There’s pippies here too, but unlike anything my cousins and me ever imagined. These days you’ll find these shellfish in semolina pasta, native pepper and macadamia oil. I opt for the Wagyu minute steak with fennel, witlof and pomelo and served with purple cauliflower and walnuts, and cucumber and cashew nuts. Want dessert? How about a messed-up cookie or a lemon myrtle meringue cone? Or you could go the whole hog and order the four-course degustation menu.
I return to my room to find the bed has been turned down, there’s a pillow menu from which to choose, and my clothing has been folded. Two home-made chocolate chip cookies sit beside a note wishing me sweet dreams. And that’s another thing that sets this hotel experience aside from anywhere else. The service is immaculate. It could be these yummy childhood feelings this property evokes, but I would go as far as to say it’s the best hotel I’ve ever experienced anywhere in the world. Yes, in coastal Cabarita, they’ve struck gold. That perfect balance between relaxed luxury and sensational service.
And there’s plenty to do here as well. Laze on a plush day bed around the pool, or borrow a complimentary bicycle and explore the area. This hotel also has two Audis available for hire. Or, if you’re like me, and nostalgia has clasped firmly onto your head and heart, if only for one night, do nothing but daydream about those heavenly, halcyon days of your childhood.
The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of Halcyon House – https://halcyonhouse.com.au This five-star boutique accommodation, which is a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels Group, has plans to open a spa in late 2017.
IT’S a sultry Sydney summer afternoon and I am ambling along Oxford Street. It’s been years since I’ve trotted around this part of town, one of Australia’s most well-known streets, which in two weeks will burst into bloom with its annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. But on this languid Thursday afternoon in which I have just a couple of hours to spare, all is quiet, rainbow flags and a few saucy signs the only hint of what’s to come. Past the National School of Art bathed in warm sunlight I walk, glancing at the glorious Catholic Church before the typical terrace homes and some sassy street art catches my eye. Here’s a snapshot of Sydney I took while wandering around late last week…
The cafes were cute…
Rainbows were awaiting their pot of gold…
The buildings basked in the warm sunshine…
There were signs of summer everywhere…
Those typical terrace homes…
And some gorgeous graffiti art…
The Global Goddess travelled to Sydney as a guest of Travmedia – http://www.travmedia.com and stayed at the Travelodge Sydney – http://www.TFEhotels.com – within easy walking distance of Oxford Street. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras runs until March 6.
For more photos on all the destinations to which The Global Goddess travels, please follow me on Instragram @aglobalgoddess
MY lips and tongue are so swollen it’s like I’ve been drinking salty margaritas. I have chaffing on the undersides of both arms, sunburn on my nose and back, and my legs are jellyfish, but my soul is soaring for I have just completed my first ever ocean swim. I am on Australia’s Lord Howe Island reporting on Pinetrees Lodge Ocean Swim Week with ironman Ali Day, and just for the heck of it, I decide that this week, I too, shall get wet. I mean, I have swum in an ocean, so how hard can an ocean swim be?
As per usual, the adventure begins before I arrive at the destination. Regular readers will know that The Global Goddess is a neurotic flyer and I glance at the Dash 8 aircraft in which I am to travel with barely-concealed contempt. This rises to a mild fear when about 30 minutes before we arrive we hear a loud bang, the plane starts to shudder and we start to descend. It’s a good five minutes later before the handsome voice that only Australian pilots seem to possess comes over the loud speaker to inform us there is nothing to fear, we just have ice on the wings. And to think I thought I might die of a shark attack this week.
We arrive safely on the island, a glorious emerald punctuation mark off the Australian east coast, about equidistant from Brisbane and Sydney. On Day One, we gather in front of the Boat Shed where we are reminded it’s a non-competitive week and we are here to have fun. I love to swim and am confident my laps in the University of Queensland pool in the lead up to this event will stand me in good stead. Heck, as part of my training instead of avoiding the fat kid who’d do a bomb dive and cause a massive wave, I practically invited him to jump on top of me to replicate some swell. The fact I took a brief break from my training while I was in Indonesia over Christmas, unless you count the repeated dog paddling to the pool bar, should be overlooked, I reasoned with myself.
We are taken out in a boat offshore in which there is considerable swell, courtesy of a tropical low hanging around this remote island. I’m one of the first off the boat and I’m struggling as the pack glides past me. Worse, I feel seasick and I can’t find my flow. Just as I’m about to panic at my serious lack of ability and the fact I’ve wasted a considerable fortune and time on swimming training, I turn to find Ali Day beside me, asking me what’s going on in my head. “I’m so far behind everyone, I can’t keep up” I sputter, my mouth full of salt water.
