Orange

From Banjo Paterson to gardens, wine and food, Orange is a cool place for a break Naming yourself after a horse doesn’t sound like the smartest move if you want to be taken seriously, but it landed Andrew Barton Paterson on the $10 note. In the 1800s, lawyers couldn’t be …

Queenstown, New Zealand

A peak experience For a town of only 20,000 people, Queenstown punches above its weight when it comes to star power. And it’s easy to see why. It’s got mountains, lakes and forests aplenty, which make for great footage. Not only was Lord of the Rings filmed in the area, …

Bangkok

Bangkok Bangers As luck would have it, I’m not cut out to be a good wife. The Boy, on the other hand is a natural. This gender role switch comes to us as we pound lemongrass and chilli while wearing matching aprons. We’ve enrolled in a private Thai cooking class in Bangkok and our teacher Angsana praises his mortar and pestle prowess while admonishing mine; “Bang, bang, bang! Hit it,” she says. According to Thai folklore, a woman’s *ahem* banging skills in the kitchen will tell a suitor whether she’s marriage material. Someone who pounds ingredients slowly, methodically and with …

Vinales, Cuba

Just Havana smoke It turns out there’s a lot more to smoking than just blowing hot air.  As a non-smoker in Cuba, I’m keen to partake in local delights and eagerly accept a cigar but I lack the finesse to appreciate it. Like a 15-year-old having their first illicit ciggy …

Cenotes de Cuzama, Mexico

What Lies Beneath Come on in, the water’s lovely and the mystical Mayan underworld awaits. RENATA GORTAN risks her soul for an unforgettable swim As far as entrances to the underworld go, its really quite pretty. The cavernous space and clear blue water of the cenotes definitely beats coming face …

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Don’t Lose Your Head                                                     The advice “it’s not whether you win, it’s how you play” didn’t quite wash at the Mayan ball arena, where play …

Fiji

Getting Dirty I’m going to need to buy a new bra. And while I’m at it, another pair of shorts because these are covered in mud. Lots of mud. When I left my hotel for a traditional Fijian spa experience I didn’t think to pack a bikini. Now my clothes are paying the price. Accustomed to pristine surrounds when being pampered, it’s usually just about getting your kit off and letting someone else do all the work. But I should have realised the key word here was traditional, not a super-luxurious-here’s-your-fluffy-white-robe-and-slippers experience. The Tifajek natural mud pool and hot springs …

Fiji

Feasting on Fiji When it’s raining in Fiji, the best place to take shelter is in a restaurant or two or three. RENATA GORTAN reports on her food tour “If you can peel the orange, everything will be OK.” The Forrest Gump-esque quote comes from our waiter peeling an orange in a single, circular spiral with a knife the length of my forearm when we asked him if it was difficult. It’s impressive and made even more so when he sets it alight with a flaming ladle of Grand Marnier, a visual aperitif for the flamed crepes suzette to come. …

Kombi convoy to Port Macquarie

Kombi Groovin’ Never judge a Kombi by its colour. With his bright blue exterior, roomy interior and sunny yellow and white check curtains, I think “Dennis” is my man. Turns out that my first impressions are as dusty as Dennis’s speakers. We can hear sound, but the lyrics don’t come through. And a lack of radio or iPod connectivity is a problem when you’re on a road trip. But not just any road trip. This is a Kombi convoy from Sydney to Port Macquarie, with colourful vans, accommodation at Sundowner Resorts, meals and activities included. The only extras are fuel and booze. …