The Other Side of Everest

I don’t usually share my blog with anyone else, but this one is powerful and I want to share this clear and honest piece of reporting – and this is about travel too. Shocking? Yes. A regular occurrence? Yes.

The Global Goddess


“Human trafficking is the second-most prolific organised crime on the planet after the weapons and the drug trade. But unlike drugs, a woman can be sold more than once and often many times in one day,” Sisterhood of Survivors, Kathmandu, Nepal
IN a pastel pink court building, the colour that little girls all over the world like to wear and a deep shade of irony, less than two per cent of Nepal’s human trafficking cases make up the Supreme Court caseload.
In the country’s District Court rooms, it’s less than 0.3 per cent. But there’s a blinding bullseye, one case that stands out from the rest. In March this year, in Nuwakot’s District Court in the country’s centre, one of Nepal’s sex trafficking ring leaders was sentenced to the nation’s harshest jail penalty in history.
Back in Kathmandu, in a basic brick structure adorned with hope, the women who helped…

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Anzac Day – Lest We Forget

Anzac Day – Lest We Forget

In Australia (for my overseas readers) we honour the soldiers who fought for their country in past wars that they were involved in. On the 25th of April it’s Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Day.

I’ve serendipitously arrived in countries that have similar traditions, Veterans Day in the USA, Ochi (No) Day in Greece plus Greece’s Independence Day and Armed Forces Day in Britain. And there must be many marches/processions around the globe – as there would be a rare country that wasn’t involved in a minor political skirmish or a major. all out war in the past or in the present..

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Australian 1st Division troops march through the London streets on the anniversary of the first Anzac Day in 1916. Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament can be seen. 

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In Sydney in 1916, one year after WWI ended, wounded soldiers from Gallipoli attended the march in convoys of cars, attended by nurses.

I have a complicated emotional history with Anzac Day. When I was a child it was a tradition that we went to the march (always called ‘the march’) in Sydney – my mother, myself and my little sister. We would watch the veterans from the WWI on through to Korea march by or be transported in the back of an open car. We, and the thick crowd would clap and wave our flags. Waving at our father – for we knew not what. He had never spoken about the raid on Darwin which I found out he had been under serving as a young lad who lied about his age to join the army.

Darwin being bombed – 9 February 1942.

At the end of the long march, we would head to Hyde Park to eat sandwiches and drink cordial that my mother had made. Our father would join us before he headed off to the pub to meet up with his army buddies. To me this was a heady thing. Who were these men, what did they talk about. As a kid I had no concept of war and participated in Anzac Day like it was Christmas Day or the Queens Birthday – some sort of celebration.

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Two young men went off to war, one went to the army (my father Bill Wroe) and one went to the navy (uncle Bert Wroe).

While my father was in the pub involved with secret men’s business we went up to Kings Cross – notorious for Bohemians and gangsters in the late 50s. My colourful aunty Jean had a flat there and somehow my mother and the aunties disappeared and us cousins just roamed the Kings X streets. We hung around the pubs as every space was taken up with blokes playing two-up. There was a lot of change dropped by careless punters and we cleaned up. The Greek fish’n’chip shop in Darlinghurst Road got most of the booty as we feasted on chips, scallops, and battered savs.

These were idyllic days. And never an inquiring mind when at my grandmother’s as I gazed at the oval picture frames holding images of my great uncles. My nan said that she “lost four of her brothers in the war” – and all I thought that how could you lose four men. Where did they get lost?

Marching in the 1950s.

But as I grew older and the Vietnam War was front of mind and claiming space in the nightly TV news, I became enraged at the idea of a lottery, a barrel full of names where a young man of 19 years of age would be stamped on a ticket and they would be conscripted into the army to go fight a war in Indochina where nobody of their tender age even knew where it was. So I turned my back on Anzac Day and protested in the streets against the war. This wasn’t about the soldiers, who when they returned to Australia were unfairly spurned and were given a hard time, it was about our engagement in this terrible war. When Gough Whitlam was elected to Prime Minister he declared that the war was over for Australian soldiers in Vietnam and they were to be brought home.