Ali reminds me we’re here to have fun. “Come on, we’ll swim together,” he says, proving it takes more than just being a good swimmer to be an elite athlete. You need compassion too. And so, I push on. Breathless, 2.8km and 1hr and 10 minutes later, I wash up on shore. But I am elated, as I made it.
On Day Two the tropical low hasn’t abated even in the normally calm Ned’s Beach on the other side of the island. Ali takes us through deep breathing exercises before he points to the swell and directs us that we’ll be swimming two rounds of a triangle out to sea, before turning a sharp left and then another sharp left into shore. I strike out early again, and keep up with the pack for the first round, before I succumb to seasickness and withdraw after about 1km. I’m mentally beating myself up when the pack returns after its second round. I resolve two things: to buy some seasick tablets and to relax and enjoy the next swim.
The tide turns for me on Day Three and we’re dropped offshore in the Lagoon where I seem to glide effortlessly along the shoreline. The coral is stunning, the sun is shining, and the swell is at our backs, beckoning us along. None of us stop at the allocated point and instead swim on, back to the Boat Shed. Two hours and 3.8km later I float into shore. I’m the second to finish and can’t stop smiling. (A few of the super swimmers might have been off climbing the 875 metre Mount Gower that day). Even the fat kid back the University of Queensland pool would be astounded. I have found my flow and that night, I sleep like the dead. I am confident that I have finally become an elite athlete and can already picture myself crossing the line first in the Coolangatta Gold, clad in my Kellogg’s Nutrigrain sponsored swimwear. I fantasise about launching my own swimwear range, such are my delusions of grandeur.
But on Day Four the swell has returned and so has my good mate motion sickness as we attempt to swim from Rabbit Island to North Bay. It’s a washing machine out there with the turn of the tide and I find myself saying out loud just as I jump off the boat: “I have zero confidence today.” Ali hears this and again, offers to swim with me, asking me what’s going on in my head. I tell him I feel sick and I’m struggling in the swell to gain any technique. He reminds me to breathe only from one side to gain more air and to just focus on enjoying the moment. I point again to the pack disappearing ahead of me in the waves. “Don’t worry Chris, I’ve been there before, believe me,” he says. It has never occurred to me that elite athletes feel like this and that’s all I need to hear to start punching into the waves. I punch and punch out of sheer stubbornness and a fair whack of anger at the ocean. Ali swims beside me and tells me I only have 50 metres to go. “That’s one lap of the university pool,” I pant. “Yep, just one shitty lap of the university pool,” he says. One hour and 2.4km later I arrive on the beach.
Day Five is just as choppy as we cross the Lagoon to Rabbit Island. It’s our last swim of the week and I’m determined to enjoy this, particularly when Ali reminds us that on Monday we’ll be back at our desks, wishing we were in the ocean. I breathe, I focus on long strokes, a face flat in the water, and relaxed hands that “catch the water”. It’s not an easy swim but I stay with the front of the pack and in what seems like 20 minutes, not 1.5 hours and 2.3km later, I wash up on the pebbly shore. Later that day I realise I have swum a massive 12km in five days. I have remarkably refused every offer to catch a boat or board ride into shore. And I have powered on when both my stomach and heart was sinking in the swell. My mind drifts back to Ali’s words on the first day: “We are going to be a bit uncomfortable at times but that’s where the good stuff happens.” And good stuff it is, indeed.
The Global Goddess travelled to Lord Howe Island as a guest of Pinetrees Lodge. For more details on a range on Ocean Swim Week and other interesting and adventurous weeks hosted by Pinetrees go to http://www.pinetrees.com.au
A special shout-out to the Kingscliff Mafia Swim Squad who recognised when The Global Goddess was floundering, and swam beside her, offering words of encouragement. I’ll see you in the Cudgen Creek soon.
THIS is a tale of battlers and beaut beaches. It’s the kind of story which whacks you in the face when you’re looking for something else, with the types of colourful characters you simply can’t ignore. Like Geoff Warne, who reckons he’s going to pen an autobiography one day entitled “Simply F****d”; former Turkish child bride Sevtap Yuce; Wooli oyster champion Kim Guinea who happens to hate seafood; and Yamba YHA owner Shane Henwood – who is prone to putting fake snakes and spiders in the beds of his guests.
