“Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them,” Winston Churchill
THEY look insipid, like a long line of stinking black house ants just before the rains come, trailing their way to the top. I’m standing at the base of Uluru watching a congo line of tourists snake their way up Australia’s most iconic rock, a monument we’ve been warned against climbing, again and again. It’s not just about death – 35 people have died trying to climb Uluru – but deity. The local Anangu Aborigines believe this is a sacred site, to be respected, and yet the visitors still scramble skywards. Under the hot August sun my face burns with shame at my fellow tourists.
In a recent piece for Fairfax Traveller, travel writing colleague and close friend Louise Southerden, who blogs under No Impact Girl, talks about why travellers are drawn to mountains and skyscrapers.
“Ever since we roamed the grasslands of Africa, we’ve looked to elevated locations for safety, for advance warning of predators – or invaders. Visit any castle or fortress from Bhutan to Balmoral (in Scotland), not to mention China’s Great Wall, and you’ll get a visceral sense of this strategic advantage,” Louise argues.
“Sometimes getting high is about escaping the cloying heat of the lowlands. Think tea plantations in the hills of Sri Lanka, the temple-dotted Himalayan foothills of northern India, the snow-caked peaks of Equatorial Ecuador (although Ecuador’s highest peak, the 6263-metre Chimborazo, has long lured climbers for another reason: it’s the world’s highest mountain when measured from the centre of the Earth, not from sea level).
“Altitude gain can also help us face our fears, give us a thrill (and sometimes vertigo) and let us see where we are and where we’re going, and not just cartographically.”
Ironically, I am in Bhutan, being cradled in the bosom of the Himalayas, when I read her powerfully-penned piece. I send her a private message, it’s in the valleys, I argue, that I discover my truth, in life’s troughs, not its peaks. Down in the nitty gritty. Louise, who is also opposed to climbing Uluru and other sacred sites, urges me to trek on and to scratch out my truth on the page. And so here I am. And I am not alone in this valley. Back in Bhutan, the Happiest Country on Earth, they consider the surrounding Himalayas so sacred, that despite having one of the world’s highest mountains, no climbing is allowed, unlike neighbouring Nepal and its alluring Everest. Three quarters of Bhutan’s land mass is mountain, yet its entire population lives in tiny slivers of valley. My nights in Bhutan are spent alone, staring at those mighty mountains, feeling like they’re wrapped around me like a comforting cloak.
On a visit to Nepal in April this year, I turn my back on Everest Base Camp and head in the opposite direction, towards the valley. I interview women who have been stolen from the mountains and sold into the sex trade, but have escaped and are now trained to become paralegals, and save other women in the same dire situation. So desperate was the sex trafficking in this country, that at one point, no teenage girls lived on Nepal’s mountains. The women, from SASANE, a project sponsored by G Adventures, are imploring the world to look into Nepal’s valleys, not its mountains. And these brave women are inspiration indeed.
Months later, my physio, who is an avid climber, and I discuss the death of New Zealand’s experienced mountaineer Rob Hall at Everest in 1996. I argue it’s ego that killed Hall – who had already summited the mountain five times previously – when he stayed up on Everest long after the deadline to leave had passed. My physio reckons Hall risked, and lost everything, because it was one of the first paid expeditions with tourists.
I ask another travel writing mate and avid climber, Andrew Bain, who blogs under Adventure Before Avarice his views on climbing.
“It’s a running joke, even among my hiking mates, that I’m one of those people compelled to stand on top of anything pointy – a peak bagger – and yet I often despair at the lack of respect we bring to mountains in the name of ‘conquering’ them,” Andrew says.
“Massive crowds filter through the Khumbu Valley to tick Everest Base Camp off a bucket list, for no reason other than the fact that it has Everest in the name. In so many cases, it’s not about the beauty of the place, or what it means, it’s simply a word to boast about, a tick on a list.
“Mountains are places that remind me that the world is greater than us – that we can’t conquer the planet as we believe – so to approach them is to respect them, whether we’re standing on top of them being uplifted by them, or simply looking at them from afar.
“I may be compelled to climb them, but I still take immense heart and hope looking at a mountain such as Machhapuchhare and knowing that there are still peaks that are beyond us, if not physically, at least spiritually or respectfully.”