Sadly it was a few decades until the returned Vietnam vets were recognised and honoured for their service. And through those decades, many were fighting for compensation and assistance with the cancers they came back with from Agent Orange – a deadly poison dropped across the south Vietnamese paddy fields to starve the enemy. And many of those young men who came home died from cancer and now men into their late 60s are still suffering from PTSD.) What a dirty little war it was.

I softened towards Anzac day about 20 years ago when I was in Winton, a little town in the middle of Queensland – out the back of beyond. I had a few days there and one of those days was Anzac Day. I wanted to see how it played out in the country town.

I woke before dawn and walked to where the town’s War Memorial stood. There were probably about 30 people there. Two kids from the local Scout troop stood sentinel at the memorial, and a couple of soldiers who had driven down from Townsville (600km) were here. A couple of old guys in wheelchairs were attending wearing their best suits and rows of medals pinned to the left side. A ratty old tape recorder played a creaky version of the Last Post and as the final sound faded out a huge flock of budgerigars took to the sky as dawn was breaking. I felt my heart stop and a great sadness come over me. What were those old guys remembering?

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Winton War Memorial.

Along the way I asked my father about the bombing of Darwin and he always kept it light but said “the bastards kept on coming”. Dad was on the Ack Ack guns, he found Darwin very hot and his mates a good bunch . . . that’s all I got.

It’s funny that in the mid 60s when my parents separated that my dad went back to Darwin to meet up with his foster-brother (our Uncle Alf) and except for rare visits to Sydney he lived in Darwin until he died in 1995.

With the constant barrage of news we suffer every day from television and social media it seems like the world is on fire with war hotspots. People going crazy with grief, going crazy with rage, going crazy with a lust for blood. Will it ever end? I think not.

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Dad to Beverley and Dianne – Bill Wroe.

So for this coming Anzac Day let’s make it a day of remembrance for the fallen and for those who served and suffered. And importantly, remember the current/contemporary victims of war and how they flee their ragged and war-corrupted lands for a better and safer life – remember the grand deeds of our past – but there are less than grand and kind deeds occurring now.  Lest We Forget.

Writer Bev Malzard does not attend ANZAC marches in Sydney now and cannot watch it on TV as she tends to tear up. Does this happen because of age, sentimentality, empathy or a greater understanding of the world? Who knows, but as she slips back into hippiedom, she’s back on the streets crying out “make love, not war”.

 

How to get lost

How to get lost

OR – the road less travelled or driving miss crazy . . .or ‘are we there yet?’ 

At a pinch I could probably perform emergency surgery, whip up and decorate a four-tiered wedding cake, put out a bush fire, sail single-handed from Sydney to Auckland and hand tool a pair of leather boots. BUT I can’t drive. I don’t want to drive. And I have travelled all around the world without having to drive and am a well-travelled public transport passenger. (Never ride a bus or train without having a book at hand.)

And I don’t think I’m a bludger – don’t expect to be chauffeured like a princess but I do appreciate driving with my partner and friends.

I did try driving years ago and almost went into a wall in Maroubra and I actually drove into a river up the north coast of NSW. But you don’t need to hear the circumstances, it was a long time ago.

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This past weekend I went on a road trip with an old friend. Now, we are both pretty smart women, my friend an excellent driver and travelling companion. We were driving from Sydney to Cooma, with a short coffee stop and another lunch stop. It is 397km from Sydney to Cooma and should take 4 hours driving. We ended up doing 605km and the trip took 8 hours.

I don’t know how this happens. From Sydney – Cooma is south. You just drive DOWN the road.

