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
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