I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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A new national pasttime: abusing Asian tourists?

What I did on my winter vacation: abused Asian tourists. Do you think this is a trend that’ll take off?

So now I’m starting to sound like Tony Abbott (er, before the election campaign started), but let me explain…

Last week, a few of us toddled down to Phillip Island, just south of Melbourne, a little chunk of land that has been given over to growing penguins and kangaroos. Literally. We stopped in a wildlife park and spotted such delicious creatures as Tasmanian devils (notoriously bad tempered, anti-social creatures) and open grasslands where large kangaroos leapt up to you, frisking your pockets for food. There was also an area for koalas.

If you’re reading this and unaware, koalas sleep for about 18 hours a day, and the rest of the time is spent eating leaves and mating. In all, a fairly uncomplicated lifestyle. Australian kids are brought up knowing they’re not the most exciting animal. They don’t sing, dance or beg to be patted. Mostly, they just sleep. Ok, so I’m trying to justify shouting at the tourists who were throwing pellets at the sleeping koalas, so they could get a better photo. Cranky? You bet.

It felt so good, I had another crack at some girls down at the penguin parade where, every night, hundreds of tiny penguins return from a day’s fishing at sea to their burrows and mates. They are wild, so the wildlife service has built boardwalks so we can see them running home, undisturbed by a size 10 boot squishing them.

Visiting the penguins is so popular, the warnings not to take photos are repeated in a swag of languages, including Japanese and Chinese. If you’re caught photographing the penguins, your camera is immediately confiscated by the wildlife rangers because the flash sends the penguins blind and they die because they can’t catch fish. Simple, really. Except most of us can’t turn off a flash, hence the blanket ban against cameras.

So why do people persist in trying??? Annoyingly, both times I had my little tantrums, the women apologiesed in perfect English. No excuses. 


Barra dreaming

Rugged canvas ... Kimberley Coastal Camp sits on the shores of Admiralty Gulf.The fish are elusive, the ancient rock art sensational and camp conditions suited to gourmet tastes at Kimberley Coastal Camp, in northern Australia.
”You’ll be right at Mitchell Plateau airstrip,” says an old Kimberley hand on hearing I’m flying up to the remote northern corner of Western Australia. “I hear they’ve upgraded the terminal.”
Funny bugger. What he means is an eco-loo with a door has replaced nipping behind a tree, and someone’s strung some green shade netting above a wooden log. Aaah, they’ve redecorated the departures lounge.
There’s nothing else at this isolated plateau. Just two runways carved out of the bush, where light aircraft pull in from Broome and Kununurra, and helicopters take sightseers for a spin over the roaring Mitchell Falls or out to one of the remote tourism camps. more

Wake up, Melbourne

What a morning to wake up to!

British designer Alexander McQueen dead. Flash floods in Melbourne. AC-DC rocking out in the stadium and then I open my email to find…the beautiful camel competitions is back on in the UAE.

How do you judge a camel beauty contest? BBC

I also loved this demure line in msn’s reporting on the AC/DC concert. Remember that Angus Young is now 53, and Brian Johnson another decade on: 

“And when he peeled off his shorts to reveal his AC/DC boxers in his trademark striptease in The Jack, women in the crowd reciprocated by lifting their shirts.”

Well…good morning Australia!


All Greek, all wonderful: Hellenic Republic

Melbourne really deserves its reputation as Australia’s food capital. The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is on next weekend, an absolute extravaganza of things to put in your mouth, and yesterday, I cruised the gorgeous offerings of the Hellenic Republic.

You know I’ve been out of the scene for a year now, so I had to dredge back into my memories of this celebrity chef (glossy cookbooks sold at the door) who is so big on the Melbourne scene. But it all came back when I read the wine list, which had shiraz from Australia, sparkling wines from France and… a welter of wines from – not Greece – but the all-inclusive term, Hellenic Republic. Is the chef, George Calombaris a patriotic Cypriot? I asked, the light dawning. Of course he is.