We ducked off the Motorway for a little lunch in Jugiong and then when we came back on the highway it felt wrong so we did an emergency u-turn and ended up on the outskirts of Yass – TWICE. Hysteria was building and uncontrolled laughing was the noise of the hour. We had a map, both of us had GPS’ in our phones which we used and with my immaculate sense of direction and navigation skills we should have sailed down the freeways with the utmost confidence of a perfect ‘getting there and arriving’ result.

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We mulled the disastrous timing over and remembered several times we had been together and got lost. We had another weekend away just out of Sydney and were driving up and down a road looking for a haunted property (that’s another story) before we saw the sign hidden by lack of light – or maybe it wasn’t there and decided to appear to taunt us. Same trip we lost a major town – Camden! How did that happen?

You could plonk me down in the middle of a foreign city and I would find the way to where I had to go, but co-piloting with my old mate – can’t trust we’ll get there on time.

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Is it a Sliding Doors phenomenon? A car-cursed thing? Because we talk too much and get distracted? Or my explanation is that the Twilight Zone has the door open for us at all times.

Anyway, we reached Cooma as I predicted we would. Next day we knew exactly how to drive to Nimmitabel on the Monaro Highway. Had brekkie in town and popped into the tourist bureau to pick up a little local info. Re-checked our route out-of-town (only to be polite, I knew where to go) and the woman behind the counter gave us totally different directions .. . and she was totally right. Geez.

The rest of the weekend went swimmingly perfect.

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An overnight at a B&B in Nimmitabel with old friends, an encounter with a large wombat (whom my old friend rescued and is giving a five-star life before it goes back into the wild), great food and hospitality. We gave permission to our friends to tell the tale of our trip down at dinner parties – and they thought ‘ya couldn’t make that up’.

Journey Jottings:

  • Jugiong (despite its treacherous navigation interruptions is a top place for lunch); the countryside from there and further south is soooooo dry you can imagine it crackling – but when you see the colour of the Monaro Plains – it’s white-hot under the sun and not a green blade of grass to be seen.
  • Friday night in Cooma and the joint ain’t jumpin’. Found a fab Lebanese restaurant ‘Roses’ for dinner – but didn’t even see a lone dog taking itself for a walk through town.
  • Stayed at the only accommodation in Nimmitabel, the Royal Arms B&B (originally an old coaching in I believe). Comfy, warm and welcoming. Not too flash but clean and quirky and did the trick for a good night’s sleep.

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  • AND because we were making such brilliant time driving back to Sydney we stopped in at Goulburn (Australia’s first inland city) to have a power lunch at The Paragon cafe.

    Vanilla Slice; Greek salad courtesy Garry Malzard; Paragon Restaurant.

Writer, Bev Malzard often dreams that she is in the middle of an emergency situation and has to drive someone to safety – no problems at all. Wonder what that means. And she was exaggerating in the first paragraph.

P.S/ Does anyone else have random Geographical Hiccups when they are driving?

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Royal Arms B&B royalarms.nimmitabel@gmail.com

Cooma Visitors Centre http://www.visitcooma.com.au Cooma

Roses Restaurant

Paragon Cooma

Who put the PORT into PORTUGAL?

Who put the PORT into PORTUGAL?

Portugal’s robust and vibrant small city of the north, Porto, is more than the sum of its many and varied bridges.

 I was coming to the end of a cruise along the silky Douro River in Portugal through an old part of the world that is thus far unspoilt, mellow and innocent of mass tourism at its most voracious.

We had visited vineyards that have been producing wine for hundreds of years, walked through sleepy, ancient villages and skipped across the border to take on Spain for a sunny afternoon.

But the cruise was at an end and a new landing and a new city was revving up the anticipation endorphins.

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The vessel was sliding to where the river meets the sea, through the city of Porto.

This is an aged city and under a brilliant blue sky the view of the built-up apartments on the edge of the shore and the emergence of bridge after bridge, from wrought iron to modern concrete construction gives the river an energetic, gleeful aura.