And this is my point. I have a massive respect for those who climb, who forge new frontiers and discover new lands. But do it for the right reasons. Man can’t conquer mountains. Mother Everest continues to remind us of this. Trek but don’t trample. It’s not the Eiffel Tower I want to climb when I’m in Paris, jostling with thousands of other tourists wanting to tick it off their bucket list. For me, the joy comes from sitting in the shadows of this mighty metal sculpture, speaking with the old Parisian gent who ventures there every day with his coffee. That, to me, is the real Paris. I want to float down life’s rivers, part of the landscape, not perch atop it. Let me dive into the world’s oceans and lay on her sandy beaches, feet firmly in the sand. For to me, it’s in these rivets where the truth really lives. And so, on this hot August day, I wander around the base of Uluru, snatching quiet moments among her craggy crevices, listening to her tales, soaking up her soul and begging her forgiveness.
From October 26, 2019, no further climbing will be allowed on Uluru following a land-mark decision by the Traditional Owners of the land and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board.
ALLOW me to let you in on a little secret. I love Bali and return every year to unfurl more of her magic and mystery and to soak up her dominant feminine energy. The fact she’s been in the news lately for her smouldering volcano, draws me even more to this Land of the Gods. What is it that she’s trying to tell us? So I’ve teamed up with Expedia.com.au to bring you 5 Divine Reasons you should visit this beautiful destination.
1. There’s some great deals on airfares
This airline aficionado surfs international airfares like stock brokers watch the currency markets. And there’s some great deals on offer right now. Just think, you can leave Australia in the morning and be up in Bali in time for cocktail hour. Lychee martini anyone?
2. The beds are going for a bargain
So many great hotels, so little time. You could travel to Bali forever and still not experience all of the amazing accommodation on offer. I like to mix it up, staying in a cheap and cheerful hotel if I’m simply overnighting on the way to somewhere like the Gili Islands, just off of Bali. I love the name of The Happy Mango Tree Hostel in Ubud.
3. The activities are awesome
When in Bali, The Global Goddess likes to divide her days between some action and adventure, and a whole heap of flopping and dropping, preferably by a pool. With a pool bar. And forget trite tourism experiences, there’s some really cool things to do in Bali. Ever had breakfast with the orangutans at Bali Zoo or gone Quad or Buggy Driving? What about a Downhill Cultural Cycling Tour with Lunch? Something I will be trying next time I’m in Bali, is a Pre-Airport Chill Package with Transfers. This package includes an authentic Balinese spa experience, drinks and transfers, which is handy, given many flights out of Bali to Australia are late at night.
4. You can still Eat, Pray and Love
Despite Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling novel being out for several years now, there’s still a number of women, like me, wandering the rice paddies of Bali, looking for love and the general meaning to life. Join a private Eat, Pray, Love tour with lunch, which will take you to Ubud and yes, you will get to meet a Balinese medicine man. You just never know your luck.
5. It’s peaceful
Come February, after the sultry summer rush of school holidays, Christmas and New Years, Mother Bali breathes a sigh of relief. Now is the time to go. Get back in touch with your soul, and set your intentions for 2018, through a private tour: A Spiritual Journey Experience, where you’ll start the morning doing yin yoga at Sebatu Village, undergo a blessing and purification ceremony at a Balinese temple, meditate in a cave, and meet with a Balinese shaman.
The Global Goddess has partnered with Expedia to bring you a little bit of Bali bliss. For more experiences and ideas go to http://www.expedia.com.au
IF you allow it, Bali will become firmly entrenched in your heart. It’s a place of characters and colour. Of life and love. Please enjoy this short photo essay I took on my recent Eat Pray Live adventure of Bali. And remember, you can join me there at Easter for my Writing Retreat: Eat Pray Live – What’s Your Story with The Global Goddess. Details below. Please enjoy.
You’ll MEET incredible characters…
EAT some amazing food…
PRAY with the locals…
LIVE among the rice paddies in a beautiful villa…
And WRITE your story…
COME join me this Easter!
IF such a thing exists, it’s a “bad champagne day”, according to Kirsty Patten, who is steering a boat through a windy patch on the Noosa River. But while the weather is cool outside the vessel, the talk inside is steamy. You see Kirsty, co-owner of Noosa’s new luxury electric boat business Malu-os, is also a member of the Australian Sex Party. And so passionate is this woman about the Party formed by her sister Fiona Patten, Kirsty ran (unsuccessfully) for a Senate seat in the recent Federal Election. And so our conversation, like the boat, zig zags between her new business and sex. It’s as simple as that.
