The town of Pushkar sits in a lush oasis on the edge of the Negrev desert in Northern India. Regal white palaces and temples encircle a small holy lake, and bougainvillea, rose bushes, palms and cacti fill the town with colour. In vivid contrast the desert surrounding Pushkar lies vast, inhospitable and empty, except for a few weeks every November when thousands of nomads, camel and cattle breeders congregate to await the full moon and the commencement of the Pushkar camel fair.
There are few things as sought after, nor as elusive as happiness,but what exactly is happiness? Are we born with it? Is there a secret source that we can tap into, or is our obsession with being happy actually dooming us to a life of discontent?
Delving into the question of happiness leads us deep into a labyrinth of spirituality, philosophy, religion, gender, culture, biology and psychology. It is the subject of thousands of books, countless contemplations and endless exploration by neuroscientists. But does it really have to be so complicated? Can’t we break it down and come up with some kind of cheat sheet for happiness? Actually, thanks to the rise of the positive psychology movement happiness has been taken out of the esoteric realms and planted firmly in the scientific arena, and the formula is surprisingly simple. It starts with looking in the right places. Continue reading →
We found shelter for the night inside the crumbling walls of a crusader castle. As dawn approached we made our descent, clamoring over rocks and sliding down cliffs of sandstone, there, hidden amidst towering hills we found the city of Petra. Continue reading →
Island of the Gods, surf mecca, shoppers paradise, land of golden beaches, big smiles and Bintang beer, Bali certainly needs no introduction, but its cuisine does! In recent years the island has become a foodie destination, with trendy restaurants in the ‘Eat Street’ district of Seminyak serving up flavours from around the globe. Those in search of cheap and cheerful Indonesian favourites still head to the atmospheric night markets and warungs (local eateries, ) but finding traditional Balinese cooking can be surprisingly difficult. Continue reading →
The Indonesian archipelago is home to the richest assortment of coral species in the world, but its reefs are vanishing as global warming, pollution and unsustainable fishing and tourism practices take their toll.
Indonesia’s appalling conservation record is well documented and it would be easy to write yet another article about imminent disaster; but I am sick of all the doom and gloom, because with destruction comes regeneration. While politicians and environmental agencies gather in endless global summits and engage in pointless debates about how to fix things, often the most effective change is happening at a grassroots level, and I knew that somewhere in Bali someone would be doing something to save the reefs.
I find my story in the north of the island, in a humble village that sits in the shadows of the mountains. Just meters off Pemuteran’s black sandy shore lies the Karang Lestari (Everlasting Reef) Project, one of the largest and most ambitious coral restoration projects in the world. A reef that had badly damaged is once again thriving due to a unique technology called Bio-Rock, which uses electric currents to stimulate the growth of coral.
All coral photographs courtesy of Rani E. Morrow-Wuigk
I have no idea what to expect, but this is unbelievable, a kind of futuristic underwater fantasy world. Fifty large steel structures span over 1000 feet and take the form of a caterpillar, a whale, an igloo, a dome, a tent, and a flower, all covered in a profusion of brightly coloured coral. Hundreds of tiny blue fish hover above the dome, bat fish flitter amidst the flowers. I see starfish, lionfish, a school of snapper and cheeky little Nemos everywhere. Soft pastel corals sway in the current and purple tipped table corals sprawl across the metal bars. The reef surrounding the structures is also thriving, everywhere I look I see life and vibrant colour. Natural power is the plan for future structures (which includes a Goddess rising from a lotus.) Reef Seen Aquatics Dive Center have already set things in motion, sponsoring two structures, a bio wreck and a giant turtle that are powered by solar panels. Continue reading →
When I was 21 I left Australia strapped into a giant purple backpack…… I wanted to go everywhere and see everything and my quest took me around the world, from the steamy jungles of Mexico to the pyramids of Guatemala, and the hidden surf beaches of El Salvador. Travels through North America led me from Venice Beach to the Redwood forests of northern California and on to the icy mountain peaks of Canada. Back in the states I stumbled onto the Grateful Dead culture and went on tour, then flew to South America and travelled by land from the hazed streets of Santa Marta Colombia, across the mountains through Ecuador and Peru. I saw the sunrise over Machu Pichu and watched pink flamingos dance in a bright red lake in midst of the vast salt planes of Bolivia. There was a gut-churning flight over the Nazca lines, and an awe-struck moment watching the sun set and the full moon simultaneously rise over the Valle la luna in the Atacama Desert of Chile.
I drive up to Ubud early in the morning, dark ominous clouds hang over the hills creating a moody backdrop. I hope the rain will hold off for the next few hours as I have signed up for a herbal walk, and trudging through rice fields in torrential rain isn’t quite what I have in mind. Continue reading →