Porto is high spirited, a charming place, jam-packed with solid buildings, Roman ramparts, higgledy piggledy alleyways, wide open Parisian style town squares, elegant boutiques, crumbling shop facades, blue and white ceramic tiled walls and wandering scruffy, off-hand dogs. Baroque churches display excessive gold decoration and overwhelming artwork, and cliff tops use the city as drapery along them. Upcountry attitude prevails here and the tripeiros (Porto locals) are hard working and have been quoted as saying: “we earn the money and Lisbon spends it”. Intercity rivalry?

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Along the serene Douro River steep sided, terraced vineyards produce the ‘gold’ of the region – port wine. It makes its way down to Porto, named for the potent elixir and it was Porto that put the ‘Port’ into Portugal.

The main part of Porto sits on the craggy bluffs east of the mouth of the Douro River. Avenida dos Aliados is a broad avenue running through the central part of the city lined with handsome, intricately detailed, Art Nouveau buildings.

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How could one resist taking this picture of a Portuguese cat on a hot tiled roof.

South of this avenue is the Ribeira district, the historic heartbeat and an eclectic and attractive neighbourhood.

Alongside the riverside promenade I view the traditional boats (barco rabelos) that used to ferry the port wine down the river. From here you can see wine lodges across the river in the town of Vila Nova de Gaia, a busy precinct but accessible, friendly and easy to navigate. It’s not too tricked up and its shabbiness conveys warmth and hospitality.

One of the bridges of the city is pretty special – the double decker Ponte Dom Luis I was completed in 1886 by a student of Gustave Eiffel (yes, that one). The top deck is for pedestrians and one of the city’s metro lines and the bottom deck carries cars and trucks.

Nearby to Avenida dos Aliados is the gorgeous San Bento railway station. It’s so glamorous: there’s huge Portuguese tiled artwork (azulejos) depicting battle scenes and the history of local public transport – no battles were fought over a tram line!

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One of my fave pictures ever. It was a scorcher and in the middle of town (Porto), the kids were cooling off the way kids do.

Not far from the avenue is the pedestrian ‘mall’, Rua  Santa Catarina.

This is the main shopping district of the area, with a host of shops for clothes, shoes, souvenirs and homewares and there are many cafes.

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Black-suited, bow-tied waiters swiftly navigate crowded coffee houses balancing little silver trays bearing pastries, or cups of coffee.

The atmosphere in any eating or drinking establishment is vibrant and I was swept up in the joy of eating out really means – serious business.

On a corner in the shopping district is a building that startles with its glorious façade. The Capela das Almas is covered in lustrous blue azulejos. An integral part of Portuguese culture, azulejos typically, are painted, tin-glazed ceramic tiles that decorate the inside and outside of rooms, homes, and public buildings throughout Portugal. Not only decorative, they help control the temperature inside the buildings. The Moors introduced them to Spain and Portugal after learning about the azulejos from the Persians.

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THE ART OF THE TART

Porto people have the nickname ‘tripeiros’, meaning ‘tripe eaters. And therein hangs a tale.

When Henry the Navigator was preparing to sail to Morocco in 1415, Porto’s loyal citizens donated their best meat to the expedition, keeping the offal for themselves which earned them the nickname – tripeiros.

Fish, fish and more fish also suited me here but as well as an obsession with the local sardines I couldn’t get enough of the pastries. Ah, those buttery, fragrant Portuguese tarts, enough to melt a heart of stone.

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And what is a visit to Porto without a tipple of the ‘gold’. You can buy direct from the warehouses in Vila Nova de Gaia but it’s nice to ask for a glass in a restaurant or café and join in the pleasant imbibing of Portugal’s best drop with the locals.

Writer Bev Malzard is lucky enough to live in the inner west suburb of Petersham in Sydney – locally know as ‘Portugal’. She was not sponsored to say this but heartily recommends ‘Sweet Belem’ pastry shop for the best Portuguese tarts (and many other sweet treasures) to be had in Sydney. She can be seen lurking around the shop at regular intervals . . .

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https://www.visitportugal.com

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