“Our main platform is your body/your rights. It’s about marriage equality, euthanasia, abortion. We believe the church and religions should be taxed like any other organisation. We think marijuana should be legalised,” Kirsty says.
“When the Party first started, former Australian Democrat leader Don Chipp said ‘your biggest challenge is going to be getting noticed’. So Fiona called it the Australian Sex Party.
“I don’t get the whole concept that sex is bad but violence is acceptable. I think sex is a fantastic emotional thing that we should be enjoying because it makes us good.”
Kirsty, the former principal at the ten-child school at Hayman Island, established Malu-os three months ago with her business and life partner Linda Boyes, a former special education teacher at Proserpine High School. There’s three luxury electric boats – 16ft duffys – from which to choose – the Lady Anne, Lady Isabella and Lady Mary – named after an 86 year old Noosa woman. The business name, Malu-os means seahorse in the Torres Strait, where both Kirsty and Linda worked. And it’s fabulously fitting for this eco-friendly tourism business.
“We came down here on a holiday and just liked it. Noosa felt big enough for opportunities but still had a small country feel. I’ve always had this love of boats,” Kirsty says.
“We knew Noosa wanted clean and green and found these three boats in Sydney. And all of a sudden our lifestyle is so much nicer. I want people to enjoy the river at a non-frantic level.
“I think they are a great product for Noosa. They’ve got a little bit of class but they are also environmentally friendly. They have zero emissions while on the water and cost about $1 a day to charge the batteries. There’s no wash, no swell and they are quiet.”
The number of strong, smart, sexy and spiritual women in Noosa these days is building into the mother of all swells. Along Hastings Street, you’ll find the sassy Miss Moneypenny’s – a spunky restaurant and bar with an impressive cocktail menu. Miss Moneypenny’s is the only place in Queensland to source authentic coconut cream – coco lopez – used in original pina coladas. And if you are looking for a grand dame here, stroll to the original French Quarter which has a new mantra, quite literally. Six months ago the Mantra group took over this accommodation and it’s now the Mantra French Quarter. You won’t find French fuss here, rather the colour and cheer of the coast captured in its one and two bedroom apartments which are punctuated by a central pool.
Want to meet another superb Sunny Coast sheila? Wade over to Noosa Stand Up Paddle and meet Donalee Halkett who started this empowering enterprise six years ago.
“This is a great way to get out on the water and get back to nature. You are getting fresh air and sunshine and it’s very meditative,” Donalee says.
“It’s not like going to the gym and thinking you have to work up a sweat. The thing that I’ve loved about it is that everybody can do it. You see some people quite fearful and they overcome that.”
Such a great teacher is Donalee that she not only got The Global Goddess to her feet but to the point of being able to do a one-legged yoga pose on the board, while floating. (Regular readers will remember I have no physical balance and once smashed two vertebrae in my back simply from tripping over my own feet, so this was quite an achievement).
Donalee also works with a local psychologist and uses her Stand Up Paddle trips to assist others relieve anxiety and deal with issues such as eating disorders.
“With these sorts of issues there is a lot of fear involved. Being in nature is quite healing but it also builds confidence. A lot of women are quite fearful and don’t have any self-esteem,” Donalee says.
“This goes much deeper than the paddle itself. It is very spiritual.”
But unfortunately, not everyone likes the idea of women paddlers.
“I had one experience out in the surf one day and some bloke was trying to shake me off my board,” Donalee says.
“I knew the board I was on was too small for him, so I offered him a go and it was like a bucking horse, he just kept falling off.
“I thought that was pretty funny.”
Donalee, who has always worked in the health sector, is about to turn 50 (stand up paddle boarding is clearly good for you), and is currently penning a book 50 Fabulous Things for women in their 50s.
“Every day, every minute, we have a choice. We can choose the negative or the positive. Life can be a blessing or a curse,” she says.
“I’m celebrating life.”
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Tourism Noosa and stayed at Mantra French Quarter. http://www.visitnoosa.com.au and http://www.mantrafrenchquarter.com.au. Visit Malu-os at http://www.malu-os.com.au and Noosa Stand Up Paddle at http://www.noosastanduppaddle.com.au