The table was an extravaganza of food, much of it familiar to anyone who knows Middle Eastern cuisine, with dips such as melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant known elsewhere as baba ganough) and fabulous sagonaki (grilled haloumi cheese) served with baby figs poached in black pepper, but the stand-out was the taramasalata. You know, I’m not a fan of this fish-roe dip, but the table and the waiter egged me on. “Go on, it’s white!” As if I objected because of the traditional ikky pale pink colour of the supermarket version of the dip. Tasting of the ocean, subtle fish and lemon, it was awesome with the fresh Greek white we were drinking, Gaia ‘Notios’. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

The pita bread was hot, fresh and buttery, the lamb cooked on spit was perfect with the tzatziki (cucumber & yoghurt) but the star was a slow-cooked cassoulet of pork and black-eyed beans that the chef whipped up that morning. A perfect winter dish, though we weren’t quibbling on a summer’s afternoon.

There was Attika honey everywhere, from the poached figs to the loukoumathes (deep-fried Greek donuts covered in crushed walnuts) and even an ingredient in the chi-chi soap in the toilets. I’ll have to save up and cruise George’s other two restaurants, the Press Club and Maha, a Middle Eastern affair. Word is a fourth in the group, St Katherine’s, will open in October 2010.

Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East VIC, (03) 9381 1222
Photos: Hellenic Republic


Igniting the Population Bomb

Who ever thought statistics could be interesting? One of the most delicious comparisons between Egypt and Australia is our populations. Cairo is home to 20 million people (give or take a few million), roughly the same size as the entire population of Australia.

According to my mate Wiki, we are only less crowded than a handful of countries including Namibia, Mongolia and Western Sahara. In comparison, Cairo alone has 31,000 people per square kilometer. That’s dense, man.

This week, Australia had a day of navel gazing on our national holiday, (can you guess what it’s called?) Australia Day: a day of barbeques, sausages and light beer. The ads in between the tennis – the Australian Open has been on the past two weeks – were of close-up shots of sizzling snags (that’s slang for ‘sausages’, for all you non Aussies) and the main news story was of the population forecasts for Australian to the year 2050.

Apparently, if we keep having babies at the current rate, open up our borders to all comers and relax our citizenship and refugee laws, our population could leap from the current level of 22 million to a whopping 35 million in just 40 years. Forecasts say Sydney and Melbourne, both hovering around the 3.5 million mark, would double to 7 million each.

Me? I’m a bit selfish. I like the line from the former politician Bob Carr, who asked: what’s wrong with having open spaces, clean empty beaches and easy access to nature? Why do we have to become a built-up nation like most of the world? That’s what makes us unique. And given my government-issued showerhead already runs at a miserable trickle thanks to our already tight water restrictions, and despite Queensland being flooded yet again, God only knows where the water for all those 35 million daily showers is going to come from…


Things I miss about Egypt

Hi all, in case you didn’t realise, I’m back in Australia, just in time for Australia Day (a celebration of barbecues, lamb chops and lite beer). Here’s what I miss about Egypt. I will balance it with a second entry, so don’t worry about bias:

1. My souk (market). Perfect red tomatoes for 20c/kilo while the Australian equivalent comes in at $5/kilo.

2. Learning a new word a day. However, on the upside, I can understand everything everyone says here in Australia. But understanding it all has its downsides – do I WANT to know about Sharon’s speeding fine? Or Brian’s argument with a builder? Occasionally, ignorance is bliss.

3. Modesty. I have gone from seeing women in abayyas (long robes) to septuagenarians in hot pants. It’s a tough move.

4. Umm Aya. My cleaning lady who walks through my apartment like a queen on tour, before scrubbing it to gleamworthy. See, here she is in the blue scarf.

5. Speeding. Having spent a day stuck behind brand new 4WDs who insist on doing 40km/hour in a 70km zone, I miss Egypt’s cavalier attitude toward speed limits. A 50km/hour zone in Cairo? Where? Let me a take a picture.

6. Cairo’s architecture. It ranges from 4000 year old pyramids to the fabulous 1900s Moorish fantasies of Roxy (snapped above).

7. My new friends. Last, but not least. I miss you all.


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