I am on the mid northern New South Wales coast, tracing the mighty Clarence River from Yamba to Grafton, and like the ocean around these parts, the people are wild, woolly and delightfully unpredictable. Like Action Activities Adventure owner Geoff Warne, who is making a splash with his new kayaking and bike hire business. Now in his 40s, this former carpenter who hurt his back at the age of 19, and became a fitness trainer before turning to tourism, has dodged more than his fair share of life’s bloody bullets.
Geoff has been involved in a number of car accidents which left him physically and mentally scarred, but decided to fight for his happiness and aim towards owning his own business.
“There’s a book in my head and it’s called Simply F****d,” Geoff jokes.
“But I said to myself, ‘I’m not giving up’. I thought of everything that I like and thought ‘I’ll be a tour guide’ as I like helping people. All I have to do is make that holiday happy for them.”
Geoff went on to blitz a Certificate III and IV in Tourism before working on the Gold Coast at Dreamworld and then in Mt Tamborine’s glo-worm caves.
Family reasons have pushed him over the border and south to Yamba where he has started this next chapter of his life. On his tours, guests can kayak to nearby Iluka which is one of the last remaining coastal rainforests in New South Wales. The trip also takes in Bluff Beach, snorkelling, home-made treats for morning tea, and a ferry ride back home. Those who want to hang around can also hire Geoff’s bikes and scooters at Iluka.
“It is a great place to start a new future,” he says.
“The most important thing for me is I’ve done something for me and achieved it. I still can’t believe I’ve done it.
“It’s all or nothing. If I don’t do it now, I’m always going to die wondering.”
This never-say-die attitude also resonates with Sevtap Yuce, owner of Yamba’s Beachwood Café and author of two cookbooks about her beloved Turkish cuisine and a third to be published next August. Here, Sevtap serves Turkish delights such as lamb kofte and hummus and local seafood dishes. There’s also Turkish lemonade in lemon, cherry, apple and pomegranate flavours on the menu.
But precisely 30 years ago, this 46 year old was an unhappy child bride in an arranged marriage in her native Turkey. And the sadness stalked her when in 2004 she lost her brother when he was kidnapped and executed during the Iraq War.
“That was the hardest thing my family went through,” she says.
“When I arrived in Australia I had no help, no money, I didn’t speak English and then all of a sudden I’ve achieved something. If somebody said to me ‘this is how your life is going to be’ I would have laughed.
“How can a Turk like me get to this stage? If I can do it, any woman can do it. I think it’s a pretty cool thing to do.”
At her pretty café surrounded by roses and fresh herbs, Sevtap serves “fresh, simple” locally caught and produced food. And these days she is content being single.
“I think I’ve found the love in my work,” she says.
“I’ve made this my baby and my life. And if I don’t meet anyone, it doesn’t matter.”
Further south along the coast, Wooli Oyster owner Kim Guinea ironically doesn’t like seafood, but her husband and co-owner of this riverside business Ron does. It’s been a tough couple of years for these operators, for whom flooding has stymied oyster production. But with a bumper summer season ahead of them, Kim and Ron are looking forward to a brighter future.
“I love opening oysters and looking at them but I don’t eat them. When you start coming into summer you get these nice fat oysters,” Kim says.
“My husband likes them and he uses the whole aphrodisiac line as a selling point.
“Wooli oysters are so popular because of the pristine water here. There is no pollution and they’ve got a lovely flavour.”
Back in Yamba, YHA owner Shane Henwood, 37, first dreamt of building his own youth hostel when he stayed in one in Sydney at age 16. This family-run business – his 80-year-old nana changes the sheets – has been going great guns since it started five years ago.
“We get all age groups here, families, the whole lot. One of our guys comes back every year and he’d be 90. We’ve had (surfer) Tommy Carroll, (entertainer) Normie Rowie and (singer) Angus Stone. One of our English girls didn’t know who Angus was and told him to stop playing the guitar as she was trying to watch television,” Shane laughs.
“Our guests come for two weeks and stay for a year. They class this is as the secret spot and only tell backpackers they like. Even the local police and detectives had their Christmas party here.”
Shane also runs “Shane’s 10 buck tour” where you get a three-hour taste of paradise. And, if you’re lucky, he may even plant a fake spider or snake in your bed when you’re away. Just for fun.
But when I ask Shane if he ever felt like abandoning his dream, which took 4.5 years to gain council approval, he looks me straight in the eye.
“Nup. I never give up.”
Yep. There’s something in the waters of the Clarence River region. I think it’s called hope.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Clarence Tourism – http://www.clarencetourism.com For an awesome 1950s beach shack experience perched right on the ocean, head to Seascape Units – http://www.seascapeunits.com.au
YOU’VE GOT TO GO TO GLASGOW
Twenty years ago, when The Global Goddess was a rookie backpacker doing the Australian working holiday in London rite-of-passage thing, she ended up in Scotland working for a summer. In what I reckon was one of the best summers of my life, I arrived during the Edinburgh Festival, worked all day and then went to shows all night with my then-partner and two of my best friends. At the end of the festival, I found myself waitressing in a small inn in the Scottish Highlands. Days off were spent sailing the lochs, traipsing the mountains and looking for hairy cattle, and of course, Nessie. (There may have been a whisky or two as well thrown in). But I never got to Glasgow. The Global Goddess recently had breakfast with the fine folk from the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau who convinced her why she should go to Glasgow in 2014. Among a range of reasons, next year it’s hosting the Commonwealth Games and will be home to a range of festivals, activities, performances and celebrations. And if there’s one thing the Scots know how to do well, it’s party. http://www.seeglasgow.com
TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Earlier this year, when The Global Goddess was in Fiji, the weather was, well, less than perfect. But it didn’t matter, as there’s plenty to do away from the beach when a tropical low blows in. I was fortunate to go on the Off-Road Cave Safari in a cool red, open-air jeep, to Naihehe Cave, Fiji’s largest cave system. This fun and fabulous tour is run by the same people who operate the Sigatoka River Safari. These tour operators have recently demonstrated their continuing social conscience by purchasing 10 new laptops for Mavua District School. Established in the 1930s, this school enrolls primary students from neighbouring villages, kids who have never heard of a computer before now. So every time you take one of their two tours, in a way you are contributing to improving the lives of the villagers in this lovely land. http://www.sigatokariver.com
I AM WOMAN, SEE ME TRAVEL
The award-winning team behind Travelscene Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales are poised to launched Shoalhaven Solo Sisters, a new project to help open up the world to independent female travellers. Travel entrepreneurs Leonie Clay and Julie Preston (pictured below) are the brains behind this project which will offer annual group packages to targeted destinations around the world. Single travellers can join the group and be matched with a like-minded person to share accommodation and bring down those prohibitive costs that we single girls face. It’s also aimed at eliminating safety concerns while providing companionship for solo female travellers. The Global Goddess reckons any initiative that gets more women out and about in the world is a good one. Shoalhaven Solo Sisters will be officially launched on November 21 and the inaugural trip planned is to Norfolk Island. email@example.com
FRIDAY NIGHTS WITH A TWIST
Regular Global Goddess readers will know that she gains enormous benefit from my her Monday meditation class. For me, going to meditation helps slow my crazy, busy mind, and makes some room to gain perspective and enhance creativity when it comes to every aspect of my life. (So, I haven’t yet been able to conjure up a bloke, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time). Now, my lovely instructor Rhia Valentine (don’t you just love that surname?) is launching Friday nights with a twist. Once a month, you can attend a three-hour Friday evening session on Consciousness, Expansion & Improvement. These sessions are in inner west Brisbane. The first session will be held on November 22 at 6.30pm and then monthly in 2014. To book a seat contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0450 520 438.
AND THE WINNER IS….
Thank you to all of you who entered The Global Goddess’ latest competition, in conjunction with one of her valued Travel and Lifestyle partners Kayleen Allen, from A Life of Sundays. Goddess followers were asked to write what their idea of a Life of Sundays was. A big sleep in, it appeared, was among top of the list. And the winner is…Tanya Targett. Here’s an excerpt of what Tanya’s perfect Sunday would look like: “My perfect Sunday is rather boring, but so amazing I can feel the sun on my skin right now. You see, it’s sunny… Perfect weather to take the family out in the boat. And, luck is on our side, the tide is just right so that we can board said boat at a nice sociable 9.30am, having had a glorious sleep in. The air is so warm, the water so exquisitely salty, and the children and husband so fantastically happy. It’s the perfect Sunday, a day in the Sun, that recharges the soul and the spirit for another six days… Til we “repeat as above”.
Congratulations Tanya, you have won a place at Kayleen’s “Heal Your Life, Achieve Your Dreams” workshop in Brisbane on December 7 and 8. This prize is valued at $850. Please email Kayleen on the address below for details.
For those who didn’t win, but are interested in Kayleen’s range of half, full-day and two-day programs and retreats where you will learn to feel valued and appreciated for who you are, loved, nurtured and safe to explore your story, past beliefs and to unlock your true potential, contact her at email@example.com
SHE wore a smile of smug serenity, the kind borne from hours and hours of meditation and, I suspect, being a gentle soul. I’m in country New South Wales for a three-day yoga treat and Basia, who calls herself a “tea advocate”, is performing a modern-day version of a Japanese tea ceremony to welcome us to Billabong Retreat.
My journey to enlightenment begins several hours earlier when my friend Jess picks me up at SydneyAirport in her clapped-out car which lacks air-conditioning in the middle of an Australian heat wave. It’s such a scorcher, I expect to see Satan himself behind the steering wheel.
Jess and I have a history of colourful trips which share an unwittingly similar theme. It’s always hot, there’s limited alcohol and we swim in interesting watering holes. In June it was Jordan’s Dead Sea, this time it’s an Australian Billabong the colour of black tea.
I’m in the fittingly name Harmony Cottage on this 5000 hectare property replete with lotus pond. Jess is in a tent. Yoga takes place in a central yurt. I fall in love with the word yurt. Billabong is an eco-retreat where each guest is allocated 50 litres of water each day which are broken down as such:
- 3 minute shower = 30L
- 1 x full loo flush = 4.5L
- 3 x half loo flushes = 3 L
- Spare = 3.5 L
Guests are advised to save water and “shower with a friend”. If only. I perform a crude mathematical calculation in my head. If I don’t have a bowel movement for six days, I can afford another shower. Jess reminds me we aren’t here for six days, so my maths, as always, is flawed. In my spare time, I take to trading shower minutes with the other guests.
Paul and Tory von Bergen own Billabong Retreat near Richmond, about an hour’s drive north-west of Sydney. Paul, a former high-flying Londoner who made millions of pounds, lived in a penthouse and had a photo of a yacht on his desk, lost all his money in a bad business decision. He headed to Thailand where he discovered yoga, but instead of a lightening bolt, it was a gradual transformation on his path to serenity.
Rather than teaching guests the kind of power yoga that has crept into chic city studios, Paul believes yoga is about the mind. A kind of meditation yoga which dates back to 300 BC. Jess calls it Moga.
“The fact you are twisting one way or the other way is almost here nor there, it is about peace of mind and health and happiness,” Paul says.
“Yoga was always about the mind for thousands and thousands of years. It was only really when it came to the West in the last 60 years that is has become dominated by the physical.
“For 4000 to 5000 years yoga was not about postures. It is about developing the mind. It is about neuroplasticity – the ability to retrain out minds.
“Whoever came up with that phrase ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’….that’s bullshit. It is about feeling better, living longer, happier and more contented lives.
“As long as we’re heading in roughly the right direction, it is OK.”
On a scorching Saturday afternoon we perform a Hindu chant 108 times – the number 108 believed to be the figure required to achieve enlightenment. I arrive at roughly the 38th Om and my mind starts to play a nasty trick. It reminds me it’s the weekend, my throat is parched from chanting, and I need an ice-cold Sav Blanc. It takes everything in my power to sit still and return to the next 70 chants by which time I forget Sav Blanc, let alone the sacred Marlborough region, exists.
Paul teaches us a simple seven minute practice that we can take home. Seven minutes to serenity. On the drive home and after a weekend of gorgeous vegetarian fare, I implore Jess to stop at the first coffee shop she can find before she drops me at the airport. I’m in the middle of a long check-in line when my tummy starts to grumble. I break into a cold sweat. Fuelled by caffeine and possibly the fact I can flush the loo all I wish, my bowels have decided upon the most inconvenient time all weekend to do what they are designed to.
I barely make it through check-in and rush to the toilet. Afterwards, I celebrate with a large carton of greasy chips and a New Zealand pinot noir. My enlightenment is tested three times on the way home. The first time, when the passenger next to me decides to shake a tin of breath mints all the way home; the second when we hit severe turbulence; and the third, when a maniac cabbie picks me up at the airport, road-raging his way to my front door. I practice breathing in and out slowly and saying “I am” over and over in my mind.
I think back to what Paul has to say about this modern, frazzled world in which we exist.
“There is too much masculine energy in the world. We can be both, soft and strong. Women are better at that,” he says.
“I’d like to see more men at this retreat. It is the story of my life at the moment. I haven’t spoken to a bloke in three months.”
Welcome to my world Paul. Welcome to my world.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Billabong Retreat. To find out how you can achieve serenity in seven minutes, go to www.billabongretreat.com.au or better still, book yourself in for an enlightening adventure.